Gov’t cancels peace talks with Reds

MANILA — The Philippine government on Wednesday terminated its peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements that he will no longer pursue talks with the communist rebels.

“We are hereby announcing today (Wednesday) the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

In a speech in Taguig City on Tuesday, President Duterte said he has “decided to cut talks with the NPAs,” adding “giyera na lang tayo (Let’s just fight it out).”

He said he has told Dureza and government chief negotiator, Silvestre Bello III, to convey to communist leaders abroad that the peace talks would no longer resume.

The President has repeatedly lambasted the communist rebels for continuously attacking state troops and giving unreasonable demands in the peace negotiations.

Among the demands the communist leadership has made was the release of all political prisoners prior to the peace talks.

He also cited the NPA ambush of a police vehicle in the village of Tikalaan, Talakag town, Bukidnon, on Nov. 9, which resulted in the death of a four-month old infant.

In-ambush nila ‘yung pulis in Mindanao, tapos pati ‘yung bata na four months old, tinamaan. Kaya napundi talaga ako (They ambushed the policeman in Mindanao, killing a four-month-old baby in the process. I really lost my temper),” Duterte said.

It can be recalled that President Duterte on Saturday told reporters that he would declare the NPA a terrorist group because he was sick of their shenanigans.

Peace negotiations were stalled in May this year following a string of attacks committed by communist rebels against state troops.

In the meantime, Dureza said the cancellation of peace talks with the Reds “is an unfortunate development in our work for peace”.

“Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said.

Talks between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF have reached a fourth round, and a fifth round was being worked out when the process was stalled.

Dureza noted that President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace, but the communist party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity.

“There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP-NPA-NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident. We will closely watch the developments,” he said.

“We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events,” Dureza said. Jose Cielito Reganit and Perfecto Raymundo, Jr/