AFP thumbs down holiday truce, peace talks resumption with Reds

Published December 4, 2020, 4:10 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sees no point in recommending to President Duterte the observance of a ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks with the New People’s Army (NPA) this Yuletide season since the communist group will only take advantage of the lull to strengthen themselves.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) (MANILA BULLETIN)

General Gilbert Gapay, AFP Chief of Staff, said this Friday that the military has already “learned our lessons” that the rebels are not fulfilling their end of the bargain when ceasefires are implemented.

“Hindi naman sila sincere dito (They are not sincere). In the past, nag-ceasefire tayo (we had ceasefires) but they continue to attack not only security forces but even the communities for the purpose of extortion,” he said in a virtual meeting.

“The NPA violated such ceasefires and ganoon na lang ng ganoon. Every now and then, ganoon ang ginagawa nila so it is expected na ganoon na naman. So what’s the use of having ceasefire?” he asked.

Further, the military chief also rejected the idea of the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), despite the backing from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“They only buy time or respite from the pressures being provided by security forces on them especially during this time. Their capabilities are on the decline, their numbers are dwindling. In fact, we have their backs against the wall,” Gapay said.

In a television interview last Wednesday, Lorenzana expressed openness to the idea of resuming the discussions between the government and the CPP if the latter only shows sincerity.

But Gapay was firm in his decision to wipe out the communist movement by force, and not through peaceful means.

“This is not the right time to really impose or recommend such ceasefire or even peace talks so that once and for all, we will permanently resolve this insurgency problem which has plagued our country for more than 50 years,” he said.

“We will not give them that time, that opportunity to relax, to rebuild their capability, to recruit, to extort. Mahina na sila (They are already weak),” he stressed.

The military chief said that it “will only be a matter of time” before the security sector finally put an end to the country’s insurgency problem.

During the start of his presidency in 2016, Duterte had been initially keen to seal the peace talks with the CPP, NPA, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) led by top communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, his mentor.

Their relationship turned sour in 2017 due to accusations of insincerity, with both parties claiming the other had been committing ceasefire violations. 

Since then, Duterte have had changing tones on the likelihood of a possible resumption of the peace talks.

Last year, Duterte ordered the imposition of a nationwide unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire with the CPP-NPA-NDFP from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020. It was extended until April 15.

He said the ceasefire was necessary to build a conducive environment for the formal resumption of the peace talks.

But the truce was marred by a bloody encounter between Army troopers and NPA rebels in Rodriguez, Rizal in March which resulted in the death of a  soldier and an NPA member, and the wounding of two other security forces.

Another encounter occured on April 22 where two soldiers died in an ambush allegedly perpetrated by suspected communist rebels in Aurora province.

Because of the soldiers’ killing, Duterte completely trashed all the progress of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

“There are no more peace talks to talk about. I am not and will never be ready for any round of talks,” Duterte had said in a taped address aired on April 27.