Lorenzana against peace talks: 'I don't know the purpose of this'

MANILA, Philippines – Citing "decades" of failure to reach an agreement with Philippine communist rebels, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday, March 26 that he was personally against the resumption of peace talks.

"The defense department will oppose the peace talks... I'll try to find out ano ba talaga ang gusto nilang mangyari ngayon? (What do they really want to happen now?) Because we have been talking with them for the past several decades. Nothing is happening," a weary Lorenzana said in a press conference at the Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite City.

"They are actually forcing the government parang nakikiawa sila na mag-peace talks na naman. (It's like they are begging to re-start the peace talks again.) So I don't know the purpose of this," he added.

Lorenzana was reacting to the House of Representatives resolution calling for the talks' resumption, signed by more than 60 congressmen, which resurrected the discussion on the issue.

Just an initial assessment: Lorenzana clarified, however, that he is open to changing his mind, but only on certain conditions.

First, he said, he would have to be convinced by a talk with President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte's romance with the Reds)

"I have to  talk to the President first and get his sense, because he knows more than I do. It's likely that he has more information that comes from outside sources," Lorenzana explained.

Second—a line repeated by defense officials on many occasions— the communists would have to be sincere coming into the conversation.

"What we are asking for, [is] bilateral ceasefire. That's the only thing, with a mechanism to see if both sides are abiding by the bilateral ceasefire," Lorenzana said.

"But these people, CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army), is insisting [to] fight and talk. I don't believe in that. If we talk, we should stop fighting first," Lorenzana added.

Duterte's stand: Lorenzana and Duterte are on the same page.

In a press conference on March 6, Duterte said he "may consider" peace talks if Reds are ready to declare a ceasefire. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.