Peace talks  unlikely but hopes must remain

Published December 12, 2019, 12:28 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON DEC 12, 2019

President Duterte was speaking at the 122nd anniversary of the Philippine Army last March 21, 2019, when he declared: “I am officially announcing the permanent termination of our talks between the government  panel  and the Communist  Party of the  Philippines….  I am no longer entertaining  any intervention or persuasions in this democratic state  of the Republic of the  Philippines.”

Peace with the CPP and  the New People’s Amy (NPA) and National Democratic Fromt (NDF)  had  been among the foremost goals announced by the President at the start of his term in 2016, raising hopes all around that the 48-year-old `Communist rebellion in the Philippines would finally come to an end.

In  those first months of the administration, talks were held, not just with the NPA  leaders in the field but also with the CPP leaders seeking  social and economic  reforms in government.  At one point,  the government  suspended  the talks as NPA units continued to carry out raids in the field in the absence of any  truce. CPP  Chairman Jose Ma. Sison,  from  his haven  in the Netherlands,  said the field commanders of the NPA were acting  in response to field  developments.  There was evidently no single authority on the part of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the talks with the government.

But the talks continued, raising hopes all around, until President Duterte’s  announcement  last March 21 of the  “pemanent termination” of the talks. The  President  evidently had had his fill of the claims and demands  of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

It was, therefore, rather unexpected when President  Duterte, according to presidential spokesman Salvador  Panelo  last  Sunday, asked  CCP Chairman  Sison  anew to come to Manila for talks, assuring  he won’t be arrested.  The President had earlier sent  Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello  to talk to Sison  for a possible revival of the talks.

Sison has been quick to reject  the  proposal for new talks in the Philippines as  “totally unacceptable.” He issued  a statement  that  such talks would place the negotiators “in the pocket  of  the  Duterte regime and under  the control  of the blood-thirsty military and police  who engage in mass murders and other  heinous crimes with  impunity.”

With words like these, we do not expect  anything to come out of  the  new  Duterte offer. There  is  evidently  no  desire or intention of Sison and the other leftist leaders to come to the Philippines,  no trust in the President and the military, and no expectation  of any agreement. There is  no indication  that there has been any change in the  situation to warrant any new s peace hopes.

But these  hopes  must remain. It will probably take some time,  perhaps  not in this administration,  but after half a century  of fighting, we must keep up our hopes  that some day, we will  achieve that goal of peace and greater progress  in  our country and with all due  respect  for human   rights in a regime of justice.