MANILA, Philippines – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) threatens to postpone peace talks with the Philippine government until its former chairman Benito Tiamzon and other consultants are released.
The CPP released a strongly worded statement against President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, August 7, following a series of heated verbal exchanges between the President and his former professor, exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison.
The group also ordered its combatants to intensify operations against security troops nationwide while they have not declared a ceasefire.
The talks are scheduled to start in Oslo in two weeks, August 22, a new schedule following repeated postponements.
"Sabik man ang mga rebolusyonaryong pwersa na muling simulan ang usapang pangkapayapaan, nakahanda rin silang maghintay na tuparin ni Duterte ang pangakong pagpapalaya sa mga konsultant ng NDFP (While the revolutionary group is eager to resume peace talks, they are also willing to wait for Duterte to fulfill his promise to release the consultants of NDFP)," said the CPP.
"Bukod sa kailangan ang paglahok nila sa negosasyon, ang pagpapalaya sa kanila ay magsisilbing patunay na mayroon isang salita si Duterte at mapagkakatiwalaang tutuparin ang anumang kasunduang pipirmahan sa usapan," (Their release will be proof that Duterte has one word and that he is to be trusted to make good on any agreement in the future.)
The National Democractic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is the political arm of the CPP. The New People's Army (NPA) is its armed group, responsible for the longest running communist insurgency in Asia.
The guerrillas noted that the talks were initially scheduled in July, but this got delayed because Duterte, they said, chose not to use his powers as president to release the 22 peace consultants and 550 political prisoners before the talks.
Instead, the CPP added, the President chose to take the circuitous legal route to make this happen. "Unang itinakda ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa unang hati ng Hulyo. Subalit naantala na ito nang naantala matapos hindi ginamit ni Duterte ang hawak niyang kapangyarihang para agad tuparin ang pangakong palayain ang 22 konsultant ng NDFP at halos 550 detenidong pulitikal. Idinaan pa ni Duterte sa masikot na prosesong ligal. Bilang dating piskal, alam na alam ni Duterte kung papaanong sinampahan ng gawa-gawang kasong kriminal ang mga aktibista at rebolusyonaryo para pagtakpan ang sa esensya’y pampulitikang panunupil laban sa kanila."
The government made the mistake of asking the Supreme Court instead of the lower courts for the release of the consultants of the NDFP. The High Court said they have no jurisdiction over the cases of the 11 since they face various criminal charges in the lower courts.
Duterte has vowed to prioritize peace talks with the Philippine Left during the presidential campaign, commiting to release Tiamzon and other politicial prisoners to build confidence for the peace talks. Duterte also made a high-profile Skype conversation with Sison during the campaign and allocated positions for their representatives in his Cabinet.
But confidence between the two camps eroded when Duterte's announcement for a ceasefire during his State of the Nation Address was not immediately reciprocated.
An incident in Davao Del Norte made things worse. The military accused the NPA of attacking government militias ordered to return to camp following the ceasefire declaration. The NPA said they were attacked.
An angry Duterte issued an 24-hour ultimatum for the CPP to reciprocate the govenrment ceasefire, which was not met, later prompting the president to call off the ceasefire.
Despite heated exchanges between the student and his teacher, both camps said they remain open to peace talks.
Luis Jalandoni, spokesman of the NDF, earlier issued a statement saying they understood Duterte's "duty" to show concern for his troops. (READ: NDF: Duterte has 'duty' to show concern for troops)
But the CPP came out with a stronger statement, saying the rebels now see a "narrowing potential" for a positive outcome.
"Kung pagbabatayan lamang ang mga naging kilos ni Duterte sa nakaraang mga linggo, makikitang lumiliit ang potensyal na may matatamong makabuluhan sa pamamagitan ng usapang pangkapayapaan (If we based it only on the actions of Duterte the past week, we can see a narrowing potential for a valuable outcome through peace talks)," the CPP statement said.
The CPP statement launched a long tirade against Duterte.
The guerrillas protested the widespread killings as a result of Duterte's war on drugs and the supposed special treatment of alleged drug lords.
They criticized him for meeting with US State Secretary John Kerry and for receiving $32 million aid for the military from the US government.
They also opposed the proposed Charter change, warning that it is meant to open up the country to foreign ownership of land and businesses.
The group also listed other demands: end the militarization of communities, junk the new military-to-military agreement with the US, dismantle US facilities and kick out all foreign troops in the Philippines. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com