THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to cancel the peace talks is temporary and that it was just a way of showing his anger, particularly over the killing of a four-month-old baby in a recent New People’s Army (NPA) attack 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," NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said in a television interview Thursday, November 23.
"There is a clamor by the people for a just peace in the struggle for social and national liberation of the Filipino people so if the President would like to abandon that and stop engaging in peace negotiations, that's his responsibility, his own lookout," he added.
As of Thursday morning, November 23, the government has not served to NDFP negotiators a formal notice of the termination of the talks. But the President said he would order the arrest of the rebels and their "legal fronts."
On Wednesday, the government through the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, announced the cancellation of all the scheduled meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NDFP in relation to the peace talks. NDFP is the political arm of the CPP.
The announcement was made after Duterte said that he has decided to scrap the talks, after the killing of a policeman and an infant who was hit by a stray bullet during an NPA attack in Bukidnon on November 9.
Duterte had also said NPA rebels would be tagged as terrorists and criminals for staging gruesome attacks.
Despite the cancellation of the peace talks by the administration, Agcaoili said they are always open to possibility of its resumption.
He said the government should not backtrack on the agreements they have already signed, including the President’s promise to release all political prisoners.
He said since Duterte took office last year, only 22 political prisoners - those who take part in the peace process - were released.
Agcaoili, on the other hand, denounced Duterte’s plan to brand the NPA as terrorists saying that they have not conducted any transnational operations as they were only targeting combatants who are continuously being a threat to the communities.
He said if only government troops will stay in their barracks, they will not be ambushed.
“The President seems not to be informed about the continuing attacks in communities, the killings that have been happening among peasant and lumad leaders. Since he (Duterte) took office, 97 peasants and lumad leaders were killed and in their war on drugs there were nine reported killings of children. They had been continuing bombardment and aerial and bombings against the communities,” he said.
“Recently they killed 12 NPA in Nueva Ecija, 3 in Iloilo. We did not react because there is no ceasefire. Why should we allow military and police operations against communities?” he added.
Agcaoili said such branding will impact on the peace negotiations. (SunStar Philippines)