Philippine Intelligence Chief Calls Out Presidential Candidates over Talks with Communists

Jojo Riñoza and Froilan Gallardo
2022.01.24
Manila and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
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Philippine Intelligence Chief Calls Out Presidential Candidates over Talks with Communists Masked protesters raise clenched fists near the Malacañang presidential palace in Manila during a rally to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, March 28, 2018.
AP

The nation’s chief intelligence officer said Monday that four of the leading candidates running for president would be insane if they considered restarting peace talks with the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines.

Alex Monteagudo, director general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, was responding to candidates Leni Robredo, Panfilo Lacson, Francisco Domagoso and Manny Pacquiao who answered “yes” on national television when asked if they supported resuming talks with the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

A fifth top-tier candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., did not participate in taped interviews with the GMA Network that aired over the weekend.

“The objective of the CPP/NPA is not peace, the objective of the CPP/NPA is power – they want to grab power. That did not change,” Monteagudo told reporters during an online news conference.

“Mr. Einstein, Albert Einstein, the genius, said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity,” Monteagudo said. 

He noted that the candidates could have declared they favored the resumption of the peace talks for “political reasons,” knowing that such efforts were destined to fail. He hopes they will reconsider their statements ahead of the May 9 general election. 

“What they (insurgents) will do is hide for the meantime, lie low for five months and when the new administration comes in, they will come out in the open,” Monteagudo said.

Monteagudo said every administration since Philippine democracy was restored in 1986 has engaged the rebels in talks that eventually broke down. He noted that one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s first actions when he took office in 2016 was to re-establish talks with the CPP/NPA.  

But a year later, the talks collapsed with both sides accusing each other of carrying out attacks despite the peace process. Duterte also dared CPP founder Jose Maria Sison – his former university professor – to return home from exile in the Netherlands and talk to him personally.

Duterte has ruled out any more talks with the rebels. 

“Even the administration of President Duterte went into peace talks, but the same result, the same peace talks, the same result. You will never get a different result, we have to do it differently,” Monteagudo said. 

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Alex Monteagudo [AP]

Rather than engaging the communist leadership, Monteagudo said the government should continue the work of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in engaging insurgents in addressing poverty – one of the chief causes of the insurgency. The task force, established in 2018, is composed of government agencies but is primarily led by the military. 

The NPA has been waging one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, which dates back to 1969. The NPA’s strength is estimated at around 5,000 fighters nationwide, down from at least 20,000 at its peak in the 1980s.

Maj. Gen. Albert Ignatius Ferro, head of the national police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, warned the candidates that their statements could encourage the communist guerrillas to regroup. 

If negotiations were to resume, the country would encounter the same problems caused by communists in the past, he said.

Meanwhile, the new military chief for northern Luzon, Lt. Gen. Ernesto Torres, vowed to wage a “massive information drive” to demoralize the NPA.

“As your commander, I call on every soldier, airman and sailor of Northern Luzon Command to always maintain a balance by developing a character that is loved by the people, but feared by the enemy,” Torres said as he assumed command Monday. 

“We shall wage massive information campaigns using available media platforms to demoralize and induce the armed rebels, fighters to surrender,” Torres said.

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