By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo R. Duterte admitted that he is frustrated by the entry of foreign corporations that own some lands in the country but he told the New People’s Army (NPA) that they cannot always resort to killing to change things because life is not a revolution.
“Philippines is agriculture-based. We will really till the land even if we have to ask for help. I know that some lands are now owned by what we call foreign corporations and that hurts. I felt hurt by it too,” Duterte said.
The President reiterated his call to NPA members to surrender their arms to government not only for themselves but also their own children as nothing will come out of their underground movement.
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chair Jose Maria Sison said in a statement on Saturday that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is ready to go back to the negotiating table with the government even as the President announced during the inauguration of Gaisano Grand Citygate Mall in Buhangin on Friday that he will no longer pursue the talks with the communists.
Sison said the standing policy of the NDFP is to “negotiate with the GRP anytime he is ready to resume the peace negotiations in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements.”
He encouraged the President to lift his Proclamation 360 that he issued on November 23, 2017 ordering his panel to stop all peace talks with the communist group for failing to show “sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged on acts of violence and hostilities, endangering the lives and properties of innocent people.”
Sison said the President is trying to bribe the members of the NPA, the armed wing of the communists, with his promises of giving them house and a job if they surrender to government.
“He is correct though in saying that the NPA will continue to exist even after he and I are gone from the surface of the earth, if by implication he means that the root causes of the armed conflict must be addressed and solved by social, economic and political reforms,” he said.
Duterte said that even as his government panel will no longer pursue the talks, the NPA can still approach local government units to seek for help.
The Palace announced in July 2018 that LGUs can pursue localized peace talks with the NPA units operating within their respective communities in lieu of the peace talks between GRP and National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The supposed June 28, 2018 resumption of the peace talks in Oslo, Norway was postponed to allow the government to consult the “bigger table” and review the previously signed agreements.
But the President directed his government panel that the talks will proceed if the communist guerrillas will agree to stop the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax; the venue of the GRP-NDFP talks should be in the country; both parties should agree on a ceasefire agreement; and NPA members, the armed wing, are encamped in designated areas.
But NDFP in Southern Mindanao Region rejected the localized peace talks because it is better to support the peace negotiations of the government with the communists.
“The idea of peace negotiations that are ‘nationally orchestrated, centrally directed and locally supervised and implemented’ is but a smokescreen to obscure the fact that Duterte has never been serious in addressing the root causes of the Filipino people’s armed resistance and is only predisposed in the complete capitulation of the revolutionary movement,” NDFP-SMR spokesperson Rubi del Mundo said in a statement in July.
Duterte acknowledged the support of the NPAs that helped him win the 2016 presidential elections. He asked them to help him find “a way for all of us to live,” not necessarily rich.
Duterte promised the NPA surrenderees house and a job. He said he will have them undergo training at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to study and learn new skills.
Duterte vowed to give away all government-owned lands to the people, including members of the NPA as he did in Boracay that was closed to tourists for a six-month rehabilitation.
“I ordered the Secretary of Agrarian Reform to distribute government-owned lands to the people and even the NPAs… What I did so that the poor people will not be shortchanged is declare land reform over a portion of Boracay. It will be given to the natives,” he said.
The President, former mayor of Davao where he served for 22 years, said the prospered owing to a peaceful environment.
He emphasized that a city will never prosper with chaos.
“You know, if a certain place is chaotic like what happened before, there were killings here and there. This place had the most number of killings. Even the store there at the corner of the street — who was that? Si… That corner there. It was in Callawa. I crossed that place so many times while you were waging a war. We will never prosper,” he said.