By: Allan Nawal, Nikko Dizon – @inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:10 AM March 29, 2018
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison on Wednesday said the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) had agreed to draft a ceasefire agreement as early as last year.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said early this week that both parties could only forge a peace agreement if the communist rebels would commit to “stop fighting while talking.”
Sison, who fled to Europe before the talks failed in 1987, said backchannel teams from both sides drafted an agreement for a “coordinated unilateral ceasefire” that would have been “ready for signing” when President Duterte terminated the talks last year.
“(S)ince Oct. 4, 2017, the NDFP has positively responded to the expressed desire of GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to draft a ceasefire agreement more effective and more sustained than the previous unilateral ceasefires,” he said in a statement.
The rebels have been waging a Maoist rebellion for 49 years, the longest insurgency in Asia.
More than 60 lawmakers had earlier called for the resumption of talks, but Mr. Duterte and Lorenzana balked at this.
Speaking in Sulu on Monday night, Mr. Duterte said the government was determined to fight the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s military arm, to the end. Lorenzana, for his part, said he doubted the rebels’ sincerity.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the talks could resume if there was an “enabling environment.”
The President terminated the talks in November last year following rebel attacks on government forces despite the talks. He later declared the CPP and NPA terrorist organizations.
In Davao City, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao blamed Lorenzana for stalling the peace talks.
“President Duterte should not listen to [Lorenzana’s] position that he will not recommend the resumption of the peace talks,” Casilao said in a statement.
Casilao said Lorenzana was wrong to say that the talks did not result in gains for both parties.
“The fact that there are documents painstakingly drafted, which served as the guidelines on the series of negotiations are proof that there are positive outcome from the talks,” he said, citing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee.
“It’s clear that Lorenzana and the others like him from the ranks of the police and the military continue to belittle the gains of the talks. Lorenzana is hanging on to the idea that the peace talks can only be reopened if (the NPA) surrendered its firearms. He does not recognize the fact that the rebellion was rooted in landlessness, poverty and injustice,” Casilao said.
Government security forces are on alert for today’s founding anniversary of the NPA. The military believes NPA rebels would mark the anniversary by attacking government forces.
In observance of Holy Week, the NPA in Northern Mindanao announced a temporary suspension of offensives from Holy Tuesday to Easter Sunday. The government ignored it.