Duterte: No talks until communists stop attacks vs gov’t troops

Pia Ranada
Duterte: No talks until communists stop attacks vs gov’t troops
(UPDATED) The government cancels backchannel talks supposed to happen in July following a clash between supposed NPA rebels and President Duterte's security aides

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte instructed government negotiators not to resume formal peace talks with communists until their armed units stop attacking government troops in Mindanao.

Duterte relayed these orders to members of the government peace panel on Tuesday, July 18, during a meeting with them in Malacañang, according to a Palace press release.

“During their meeting held at Malacañan Palace, the President directed the government panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) not to resume formal peace talks unless the Reds agree to stop their attacks against government troops in Mindanao,” reads the release.

As of the Tuesday night meeting, backchannel talks to take place in July were still a go. However, on Wednesday afternoon, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza announced that the informal talks were cancelled.

“I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs,” he said in a statement.

Earlier that day, suspected NPA rebels clashed with members of his own Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato.

“The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time,” added Dureza.

Chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III previously expressed hope that the informal talks would pave the way for the signing of the interim ceasefire agreement in the next round of formal negotiations.

The 5th round of peace talks, supposed to happen last May, were initially scheduled to take place in August, said Bello.

But in a speech last July 6, Duterte announced there would be no formal talks until communists stop imposing revolutionary tax. 

Last May, the government pulled out of the 5th round of talks about to be held in the Netherlands. The pull-out was prompted by the Communist Party of the Philippines’ call for its armed units to intensify attacks against the military in response to Duterte’s martial law proclamation.

Dureza, according to the Palace, said that formal talks will only resume if the communists commit to follow guidelines for a possible ceasefire deal with government.

These guidelines include stopping extortion activities and suspending offensives against military and police.

During the meeting with negotiators, Duterte stressed that the government has been dealing with the communists in good faith and that the communists should return the gesture. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.