November 18, 2018
Any possibility that some agreement can be reached that will end the 50-year-old rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its New People’s Army (NPA) cannot be ignored. We thus continue to pin our hopes on the coming meeting between President Duterte and National Democratic Front (NDF) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.
As may be expected, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are suspicious of the new NDF moves, coming right after the recent arrest of Vicente Ladlad, a member of the CPP Central Committee and head of its United Front Commission.
AFP officials are skeptical about the offer of Agcaoili and Jalandoni to come to Manila from Europe where they have been staying with Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the CPP.
At the start of his administration in 2016, President Duterte had immediately started talks in Oslo, Norway, with Sison, who had been his mentor when he was a student at the Lyceum of the Philippines. He was hopeful they could reach some agreement and indeed much progress was achieved by negotiators on reforms in Philippine society and government in meetings that followed.
The talks broke down in November, 2017, for a number of reasons, including continued fighting in the field due to the absence of a bilateral ceasefire and CPP political demands that the President said he could not grant. There will no longer be any talks in another country, he said. He called on Sison in April, 2018, to return to the Philippines, guaranteeing his safety, if he wanted to resume the talks within 60 days.
Nothing more was heard from the CPP until the recent offer from Agcaoili and Jalandoni to come to Manila. They could be arrested and detained, like Ladlad and the other leaders of the CPP. But it will be best if President Duterte listens to what they have to say.
Encounters continue to this day between government troops and NPA fighters in various remote areas of the country, while encounters with Moro fighters appear to have died down as the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region assumes its place in Mindanao.
Agcaoili and Jalandoni know what President Duterte has already rejected; they might have something new to say, something to offer by way of an idea or a proposal or an agreement. something that may lead down the road to the peace that has eluded us all these many years.