Wenceslao: Peace and Ka Dante

SIXTY congressmen recently called on President Rodrigo Duterte, via House Resolution No. 1803, to resume the stalled peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). They are not the majority, far from it, but their number is sizable enough to be noticed, which is good.

“It is highly imperative that Congress hear and echo the Filipino people’s desire for the resumption of the peace negotiations and for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to forge substantive agreements that will resolve the root causes of the nearly five-decade-old armed conflict,” the resolution said.

President Duterte has yet to respond to the call, but Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza welcomed it, although Malacañang talks about the need for an “enabling environment” before the talks could resume. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque defined it this way:

“They (the rebels) must cease their hostilities against innocent civilians and government forces; end their extortion activities, violent streaks, and wanton killings; lay down their arms and return to the fold of law and restart to live normal lives.”

Roque is not party to the talks, thus his ignorance. Which only means that what he said is really not what the government meant by “enabling environment.” The conditions laid down by Roque is the definition for surrender, which is not what the peace talks are about. The last we heard, what the GRP panel has been demanding was for the forging of a bilateral ceasefire pact.

Anyway, the call for the resumption of the peace talks can be a good message this Holy Week. Catholics are familiar with the word “peace,” which we utter during masses. “Peace” was also Christ’s message to his disciples, especially after he resurrected. It should be one that we contemplate nowadays.

Interestingly, the existence of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NDFP, reaches the 49 years mark today. The founding of the CPP on December 26, 1968 was immediately followed was the formation of the NPA on March 29, 1969 mostly from the remnants of the old Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan or Huks.

The NPA’s main figure then was Bernabe Buscayno a.k.a. Ka Dante. Under him, the NPA expanded from just 35 members in limited areas to thousands of fighters spread nationwide. He was arrested in 1976 and sentenced to die by musketry together with former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. He was among the rebel leaders freed following the assumption of Corazon Aquino to the presidency in 1986.

After he survived an ambush by suspected rightist soldiers in 1987 (grenade shrapnels are still lodged in his back), he returned to his home place in Capas, Tarlac and tilled the land. He set up a farmers cooperative that unfortunately folded up in 1994. He set up another cooperative in 2000 and is currently leading the peaceful life of a farmer, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism that featured a story on him in 2006.

Ah, peace.
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