The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in rejecting the declaration the other night of GRP President Rodrigo Duterte that he will terminate peace negotiations between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and that he is dissolving his negotiating panel.
Having not received any formal notice of termination from the GRP, however, we consider as standing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. We continue to look forward to scheduled talks on February 22-24 and April 2-6.
The Party assails Duterte’s threats to order the cancellation of passports of NDFP negotiators and consultants as well as their rearrest and detention without bail. If carried out, these shall be considered as gross acts of treachery and grave violations of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The JASIG was reaffirmed by the Duterte regime and the NDFP just a few months ago. It guarantees non-reprisal against each other’s peace personnel.
Duterte’s impetuous pronouncements to end the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations came a day after ending the GRP’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire against the NPA. His decision was made clearly without judicious consideration of the advise of his peace panel, and coming at the heels of a successful third round of peace talks in Rome, Italy just over a week ago. He asserts that peace negotiations will no longer be resumed unless there is “compelling reason” to do so.
Peace talks must not be used for pacification
It is dismaying that Duterte is showing interest in peace negotiations with the NDFP only as long as it can be used as a tool for pacification to compel the revolutionary forces to accept a prolonged ceasefire that is not only without substantial gain or benefit for the people, but also detrimental to the people as it gives the reactionary state armed forces impunity in carrying out abuses against the people in the countryside.
In declaring his intention to pull out from the GRP-NDFP negotiations, Duterte echoed the exaggerated anger of the AFP over the outbreak of successive armed skirmishes between the New People’s Army and the AFP resulting in the death of six AFP troops since the end of January.
He glosses over the fact that it was he and the AFP hierarchy that has ordered the forward deployment of armed troops in the guerrilla zones and bases of the NPA to occupy barrios in the guise of “peace and order”, “delivery of social services” and other pretexts, and to sow fear and intimidation among the people and carry out armed offensive operations despite the reciprocal declarations of unilateral ceasefire. The forward deployed armed troops of the AFP were bound to be struck by NPA active defense actions.
AFP strike operations have intensified over the past few weeks leading to the January 23 attack on an NPA encampment in Makilala, and the January 26 assault on an NPA camp in Matalam, both in North Cotabato. The relentless offensive operations of the AFP show it has long been contriving a scenario to force an end to the reciprocal ceasefire declarations. Its declarations supporting peace talks is hypocritical public posturing.
The relentless AFP offensives have made the unilateral declaration for an interim ceasefire untenable. In response, the NPA has heightened its active defense manuevers over the past days to defend the interests and welfare of people. The announcement by the Party and NPA last February 1 terminating the ceasefire declaration was made with more than sufficient forewarning since two months ago.
On release of political prisoners
In wanting to end peace negotiations, Duterte said he could not agree to releasing all political prisoners. He makes the absurd claim that the release of all political prisoners is equivalent to a “surrender” of the GRP, disregarding the basic fact that they have been charged with trumped up cases and are victims of a flagrant injustice.
Over the past months, Duterte has adamantly refused to release all political prisoners through a presidential amnesty proclamation, a promise he has made several times since May 2016 but which he now denies making. This is also an obligation entered into by the GRP negotiating panel since August. In the most recent round of talks, the GRP reiterated its promised to expeditiously process the release of all political prisoners even as it will continue to study the issuance of an amnesty proclamation.
Apparently, the biggest stumbling block to the release of political prisoners is the AFP. In declaring he will not release all political prisoners, Duterte says he must also listen to the military, even if this means turning a deaf ear to the people’s cry for justice. It has become quite clear that Duterte, who relies on the support of the AFP for his political survival, now favors the military and police more than the people.
Struggle for a just and lasting peace
The Filipino people demand a just and lasting peace by resolving the outstanding socio-economic problems, especially widespread landlessness and landgrabbing in the countryside, as well as chronic unemployment, low wages, lack of job security and myriad problems besetting the workers, peasants and other basic sectors.
Peace-loving sectors, organizations and personalities must firmly oppose the precipitate decision of GRP President Duterte to end the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations which will effectively shut the door to the possibility of forging agreements on the substantive issues at the root of the raging armed conflict. They must demonstrate that there is no more “compelling reason” than the growing clamor for justice and just peace.
The Party and all revolutionary forces are one with the Filipino people in their aspiration for a just peace. The offices of the Negotiating Panel of the NDFP shall remain open to continue to explore the possibility of reopening peace negotiations with the Duterte government, both on the CASER as well as on the matter of a bilateral ceasefire simultaneous with release of political prisoners.
At the same time, all territorial units and commands of the New People’s Army have been issued orders by the Central Committee to be on active defense until February 10, the day of effective expiration of the August 28, 2016 Unilateral Declaration for an Interim Ceasefire, and to subsequently take full initiative in carrying out military campaigns and tactical offensives against all oppressive armed entities of the reactionary state and ruling classes.
The Filipino people must intensify both their armed and non-armed struggles against all forms of oppression and exploitation, against landlessness, feudal exactions and landgrabbing, against the cheap labor policy and contractualization, against foreign plunder of the country’s wealth and national patrimony.
They must vigorously carry forward the national democratic revolution in order to lay down the conditions for a just and lasting peace.