NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands — The scheduled opening ceremony for the fifth round of talks between the government and the communists was suspended as the Philippine government announced that it will not participate in the scheduled fifth round of talks here until communists cease its armed operations.
At around 11 am (6pm Philippine time), Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza made the announcement that the government saw serious challenges ahead of the talks which must be addressed including the “noticeable upscale of incidents of offensive attacks” by the New People’s Army.
The latest development which Dureza cited is the announcement made by the Communist Party of the Philippines “ordering their forces on the ground to accelerate and intensify attacks against the government in the face of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.”
Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, also released a statement today saying that it directed all its subregional, front and other territorial units “to protect and defend the people in their areas of jurisdiction.”
“The NPA shall complement efforts of the People’s Democratic Government in all levels in the region to campaign against and stop the Martial law. Red fighters shall defend the masses in the offensive mode by launching tactical offensives against legitimate military targets,” Sanchez said.
In criticizing the escalation of armed offensives, Dureza said: “The government panel is now left without any other recourse but to announce, with due respect to our counterparts and to our facilitator the Royal Norwegian Government, that it will not proceed to participate in the scheduled fifth round of peace negotiations until such time as there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail.”
‘NPA must defend the people’
In a separate interview with the media, NDFP Senior Adviser Luis Jalandoni said the Philippine government did not consider the reality on the ground and did not mention the state’s violations to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
He said there are already “more than 50” extrajudicial killings of activists and civilians under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Clearly, yung all-out war na dineclare ni President Duterte at specially si Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ay nagiging effective sa pagcause ng great injury, damage, death and uprooting all over Mindanao. This is the situation, and of course the CPP, NPA and NDFP, in defense of the people had to increase their operations to defend the people against all these attacks,” Jalandoni said.
He said the government wants the communists to give in without reforms.
Still open to talks
Jalandoni clarified that despite the Martial Law declaration, they are still open to pursue the talks.
“Willing kami to continue, talk and fight, continue to negotiate social and economic reforms, continue the implementation of CARHRIHL the release of political prisoners and to stop the violations on the ground in various provinces and towns which are subjected to Army operations,” he said.
He said if these issues will be left out of the picture in relation to the offensives made by the NPA, “the blame will be put on the NPAs.”
“It is one-sided and very inaccurate,” he said.
“The defense of the people by the NPA becomes primary. It has to continue and be a protector of the people,” he added.
GRP peace panel Silvestre Bello III said Martial Law “was never declared against the NPAs.”
President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23rd declared Martial Law in Mindanao citing the clashes of government troops with the Maute group in Lanao.
“Maliwanag yun (that’s clear),” he said.
As of press time, the government said it is waiting for the reply of the NDFP on their statement. Bello said NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili asked for “10 minutes” for them to discuss the statement.
“We are hoping that they would reply… We didn’t know that instead of coming back to us they would go to the press,” Bello said, citing the interview with Jalandoni where the senior adviser gave out the information that the GRP is backing out from the talks.
“This is a very important process, we have to be very patient,” Bello said.
He said they are still hopeful that the problem would be resolved.
The fifth round of talks was supposed to continue the discussion on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and the Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR).(davaotoday.com)