The blame game
By Roger Balanza
Left-leaning legal fronts are assailing President Rodrigo Duterte for terminating the peace talks and for declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) as a terrorist group.
The leftist fronts and their leaders known to have established ties with the CPP accuse President Duterte of abandoning the peace process and describe his declaration of the CPP/NPA as a terrorist group as an ominous signal of more violations of human rights.
President Duterte scuttled the talks because of the insincerity of the communists. And what would you call the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, which has been inflicting violence on the Filipino people in the last five decades?
It is apparent the fronts have been marshaled into lashing at the President by their master, the troika of Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison, founder of the CPP; Luis Jalandoni, senior adviser to the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP/NPA; and Fidel Agcaoili, NDF chairman, who are living in exile abroad.
At this point in time, the GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF peace talk is dead as a dodo, as it did die during attempts by five past presidents – Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino — to make peace rule the land by resolving the communist insurgency.
But who is really to blame for the death of the peace talks?
President Duterte terminated the talks over the insincerity and treachery of the communists: while the negotiations were ongoing, the NPA continued to waylay the countryside with murder and violence.
The 5th Round of the GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF talks was supposed to be at the homestretch of notching a final peace deal.
The last and penultimate talk set at the last months of this year, would have tackled two remaining contentious issues: pro-poor commitments of the government and the signing of the bilateral ceasefire.
The first was expected to meet brutal but solvable debates. It is the second issue, the NPA stopping their offensives against government troops, that the communist would be uncomfortable with.
This is shown by the fact that at the approach to the year-end round of talks, the NPA refused to abandon its mission to overthrow the government through the barrel of the gun as manifested in its continuing offensives against government troops, its extortion and collection of revolutionary tax and killing of civilians.
At the tailend of the violence was the killing of a 4-month old baby, when the NPA ambushed a police car in Bukidnon that also killed two policemen.
Under President Duterte, the NPA violence even as peace talks is ongoing was all over the countryside as it was under past presidents which is the reason why previous peace talks did not fly.
But Duterte, a confessed leftist by heart, believes in negotiation as a solution to the insurgency problem. He walked the mile to see the talks through by taking leftist leaders into his cabinet and freeing incarcerated NDF consultants to be able to participate in the talks in the Netherlands.
Despite this confidence-building initiatives, the NPA violence continued.
The President saw through the ruse that the communists were not serious with the peace talks and their participation was merely for show; and that what the communists really want is to form a coalition with the government.
On November 18, after the baby was killed as a collateral damage in the Bukidnon attack, the President threatened to declare the CPP/NPA/NDF combine as a terrorist group.
Despite this, the NPA continued to attack the military and police in what is seen as a treacherous show of rebel strength for the communists to gain more concessions at the negotiation table.
On November 23, President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 terminating the talks.
The NDF may have thought that President Duterte’s patience is unlimited and was surprised when the President announced the end of the peace talks.
The NDF questioned the issuance of Proclamation No. 360 which terminated the peace talks, citing provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the government and the NDF on February 24, 1995.
The NDF says that President Duterte cannot unitarily declare the termination and must formally inform NDF through written notice which must be acknowledged by NDF before Proclamation 360 becomes effective after 30 days of receipt of the notice.
JASIG provides immunity from arrest to NDF negotiators and consultants participating in the negotiations, as well as the requirement for written notice if one of the parties terminates the talks.
But President Duterte could not be intimidated by the NDF’s legal gobbledygook.
For the President, talking with the Reds ended with the peace talks ended.
Throwing the kitchen sink at the NDF, President Duterte let the boom down by issuing Proclamation No. 174 on December 5, declaring the CPP and the NPA combine as a terrorist organization.
The proclamation effectively dumped into the garbage bin the JASIG and its provisions that require the government to serve a formal notice to the NDF if it wanted to terminate the talks.
While the Declaration still needs a judicial affirmation by the court as mandated by the Home Secruity Act, Proclamation 174 was expected to sail without legal impediment, given government’s argument on the history of violence of the NPA.
The fact is that since dishing out his threat to declare the CPP and NPA as terrorists on November 18, it took some time for the President to issue Proclamation No. 174.
He had left the door open for the Joma clique and its armed wing to show that it wanted to pursue peace talks by stopping the violence.
The President was holding on to the last straw that could have saved the peace talks.
But President Duterte saw through the ruse that the NDF invoking JASIG would only prolong the agony over what uncertain direction the talk is going.
He was hoping at least that the NPA would rein in their guns and let time be a healing balm for the tension to quiet down as the negotiating panels were poised to sit down for the final talks.
But the violence continued.
And what has Joma and his cabal to say about them being declared as terrorists?
Unwilling to explain why the NPA continues its violent spree, Joma and Jalandoni instead opened another warfront by engaging the President in a word war, farther banging more nails into the coffin of the doomed peace talks.
Skirting the issue on who is to blame for the President’s termination of the peace talks due to the continuing violence of the NPA, Joma and Jalandoni are creating a diversion by accusing the president as himself a terrorist for the thousands of death in the government’s war on drugs.
Of course, Joma and Jalandoni cannot be expected to explain why the NPA has to kill a 4-month old baby or the thousands of soldiers, policemen and civilians killed by the communist rebels during the five-decade old insurgency. Joma and Jalandoni have one thing in common with the NPA: Murder runs in their blood.
You can’t blame Joma and his company of consultants in exile for decades now in the Netherlands, including their legal fronts in the country, for crying buckets over the declaration of the CPP and the NPA as terrorists.
Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 as basis for Proclamation No. 174 declaring the CPP-NPA as a terror organization, is fatal to the communists and their allies.
Under RA 10168, the terrorist classification means that government can order freezing bank accounts of the terrorists and terrorist organizations like the CPP and NDF, confiscate their properties, and arrest the terrorists and their consultants including members of their legal fronts.
Abroad, imagine how Joma and his cabal would survive hell without their fat bank accounts and without money remitted to them by the NPA from extortion and revolutionary tax back home.
In the home front, leftist leaders and their fronts and the NDF consultants would similarly be covered by RA 10168 and can be arrested, their bank accounts frozen and their properties confiscated by authorities.
The government in fact is now going through the process of their mass arrest, to include formerly incarcerated consultants of the NDF temporarily freed to participate in the peace negotiations abroad.