Joma to Duterte: Let's end war of words, war on the ground
MANILA, Philippines – The professor is still hopeful his student has not entirely abandoned the peace process, despite proclamations that formally ended negotiations and tagged the party he founded a "terrorist organization."
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison urged President Rodrigo Duterte to review developments in backchannel talks, resume the negotiations, put an end to the word war and the clashes on the ground.
"If Duterte will just review what the two panels were about to succeed in doing, baka naman mag-change ang isip niya (he might change his mind). You know we can overcome easily 'yung bakbakan ng baril sa ground at bakbakan sa salita (the war on the ground and war of words) so long as we are for the interests and the rights of the people," Sison told Rappler in an interview on Friday, December 8. (READ: [Opinion] How Duterte sabotaged the GRP-NDFP peace process)
It has been an on-again-off-again talks since the military and the CPP armed group New People's Army withdrew from a 6-month-long ceasefire in February 2017.
Duterte announces the cancellation of talks and throws a fit whenever government forces suffer casualties clashes with communist rebels – but the panels would get the go signal to continue secret meetings to complete an agreement and reinstitute a ceasefire.
But in November, the President went beyond the usual outburst following clashes that killed a baby. He issued Proclamation 360 formally ending the talks, and Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP and NPA as "terrorist organizations."
Timeline of talks
Sison said Duterte scrapped the talks just as the two sides were nearing a breakthrough and were looking forward to completing an agreement in 2018 to end the armed struggle.
"We can deliver an agreement," said Sison.
He said the panels were looking at completing soon a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) – the heart and soul of the peace process. They can then proceed to the 3rd substantive agenda – Comprehensive Agreement on Political Reforms (CAPR) – in time with Congress' moves to deliberate a federal form of government.
"The NDF never proposed the coalition government with the republic. We will co-found a new government and then of course, your weight in an alliance or coalition governemnt will be decided by your performance in the elections, di ba?," Sison said.
"It takes two sides to negotiate. Duterte seems to have superficial and insufficient knowledge of the process," he said.
End the word war
The 78-year-old communist leader dishes it out every time his foul-mouthed student made a punching bag out of the communist movement. He called Duterte "butangero" (hoodlum) in July 2016, an exchange that threatened the resumption of peace talks scheduled a month later.
"Ayaw ko yung para bang nagmamando siya. Nagbibigay siya ng ultimatum. (I didn't like how he was issuing us commands and ultimatums). You cannot do that to the revolutionary movement," he said.
Sison has also called Duterte corrupt and "duwag" (coward) for backing out of allegations against the "big fish" in his war on drugs, citing abandoned allegations against Pangasinan governor-turned-representative Amado Espino and alleged drug lord Peter Lim.
"He'll lose in a gunfight because I’m also marksman. I don’t know how good he is," he said,recalling his word war with the President.
But Sison said these are just words they can both overcome. "Duterte said it himself, he can take harsh words because he is a politician. If you are a politician, you accept that there is such a thing that is verbal combat. But it cannot be any worse than combat with firearms that destroys lives and limbs," he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
NPA rebels proving their mettle
The CPP and NPA are behind Asia's longest-running communist insurgency. Hopes were high when Duterte resumed formal negotiations in August 2016, which began with separate bilateral ceasefires that would last for about 6 months.
Clashes between the military and the communist rebels stepped up after the military completed its mission in Marawi in October and troops were deployed to "communist areas."
"It so happens [Defense Secretary Delfin] Lorenzana and others are so eager to kill the NPA. The NPA is also eager to prove their mettle,"said Sison.
But he said Duterte's threats will not work. "You cannot frighten them (NPA rebels)," he said. He said they should have instead availed of the proper mechanisms to protest alleged violations of agreements on the ground.
Sison said if the talks proceeded, the two panels would be proposing a "stand down" between the military and the NPA, which will be elevated to a "Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire" along with the signing of CASER possibly by January 2018. – Rappler.com