Photo by Karlos Manlupig
MANILA, Philippines – The peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been in limbo for months. On its 45th anniversary on December 26, Thursday, the CPP declared it is giving up on the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
"In view of the proven unwillingness of the Aquino regime to negotiate a just peace, the revolutionary movement does not expect the resumption of peace negotiations with the regime. It has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations," reads a statement of the CPP central committee.
It is also calling for Aquino's ouster, saying he is worse than former President Gloria Arroyo in terms of violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
"Let us do our best to cause the ouster of the Aquino regime or compel Aquino’s resignation from his office because of puppetry to US imperialism, corruption, electoral fraud, grave human rights violations, mismanagement of pre-disaster preparations and disaster aid, mendacity, unrestricted mining, logging, landgrabbing and other forms of destroying the environment," it said.
The talks collapsed in February 2013 when the two panels couldn't agree on the initial agenda of the negotiations.
According to government, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison changed his mind on a "special track" he had originally agreed to. Under this, both sides would immediately declare a ceasefire and a special panel from both sides would be convened to tackle issues that bring about rebellion. (READ: 'Joma wants peace, the ground doesn't' – Padilla)
Government negotiator Alex Padilla claimed the rebel troops in the Philippines prevailed on Sison to reject the special track and bring back to the table old demands that the government had already rejected. The NDF had wanted the government to, among others, terminate the Aquino administration's anti-poverty flagship program, the conditional cash transfer, stop the military's Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program, and give land to 5 million landless farmers.
According to the NDF, it was presidential peace adviser Ging Deles who "sabotaged" the talks. “The [government] has deliberately refused to comply with its commitments in agreements forged with the NDF, despite the full knowledge that compliance would immediately break the impasse and cause the resumption of the formal talks,” Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
NDF panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili tried to save the peace talks when he came to Manila to find out the "real sentiments" of President Aquino. The "special track" and the "regular track" are complementary, he said. But nothing came out of his visit. Agcaoili believed that the President was misled by his Cabinet officials. (READ: NDF exec in PH to get Aquino's 'real sentiments' on peace talks)
It's a familiar refrain in the peace process with the NDF that began two decades ago, at the time of former President Corazon Aquino. (READ: Guess who's 45?)
The communist underground reached its peak under her regime - with close to 25,000 armed regulars, according to the military. But the fall of communism, factionalism, as well as strategic and battlefield blunders have reduced communist strength and influenced over the years. Padilla said the New People's Army (NPA) is now down to more than 4,000 armed regulars.