By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday said that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison is “living in the past” for his recent statement stating that the New People’s Army (NPA) has grown in strength nationwide from its modest beginnings.
In a statement, Lorenzana said Sison’s remark is a far cry from reality, especially on what is really happening on the ground.
“It proves that Mr. Sison is living in the past. If he doesn’t believe me, why doesn’t he come back and see for himself what happened to his class struggle? His Utopian ideology has been reduced to plain and simple banditry and extortion,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana also said that Sison is “hallucinating” by claiming that the NPA has presence in at least 73 out of the 81 Philippine provinces.
“Sison is hallucinating. How would he know? He has been away for so long he is out of touch with the realities here. They only have presence and modicum of influence in the Cordillera, the hinterlands of Cagayan Valley, Quezon, Negros, Eastern Mindanao, tri-boundaries of Davao, North Cotabato Bukidnon, and mountainous area of South Cotabato,” he said.
Lorenzana also said that a recent statement made by Sison stating that the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) had agreed to draft a ceasefire agreement as early as last year is a lie.
“May I clarify that there is no agreed truce between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana, at the same time, belied the statement made by Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao that President Rodrigo Duterte should not listen to his position that he will not recommend the resumption of talks even though there are documents painstakingly drafted which served as the guidelines on the series of negotiations which proves that there are positive outcome of the talks.
“The documents Rep. Casilao was referring to only signify that progress indeed, had been made but only on the side of CPP-NPA as those documents support only their cause. To say that there were positive outcomes of the talks which were mutually beneficial is deceptive,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana also refuted a claim by Rep. Zarate that he and others like him in the ranks of the military and the police continue to belittle the gains of the talks by hanging on to the idea that the peace talks can only be reopened if the NPA surrendered its firearms.
“Of course, the military and the police want the firearms of the NPAs surrendered for the simple reason that there are only two sectors in the Philippines authorized by law to bear arms: the military and the law enforcement agencies. All others are outlaws. And why would not the CPP-NPA-NDF agree to disarmament? That is because their ultimate end is to take over government through armed struggle. They want to talk and fight at the same time so that they can hold the Filipino people and government hostage while talking,” Lorenzana said.
“Mr. Sison and Rep. Casilao only highlighted their disconnect with the GRP’s idea of progress, as far as the peace talks are concerned. If we go back to the time when the peace talks were ongoing from September 2016 to February 2017, both sides declared unilateral ceasefires, but the NPA did not stand down. In fact, they continued to extort, burn buses and other equipment, and attacked government forces more aggressively. How can they claim that there was progress in the talks when there wasn’t any? Opportunistic as they are, they were just using the talks to further their ends,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said the CPP-NPA-NDF uses those draft agreements to show some semblance of progress when there were none.
“They are just smokescreens. How can a mere agreement to draft a ceasefire and agreed guidelines on negotiations be considered “progress” when members of their armed component, the NPA, continued attacking government forces, extorting from businessmen, and recruiting and expanding their forces?,” Lorenzana asked.
Lorenzana said the statement made by Casilao that he does
not recognize the fact that the rebellion was rooted in landlessness, poverty and injustice, shows how archaic the thinking of these people has become.
“It is already 2018. The propaganda lines they are using are from their circa 1969 playbook when the NPA was established. They still mouth the Marcos-US dictatorship cliché but they have slightly modified it to “Duterte-US dictatorship.” They are trapped in the past and cannot move on,” Lorenzana said.
“They refuse to acknowledge that a lot of progress has already been made by the government to address landlessness, poverty and injustice. Did the government not address (and is still addressing) landlessness through its Agrarian Reform Program which allowed the distribution of thousands of hectares of land to landless Filipinos? Is the government not building infrastructure for farm to market roads and to encourage job generating industries all over the country? Did the government not establish programs to address the so-called injustice by the Courts, the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights and the Sandiganbayan? Besides, the advances in communications technology have made it very difficult for abuses, if any, by the government to go unnoticed and unreported, “ Lorenzana said.
“Landlessness, poverty and injustice are some of issues they exploited, twisted and made as convenient reasons to recruit fighters and supporters from the vulnerable sectors of the society and justify armed struggle or the take over of the government by violent means. Is it not Mr. Sison’s strategy to encircle the cities through armed struggle from the countryside?,” he said.
Lorenzana said they are eager to resume the peace talks considering that their fighters and mass base are surrendering in droves.
He said as of last count, more than 4,000 have done so nation-wide, with the bulk coming from Eastern Mindanao. More and more are returning to society because of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and their desire to give their families a better future.
The Defense Secretary also pointed out that President Rodrigo Duterte has given notice that any business found paying and helping the NPA would be closed.
“Rather than serve as milking cows of lazy insurgents, these establishments can cooperate with our authorities and enjoy the protection of our security forces without having to pay anything,” Lorenzana said.
“Also, they are about to be declared by the court as a terrorist organization. They can no longer hide their sinister plans and actions by using their political ideology as their legal cover,” he said.
Lorenzana said people should not delude themselves into thinking that peace really is the aim of the CPP-NPA-NDF when they come to the peace table.
“Let us not delude ourselves because it is not. They will just use the peace talks with the government as their so-called democratic space to gain time and advantage to further their armed rebellion. Once their purpose is accomplished, they would create situations to break off the talks. They have done this many times in the past and that is the reason why we have not had any progress in the last three decades,” Lorenzana said.
“Let me state for the record that I am flattered by their belief that I was the cause of the peace talks’ stoppage. This, I consider, is a fulfillment of my patriotic duty to stand and defend the people against their deceptive schemes and despicable acts.”
“True to form, they blame others when they themselves caused the cessation of peace talks by their treacherous attacks on Government forces, massive extortion activities, destruction of properties, as well as recruitment and expansion in some areas,” he said.
Lorenzana urge the CPP-NPA and their supporters to take the peaceful path towards change so that a just and lasting peace may be achieved, thereby rendering a truce or ceasefire unnecessary.