By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Wednesday reiterated that even without peace talks the government and security sector will exhaust all efforts to achieve lasting peace toward unity and progress.
AFP Spokesman and concurrent Civil Relations Service (CRS) chief Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin made the remark in relation to the New People’s Army (NPAs) 49th founding anniversary tomorrow (Thursday, March 29).
“We call on all NPA remnants to choose the path of peace and join those who have decided to go back to mainstream society,” Datuin said.
“There is no greater fulfillment than to live in peace with your families and loved ones in a conflict-free community,” he added.
In an earlier statement, the AFP said that they will always follow the policy direction of the political leadership especially with regard to calls to resume peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“We leave it to our political leaders to decide on political questions and we will always follow legally mandated decisions,” the AFP said in a statement.
“We take cognizance of the need to have a just and lasting peace in our country and the AFP supports every effort to forge peace in our country,” it added.
The AFP, however, reiterated, that the CPP-NPA-NDF must show sincerity in dealing with the peace process by stopping all atrocities including attacks, ambush of troops, coercion and killing of civilians, recruitment, use of IEDs, extortion, arson; and all anti-peace activities that undermine communities.
“Whatever the outcome, we will always abide by our constitutional mandate to protect the people and the state,” the AFP said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said that he will talk to President Rodrigo Duterte following a House resolution calling for the resumption of talks with the Reds.
Lorenzana, however, reiterated that the Department of National Defense (DND) definitely is opposed to resume talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF considering that hundreds of their regular members and supporters have surrendered and/or are planning to turn themselves into the government.
He added that just like what Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza earlier stated, a “desired enabling environment” conducive to peace talks must first be evident before the government thinks of resuming talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“I will talk to the President. But off hand, the Defense Department opposes it. Ngayon pa na bumubuhos ang nagsu-surrender na NPA regulars at supporters (Now that a lot of NPA regulars and supporters are surrendering),” Lorenzana said.
“However, I am repeating what Secretary Dureza of OPAPP stated. He said the House Resolution is unnecessary because we will resume the peace process once the enabling environment is present. He and I believe that that enabling environment is non-existent at the moment,” he added.
Lorenzana, at the same time, said that the CPP-NPA-NDF accusing him as a “spoiler of peace” will be their possible argument to counter his statement.
“That would be their most probable argument. But we have bent backwards again and again but the result is the same. Siguro baguhin natin ang (Maybe we need to change) parameters,” Lorenzana said.
“We cannot repeat what we have been doing and expect a better result this time because, believe me, it will result to the same–failure. Past experiences are our best guide,” he added.
Nearly 60 congressmen or about a fifth of the membership of the House of Representatives earlier crossed party lines and asked President Duterte to resume the stalled peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The lawmakers manifested this call via House Resolution (HR) No.1803, which was signed by at least 58 representatives from across various factions and political parties.