Bishop on talks with Reds: Talking better than fighting

A CHURCH leader here in Cagayan de Oro City is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to carefully consider his options before scrapping the peace talks with the communist rebels.

Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) said ending the peace negotiations and tagging the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) as "terrorists" and "criminals" will only aggravate the decades-old conflict.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process yesterday announced the cancellation of planned meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) in line with Duterte's order to end peace talks.

"Ang mahitabo kung maundang ang peace talks mahimong offensive and defensive and attitude sa NPA unya kung tawgon silang terrorist ang ilang politikanhong hinungdan sa panabangi ma-sideline unya dili pug magpadayon ang peace talks kung ing-ana ang pagtan-aw sa panggamhanan (The scrapping of the peace talks will end put the NPA on the offensive and defensive. Calling them terrorists also sidelines their political struggle. The peace talks will not prosper if that's how the government looks at them),” Calang said.

Calang said military option due to the armed conflict will only do harm to civilians, many of whom could end up as collateral damage.

Calang, who is also a convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), said the "state of war" remains since the peace talks has not been resolved and said that the root causes of the armed struggle and how to end the war can only be addressed and resolved through the peace talks.

He said Church leaders and peace advocates had hoped that the resolution of the decades-old conflict, Asia’s longest running communist-led insurgency, would be Duterte’s legacy.

He said leaders of the IFI, now in Cagayan de Oro City for the annual Mindanao plenary assembly, will discuss actions that can be taken up to convince the government not to scrap the peace talks.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Defense department will now pursue operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), now that the government has cancelled peace talks with the group.

“The President has had enough of the communist movement’s penchant for double talk and continued acts of atrocities against the Filipino people,” said Department of Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong.

“We strongly suggest to the NPA to lay down their arms, surrender, return to society and be part of the real change espoused by the national leadership,” he added.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said they will make the necessary guidelines to implement and inform their forces that there will no longer be any ceasefire with the NPA even during the Christmas season.

“We will focus on maintaining peace and order in the area. Now, as support agency to the AFP in the implementation dito sa counter-insurgency, we will do our role, we will still perform our role.

Kasi ‘yung practice before, pag meron tayong ceasefire, hindi tayo nagte-take ng offensive actions (During a ceasefire, we don't conduct offensive actions). So this time, we will continue our normal combat patrol and anti-insurgency operations,” he said.

In May, President Rodrigo Duterte suspended the fifth round of the peace talks with the communists following the series of attacks by the rebels against the government troops despite the peace process.

The President, however, has been flip-flopping on his stand on the peace talks and, at times, urged the NPA rebels to surrender with a promise that they will be given decent jobs and housing.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced on Wednesday, November 22, that Duterte has already ordered the cancellation of all the scheduled meetings with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the communists' political arm.

"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. We take guidance from the President's recent announcements and declarations," Dureza said.

The order came after Duterte announced his intent to classify the NPA as a terror group due to their recent attacks which resulted in the killing of a baby. (With SunStar Philippines)
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