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Peace advocates lament cancellation of peace talks

By RONALYN V. OLEA - Bulatlat
November 23, 2017

MANILA – An alliance of peace advocates deplored President Duterte’s unilateral and sudden cancellation of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

On Wednesday, Nov. 22, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced the cancellation of all planned meetings with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/ New People’s Army (NPA)/National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which he said is “in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them.”

Three days before, in his speech in Davao City, Duterte threatened to label the New People’s Army (NPA) as a “terrorist group composed of bunch of criminals.” Duterte further warned he would launch a crackdown on the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and other legal organizations for “conspiracy” with the communists.

Kapayapaan, an alliance of advocates for a just peace, said “these constitute a complete turnaround from his avowed policy of talking peace with the CPP-NPA-NDFP to end the close to five decades of armed conflict in the country by negotiating much-needed socio-economic and political reforms.”

In justifying the termination of talks, Dureza said, “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.”

Kapayapaan said the continuing armed clashes between government forces and the CPP-NPA-NDF is all the more reason for both parties to return to the negotiating table.

“The quest for just peace is a complicated process that requires perseverance amidst difficulties, wisdom in handling disagreements and a sincerity to bring about significant reforms as the people demand. It cannot be solved with armed might and threats and actual harming of defenseless civilians, particularly activists and community leaders,” the group said.

In a separate statement, the NDFP committee tasked to propose socio-economic reforms expressed regret over the cancellation of meetings, which were supposed to start this week.

The NDFP Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said Duterte’s latest scuttling of the talks “comes at a time when unprecedented advances have already been achieved in forging agreements on urgently needed socio-economic reforms to alleviate mass poverty and resolve the roots of the armed conflict. “

Just four days before Duterte cancelled the talks anew, the bilateral teams of the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) RWCs-SER initialed draft documents reflecting substantial agreements on agrarian reform and rural development, and on national industrialization and economic development.

“The drafts include potentially significant reforms to benefit millions of Filipinos,” the NDFP RWC-SER said. “President Duterte bears full responsibility for the failure of the talks on social and economic reforms because of his sudden turn-around and heightened hostility to the revolutionary forces and the people.”