SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Gregorio Honasan on Friday expressed strong support for President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to suspend the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Honasan, a former soldier, described the peace negotiations as "lokohan lang" after suspected communist gunmen opened fire on members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in a national highway in Cotabato. Five members of Duterte's security aides were wounded in the encounter.
Reportedly, the President directed the government panel not to resume formal peace talks unless the leftist rebels agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao.
"If they have no control over attacks against government troops installation, we must condemn them. This is bad faith. Lokohan ito," Honasan said. "I agree with the decision of the President to suspend. We cannot talk and fight at the same time."
The incident took place in the boundaries of Arakan, Bukidnon and Davao City around 6:15 a.m. There were at least a hundred suspected NPA rebels who attacked the PSG's two-vehicle convoy. An encounter then happened between 10 of the PSG men and at least a hundred suspected NPA rebels.
Honasan said if the leaders of the left do not have any control over their men, peace talks will only be futile.
But at the same time, Honasan said the government must not stop in its desire to achieve peace through the peace process that Duterte had already started.
The latest communist attack came as government forces on Mindanao fought Islamic State-inspired militants who have been holed up in the southern city of Marawi since May 23.
The communist party, which is waging Asia's longest-running insurgency, called on its armed wing to launch offensives in response to Duterte's plan to put Mindanao under martial law until the end of the year.
A 60-day martial rule is now in force in Mindanao as part of the military campaign in Marawi, but the Duterte government said Tuesday it needs more time to accomplish the mission.
Senate President Pimentel lamented the suspension of peace talks but at the same time, he said the President is right in his decision to suspend peace talks with the National Democratic Front.
Pimentel said any conflict can only result in deaths and suffering for the people.
"A country cannot move forward and prosper unless peace is established and peace is the foundation of prosperity. But the President obviously has shown sincerity and determination to put a stop in this never ending fight with the left," he said. (SunStar Philippines)