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MANILA, Philippines – Newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro rejected peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), a revolutionary organization that’s been fighting a guerrilla war for over half a century.
“My personal position is no. Matagal ko nang position yan, noong araw pa (That has long been my position, even before). And I think that’s the position of the security cluster at this time,” said Teodoro in a Palace press briefing on Thursday, June 8, two days after he took his oath as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first permanent defense secretary.
Teodoro was asked to react to the CPP’s National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)’s recent pronouncement that it was open to resuming peace talks under Marcos. The NDFP is the united front of the CPP which includes various revolutionary organizations.
Teodoro, who was defense secretary from 2007 to 2009 under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said peace talks with the CPP and the NDFP would be a “subversion” of the country’s democratic processes. He insisted that the government was open to welcome back into the mainstream members of the CPP, NDFP, and the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the CPP.
The new defense chief said he would still consult Marcos on the country’s official stance, even as he announced his “personal position.” Nearly a year into office, Marcos himself has not spoken up on whether he’s keen on resuming peace talks with the communists.
Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner Jr., however, has said that Marcos ordered them to “finish off” the CPP-NPA.
Responding to Teodoro’s statement, Julie de Lima, interim chairperson of the NDFP’s negotiating panel, said on Friday, June 9: “It comes as no surprise that recently appointed Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro has always been against pursuing peace talks with the NDFP.”
She recalled that Teodoro “was one of the main implementors of Oplan Bantay Laya which is one of the bloodiest counterrevolutionary campaigns” under the previous Arroyo regime.
De Lima stressed that the continued “military presence and intervention” of the US here is “an obstacle to creating favorable conditions for peace negotiations.”
Teodoro said the government’s strategy is to convince the local communist movement to return to the mainstream, with the option of registering as a “legitimate political party” so long as there’s proof they’ve rejected “subversive” means in pursuing their political objectives.
The first time he was defense chief, Teodoro oversaw an all-out counter-insurgency campaign against the armed left.
Hope for peaceful dialogue was renewed in 2016, during the early years of former president Rodrigo Duterte but talks ended in 2019.
Duterte, father of the current vice president, then created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), whose campaigns have included the harassment and red-tagging of Filipino activists, journalists, and human rights workers. – Rappler.com