DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines’ chief peace adviser said he respected Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s position on the planned resumption of negotiation with communist rebels, even if it goes against her father’s directive.
“We should respect the statements of Mayor Sara because she knows also why she has to say it,” Secretary Jesus Dureza told reporters on Monday, April 16.
Dureza, chief of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, had recently received a directive from President Rodrigo Duterte to reopen the doors to peace talks with Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency.
The President called as “last chance” the government’s plan to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organization of leftist groups that support the armed revolution. Learning from the stalled negotiations last year, Duterte said that the government will return to the negotiating table only when both parties agree to a bilateral ceasefire.
But Duterte’s daughter, Sara, said that the communist rebels had shown no signs of sincerity in moving the peace talks forward. She cited the recent torching incident in Davao City affecting public works of a P1.3-billion road project here.
She also blamed the New People’s Army for previous acts of violence that terrorized and killed civilians. In particular, the Davao City mayor cited fish vendor Larry Buenafe who was killed when the guerilla fighters attacked Lapanday Food Corporation last year.
Because of this, she appealed to President Duterte to ditch the negotiations which she described as “counterproductive and plainly useless.”
Dureza said the Mayor could always state her position, after all, we are in a democracy where “everyone is entitled to his own opinion.”
“But we are not against each other. In fact, we welcome those statements because it also provides perhaps a more vigilant environment as we continue with the negotiations,” Dureza said.
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, however, criticized the position taken by Duterte-Carpio, saying it reflected the military’s stance against communist rebels. He also urged her to read documents pertaining to the peace negotiations, particularly agreements previously signed by the government and National Democratic Front panels.
In response, Duterte-Carpio said in a statement on Tuesday, April 17, that Casilao’s statement “is telling of how the representative of Anakpawis has designated himself as the mouthpiece and the attack dog of the groups responsible for a long list of terroristic activities against the people and the state over the past 40 years.”
“If it is the desire of Casilao to continue attacking the government, which he is supposed to be a part of, he should resign and join his brother in the communist movement,” she said.
“I do not need to kowtow to the military or read a document to give my thoughts on the peace talks,” the mayor added. – Rappler.com