(Sung to the tune of Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song)
Peace talks roasting on an open fire
Armed troops fighting at the front
Yuletide quarrels shutting down the choir
And troops dressed up for all-out war
Everybody knows when the bullets start flying
It’s time to quickly take flight
Tiny spots where the bombs all explode
Folk will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that fighting’s on its way
Rebels and soldiers ready to slay
And every mother’s child is going to cry
As they flee from bullets that fly
And so, I’m offering this simple phrase
To folks from one to ninety-wo
Although it’s been said, many times, many ways
Let’s have honest talks that lead to peace
At first, President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to junk talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines could be taken as one of his usual rants.
After all, the President has been known to say a lot of things that Palace officials later explained were not to be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the President was serious with his intention to scrap the talks with the CPP after Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza formally announced on Nov. 22 the cancellation of all planned meetings with the rebel group and its allied organizations.
“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Dureza said.
“Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision,” the Presidential Peace adviser added. “We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations.”
Dureza described the development as “unfortunate.”
“This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace,” he said. “Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them.”
Even as Dureza expressed lament for the lost opportunity, he laid the blame for the scrapping of the talks on the feet of the CPP, the New People’s Army (the armed wing of the CPP), and the National Democratic Front (the CPP’s political wing).
“President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace,” Dureza said. “However, the Communist Party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity.”
The President’s decision can be seen as putting pressure on the CPP/NPA/NDF to abandon its current campaign to attack government forces and civilian businesses.
“There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP/NPA/NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident,” Dureza said. “We will closely watch the developments.”
Even as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process challenged the communist rebel groups to show that they were serious in holding peace talks with the government, Dureza expressed the government’s gratitude to the Norwegian government for its “strong support” for the talks.
“We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events,” Dureza said. “Despite this setback (hopefully only temporary), we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace.”
Aside from junking the negotiations with the CPP, the President also threatened to declare the CPP’s armed wing, the NPA as a terrorist organization.
The President explained that the death of a four-month-old baby girl during an ambush the NPA staged in Talakag, Bukidnon was unacceptable.
Reports quoted the President as saying “It’s not an entity anymore worth talking to” as he emphasized that his decision to scrap the peace talks was “final.”
However, Fidel Agcaoli, the NDF’s chief negotiator, still expressed hope that the President was merely expressing his anger over the baby’s death when the NPA staged an ambush in Bukidnon.
“We are hopeful that all these rants of the President in the last few days are just that — that he is expressing his anger and would return to trying to talk with us to achieve basic social and economic reforms in the country,” Agcaoili said on Nov. 23.
It was not apparent if Agcaoili was aware of Dureza’s announcement confirming that all talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF has been cancelled.
Agcaoili then implied that if anything goes wrong after the cancellation of talks, the fault and responsibility should be borne by the President.
Even as Agcaoli still expressed hope that talks with the government will continue despite the President’s statement, the pressure for the communist rebel group to take the President seriously grew.
The new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, was quoted in reports as saying that the military was supporting the President’s decision to cancel talks with the communist rebel organizations.
The general added that the AFP “will continue to safeguard” communities against “attacks by te NPA.”
Several soldiers told the Philippines Graphic that they shared Guerrero’s point of view.
This view was emphasized by AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, who was quoted in reports as saying that the NPA “failed to show sincerity”, adding that the rebels had responded to the government’s peace initiatives with “treachery.”
The government resumed negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF upon the assumption of the Duterte administration.
The talks, which were supported by the Norwegian government, reached the fourth round.
However, the government called off the fifth round of talks in retaliation for the NPA’s announcements that it was stepping up its attacks against government forces and installations.
The NPA announcement to open a new wave of attacks came after the President declared martial law in Mindanao. The President proclaimed martial law in Mindanao as part of a series of actions to stop the Matute terrorist group’s attempt to take over Marawi City. The siege of Marawi ended after five months of heavy fighting.
Government officials described the NPA’s call to step up attacks against government forces as an attempt to use the escalating situation in Marawi to put pressure on the government and bolster the CPP/NPA/NDF’s position during the negotiations.
Though the communist rebel organizations expressed regret over the government’s decision to scrap the talks, they issued an official statement that the NPA’s decision to step up attacks was justified because it was the government who had been waging war against the NPA.
Timeline of present communist insurgency
The present communist insurgency traces its roots to December 1968 when Jose Maria Sison founded the Communist Party of the Philippines. On March 1969, the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army, was established. Its sole purpose was to fight a war to enable the CPP to take over the country. On April 1973, the National Democratic Front, which was the political wing of the CPP, was organized.
From 1969 to 1986, the communist insurgency thrived due to excesses committed under the Marcos administration. However, with the rise of first Aquino administration after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the communist insurgency lost its main justification for existing.
Many members of the communist underground surfaced and returned to normal life.
The Aquino administration, as a sign of its good faith in conducting peace talks with the NPA, released Sison in 1987. However, the negotiations ended abruptly after Sison fled and sought asylum in The Netherlands. Sison condemned former CPP/NPA/NDF members who left the movement.
In 1992, the Ramos administration enticed Sison’s organizations to resume peace talks by issuing a widely accepted amnesty proclamation. This led to three major agreements.
However, the NDF abandoned the peace talks in 1999 to express its opposition to the Senate’s decision to ratify the Visiting Forces Agreement the Estrada administration signed with the US government.
Two years later, another attempt to resume talks failed after the CPP/NPA/NDF was included in an international list of terrorist organizations during the Arroyo administration.
A new attempt to resume negotiations was made under Aquino administration in 2011. The formal talks were later stopped in favor of holding informal talks, which led to a 27-day truce from December 20, 2012 to January 15, 2013.
On February 2013, the NDF made new demands for the resumption of formal talks. Their demands included the scrapping of government social programs to reduce poverty and withdrawal of both the military and police forces in areas claimed by the NPA as its territory. The government rejected the demands and the talks collapsed.
On June 15, 2016, preliminary talks for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF were held in Oslo, Norway.
On July 18, 2016, President Duterte approved a six-point peace and development agenda which included an “accelerated timeline” on conducting talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF.
The Duterte administration declared a unilateral ceasefire as a sign of good faith on August 20, 2016 prior to the resumption of talks with the communist rebel groups. Formal talks resumed between the two sides two days later.
The talks were cancelled on May 28, 2017 after the NPA announced it was stepping up attacks against government forces in response to the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao due to the crisis in Marawi City. On Nov. 22, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process confirmed that all talks with communist rebel organizations have ended.
Source: The official website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process