Philippines Cautiously Welcomes Calls to Resume Peace Talks with Communists

Froilan Gallardo
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
180327-PH-peace-620.jpg An army officer checks an M-16 rifle captured from the communist New People’s Army in the southern Philippine town of Bukidnon, March 14, 2018.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

The Philippine government on Tuesday welcomed calls to resume peace talks with communist insurgents, but stressed there must be “genuine sincerity” for negotiations to push through.

Last week, more than 60 members of the House of Representatives signed a resolution urging a resumption of talks, which President Rodrigo Duterte had called off late last year. The lawmakers argued that renewed negotiations could pave the way to solving a communist insurgency that has lasted nearly half a century.

“We thank those who signed the resolution for their support to the peace agenda of the administration,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, noting that Duterte remained committed to peace with the communists.

“However, we find it unfortunate that the communists have become spoilers of peace because of their penchant for double talk and treachery. Their motives are not for attaining sustainable peace but rather to push for their greater control and influence,” Roque said.

In November, Duterte canceled talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), accusing its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), of launching deadly attacks despite agreeing to a ceasefire. The following month, the president blacklisted both the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.

Since then, NPA rebels gunned down a soldier and two civilians in February during a series of attacks in the south that occurred amid an anti-communist crackdown by government forces, the military said. Those incidents occurred after the military had captured top NPA cadre Rafael Baylosis and an aide in the capital Manila.

Peace talks could only resume if the conditions and climate were conducive, Roque suggested.

“They must cease their hostilities against innocent civilians and government forces, end their extortion activities, violent streaks and wanton killings, lay down their arms and return to the fold of law and restart to live normal lives,” Roque said.

He stressed that government efforts appeared to be gaining ground, noting the ongoing surrender of NPA fighters.

Military issues warning

The armed forces, reacting to the statement, said they welcomed the peace overtures but warned of the NPA’s past deceptions.

“We believe that such unusual declaration by the NPA is another ploy to deceive the security forces, the government and especially the people so the government will be forced the declare SOMO in order for them to reconstitute forces, recruit new members, extort money and rest the unceasing focused military operation,” the military said in a statement.

The statement referred to the suspension of military offensives (SOMO), an action the government usually declares as a gesture of goodwill.

The military noted that NPA’s 49th anniversary would fall on Thursday as the predominantly Catholic country marked Holy Week. The anniversary is often marred by violent attacks.


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