After months of fruitful talks, the government decided to finally fold its tent and abandon the peace talks with communist rebels. This came in the wake of six soldiers getting killed in an encounter with the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Before the incident the talks turned lukewarm when the insurgents called out Duterte on his promise to release 400 political prisoners. They also accused the military of violating the bi-lateral ceasefire by en-roaching on the rebels’ strong hold areas.
“Peace talks will remain cancelled unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the interest of the nation,” Duterte pronounced.
The administration of Rodrigo Duterte has been engaged in a peace talks with the CPP, the longest running insurgency in Asia. Just last week the third round of talks was concluded and set the next meeting on February 24. But even before this happens the CPP announced it is ending its ceasefire and they will be on active defensive mode. This followed by the government announcing its own lifting of ceasefire and declaring an all-out war with the NPA. The government also suspended the immunity of all those consultants participating in the talks and moved for their immediate arrest. This was denounced by the lawyers of the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the CPP as it violates previous agreements.
The NDFP however did not dismiss the possibility of resuming the talks with the government. They cautioned Duterte not to listen those militarists and United States-lapdogs advising the later. The CPP-NPA-NDF openly criticizes the United States for its role in keeping the Philippines as its semi-colony thus keeping the country impoverish and its continued political meddling. Fidel Agcaoili one the lead consultants for the NDFP blamed “spoilers in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the neo-liberal globalization members in the cabinet” for the collapse of their once promising peace talks with the Duterte government.
On the other hand cabinet secretaries known to belong to leftist groups urged the government to proceed with the talks despite the current state.
In a statement, Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Work and Community Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Masa said ““The current agenda on the table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), is the most substantive agenda in the negotiations and is key to lasting peace and long-term poverty eradication.”
Given all the issues at hand and the continued tirade between both parties would there still be a ray of hope for peace?
Is it really that simple to just walk away to the process when things get messy? Is it easier to just point guns at each other and quit talking?
The peace talks is a golden opportunity to address the centuries of problems plaguing the country. It is a chance to address the root cause of the insurgency which is the rampant poverty and a political system that only favors the few and not the many. There has been set backs but there has also been progress. Socio-economic and political reforms are to be tabled on the next round of talks. But how would we get there if we are quitting on peace. Finding common ground is the hardest part in any negotiations but this does not mean that we should give up on peace because there is misunderstanding.
Duterte who claimed he is a leftist should learn from past administrations. He should know better that peace talks is beyond ceasefires. And that it should not be used as a tool for capitulation. He should take this chance to bring about real changes that he so proudly campaigned less than a year ago.