IT is good that the government and rebel panels agreed recently to the resumption of the peace talks and President Rodrigo Duterte didn’t object to it. The President scrapped the talks last month after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) lifted the unilateral ceasefire that it declared five months earlier accusing the government of committing human rights abuses and treachery. In turn, the President was piqued by rebel attacks on government troops.
But to ensure that the talks won’t be scuttled again, the government and the rebels must declare separate unilateral ceasefires immediately and then proceed to forge a bilateral cessation of hostilities. One can’t be talking and fighting at the same time.
With the resumption of the talks, I hope that both sides would ensure the negotiations won’t be scuttled again. I think the problem is more with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) than with the NDFP side. Government forces are bigger and, in bourgeois democracy, control of the civilian and military apparatus is not strong. As for the rebels, because they are on war footing, they are forced to impose and practice iron discipline.
I understand that prejudices and biases against communists and communism is still widespread even decades after the end of the Cold War. I listen to even my friends and am amazed by the many misconceptions they harbor about the rebels and their ideology. I could not blame them because painting communism as bad has been done for more than a century already.
Last November, Pope Francis came up with what has become a controversial answer to a question posed by Eugenio Scalfari of the Italian paper La Repubblica.
The question: “You told me some time ago that the precept, ‘Love your neighbor as thyself’ had to change, given the dark times that we are going through, and become ‘more than thyself.’ So you yearn for a society where equality dominates. This, as you know, is the program of Marxist socialism and then of communism. Are you therefore thinking of a Marxist type of society?”
Pope Francis: “It it has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom.”
Perhaps to better understand the Pope’s answer, here is what he said in response to those who labelled him a “Leninist” for criticizing capitalism and calling for radical economic reform: “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.”
Some critics used those statements to paint the Pope as a “communist,” with the word “communist” defined as “bad.” But I say the Pope merely has a better and more objective understanding of communism and its goals, one shorn of the prejudices, biases and misconceptions that could make the current peace process in our country difficult to complete.