By Ellson Quismorio
Makabayan solon Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate on Friday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to salvage from collapse the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“The possible eventual withdrawal of the NDFP from the peace talks will be very unfortunate. Indeed, no self-respecting party would like to continue talking with an administration that does not take the process seriously and whose main objective is not to solve the root causes of the decades-old rebellion but only the capitulation and surrender of its adversary,” Zarate said in a statement.
The leftist congressman was referring to the render words of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and leader Jose Maria Sison, who said that they’d rather oust Duterte and talk peace with the next administration.
The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the CPP, which for almost 60 years has engaged the Philippine government in a bloody insurgency. The New People’s Army (NPA) is the group’s military wing.
The peace talks between the government and the NDFP has gone nowhere since November 2017 following Duterte’s signing of Proclamation No. 360, which effectively terminated the negotiations.
What the Chief Executive should do according to Zarate is to “abandon the hawkish and militarist game that his administration is now playing” in connection with the peace talks with the Red rebels.
“We strongly urge President Duterte to stop treating the peace process like the discredited game of the generals by cancelling the talks on his whims and by unilaterally demanding a change in the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees)-provided foreign neutral venue, among others,” he said.
Zarate claimed that Duterte cancelled the peace talks thrice since assuming the presidency in 2016 mainly due to the “strong proddings from his generals.”
The negotiations were supposed to resume last June 28 in Norway, but the President at the last minute said the government would need more time to carry out public consultations.
Zarate had warned that prolonging the stalemate on the negotiating table would only give “peace saboteurs” more opportunities to accomplish their task.
“This is indeed very exasperating and plays into the objective of the peace saboteurs in his administration. Now, it seems that these spoilers have succeeded after NDFP Chief Political Consultant Professor Jose Maria Sison announced the prospective withdrawal of the NDFP from the talks since the rebel front can no longer trust the Duterte administration to sincerely uphold the integrity of the peace talks and its agreements,” he said.
“We are urging the Duterte administration to seriously pursue still the talks with the NDFP, resume the peace talks immediately and start where they have left off,” stressed Zarate.
Last March, around 60 congressmen signed House Resolution (HR) No. 1803 telling Malacañang to resume the stalled peace talks.
Signed by members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban)-led Supermajority, the Minority bloc, the Makabayan bloc and the Magnificent Seven, the resolution stated that the resumption of peace negotiations between was the clamor of the people.
Sison is Duterte’s former college professor.