There is a call by CPP’s united front organizations, leftist congressmen and cabinet secretaries including an appeal by church leaders for the resumption of peace negotiation between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF. Last February 7, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the formal negotiations with the communist rebels due to the atrocities of the NPA despite the ceasefire. The President said that it will remain canceled unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation.
Despite the termination, Secretary Jess Dureza who is the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process assured our people on government commitment to pursue the path of peace. He also called for our people to call for a stop to armed violence and pursue a just and lasting peace by the ways of peace.
Recently, the government has set conditions for the resumption of the peace negotiation, that is, for them to agree to a bilateral ceasefire and stop extortion and the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax, the ambushes on military personnel, the burning of properties and other provocative and hostile actions. The NDF panel has not responded up to this time.
For almost half a century now, this is the kind of unproductive interactions that goes on and on in our peace effort with the communist rebels. The dilemma being experienced in the current peace process is typical in all the peace efforts of the past administrations. Basing from these experiences, it is practically hopeless to achieve peace through peace negotiation. Even President Duterte implied the hopelessness of the peace talk with the CPP/NPA/NDF when he said that, “Peace with the communists may not come in this generation.”
There are two paths to peace: the doctrines war to eliminate the communist rebels and the ways of peace through peace negotiation where government and rebels come to agree to have peace. On the doctrines of war, the government uses all its police and military might destroy the communist rebels.In a span of almost a half a century, the AFP launched military campaigns after another aimed to destroy the communist rebel forces. But until today, the AFP have failed to eliminate them. The AFP have many tactical victories but not enough to totally destroy them. Although the AFP prevented the communist movement from overthrowing the government in the 70’s, skirmishes in the countryside escalated. Over the years, the CPP/NPA gained more political influence and military strength.Why did they fail? I can only speculate that they are a weak organization with a weak leadership, a wrong strategy, and tactics, a weak intelligence capability, and they lack resources. Their competence to wage war can be measured by their track records over 50 years in eliminating communist rebellion in the country. Their operations and accomplishments against the growth of communist insurgency will validate their performance.
On peace negotiation, the government usually initiates a process with the communist rebel to come to an agreement to resolve the conflict peacefully. Through this process, a compromise agreement is envisioned to be reached. In this agreement, the communist rebels agree to abandon armed struggle and pursue their revolutionary objectives through parliamentary struggle by joining mainstream politics or by other means allowed in our constitution. On the part of the government, it agrees to institute political, economic and social reforms.Our government pursued peace negotiations for almost 50 years and they never came close to this kind of situation.
Peace negotiations have been pursued by all administration in the last 50 years without success. Every administration made peace negotiation with the communist rebels as their major program for achieving political stability and economic progress but they all failed in the process. Why did they fail? Having been an active participant in our government peace initiatives as a member of the back channel operations to support our government panel during the Arroyo administration, I can only say that insincerity, lies, and deceit on the part of the CPP/NPA/NDF were the biggest stumbling blocks that led to all these failures. We have seen in the past how the communist rebels used peace negotiations for the release of their leaders from prison, to consolidate their forces, to engage in extortion, to propagandize, and to launch tactical operations against government forces.
Shall government then respond to the call for the resumption of the peace negotiation with communist rebels? Is there a compelling reason to resume? Or shall government just give up the peace negotiation and launch an aggressive and relentless war against the communist rebels?
I believe peace is still an option but peace negotiations should be carried under stricter terms and conditions. I believe there is a big compelling reason. Our people want peace. They want to rest from decades of uncertainty and violence. If President Duterte chooses to resume the peace negotiation with the communist rebels, our government should see to it that CPP/NPA/NDF really wants true peace and not to exploit the peace process to gain advantage and for the furtherance of their revolutionary activities. Their desire for true peace will only be validated by their willingness to sit on the negotiating table without demands and the disposition of their forces as the first substantive agenda to be tackled. True peace is the absence of violence. They should be willing to reject violence by abandoning their armed struggle. This is the reason why the disposition of forces should be the first agenda on the negotiating table if CPP/NPA/NDF want to resume the peace negotiation.
In addition to this, the peace negotiation should no longer be held in a Norway but in our own country where our problem lies and where our people can actively participate. Negotiations should not be managed by Norway. They have a vested interest in our peace process. Norway have their own world agenda. One of the pillars of its foreign policy is defending human rights defenders worldwide. This current set up in our negotiations work well for the NDF, not for the Philippine government. I remember once when our attention was called while we were in Oslo about a supposed human right violation of the AFP during the period of the ceasefire. They made this as a precondition for us to explain before the formal peace talk can begin.
If we want an observer, we can invite the ASEAN. But let our people be the arbiter and not Norway or any other foreign entity. The current model for our peace process no longer suits our needs. It should be re-engineered and include the active participation of our people.
If we reject the call for the resumption of peace negotiation and choose war instead, then the government should fund the AFP for an aggressive and relentless all-out war to eliminate communist rebellion. They should be empowered to confront all the legal, underground, political, and military components of the CPP/NPA/NDF.
The active participation of our people is crucial.Whether we choose the doctrines of war or the ways of peace to attain peace, we, the Filipino people must manifest strongly our desire for peace and help to achieve it. If we choose war, we should help in the neutralization of the CPP/NPA/NDF. But if we choose the ways of peace then, we should demand from the communist rebels to abandon armed struggle and join mainstream society. (Photos by Angelfire)