VP Sara criticized for opposing peace talks

Dec. 10, 2023
Photo from Inday Sara Duterte Facebook page

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Vice President Sara Duterte’s opposition to the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has not gained support from allies in the Marcos Jr. administration.

The vice president called out President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a video statement on December 5, who likened the recent joint statement between the two parties as “an agreement with the devil.”

“Mr. President, we can negotiate for peace and reconciliation and pursue meaningful development efforts in the Philippines without capitulating to the enemies,” Duterte said.

She added that the NDFP “will use these peace negotiations to betray the government and deceive the public.”

The vice president made the statement on December 4, the anniversary of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that was formed during the presidency of her father Rodrigo Duterte, which has been criticized for red-tagging and trampling on human rights.

But her statements are not shared by government officials, starting with the president who called on the public to embrace the peace talks.

“I call upon the wholehearted support of all Filipinos as your government extends, in good faith, our nation’s goodwill to those ready to welcome and embrace our collective vision of peace, national reconciliation, and unity,” Marcos Jr. said.

Members of the House of Representatives released a unified statement a day after Duterte’s statement, supporting the president’s “initiatives for peace and national unity.”

“It is a call for understanding, cooperation, and collective action towards a future where every citizen can live in harmony and prosperity…We are united in the belief that through dialogue, empathy, and mutual respect, we can overcome historical divides and build a more inclusive and peaceful nation,” their statement said.

The statement was signed by Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Majority Leader Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe from Zamboanga City, Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, and Deputy Speaker Rep. Camille Villar from Pasay City.

“It is a moral imperative, a chance to mend the fissures that have long divided our nation. We are not just negotiating terms; we are weaving the fabric of a peaceful future for every Filipino,” House Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

Peace talks with the NDFP was terminated by Duterte in 2017, just as both panels were laying down the final pieces of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner in a media interview, admitted that some members of the army share the vice president’s view, but expressed that the military is fully behind calls for peace.

“I cannot blame the Vice President for saying this. In fact, this opinion is shared by so many in our country, even soldiers, that is also the sentiment,” said Brawner in an interview on CNN Philippines.

The general said that in message groups with soldiers, a common sentiment among them was how political prisoners were released as part of the peace process but found that some would later rejoin the New People’s Army.

“But the AFP is solid, (we give) full support for the president,” Brawner said.

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives criticized Duterte’s statement.

Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers ACT Teachers Castro said the vice president’s remarks show “a lack of understanding of the complexities of the peace process and a disregard for the aspirations of the Filipino people for just and lasting peace.”

“The remarks…are detrimental to the pursuit of genuine peace negotiations… She is undermining the efforts to address the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines,” added Castro.

“What is more devilish, to advocate to continue this war, or to talk peace for our country?” Castro raised this point with the media.

She also chided the vice president who has withheld information on how she has spent the P125-million confidential funds that was in question during the budget hearing.

“What about the P125-million confidential funds which you spent without authorization? I think that is more (the act of the) devil,” Castro quipped.

The ecumenical group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines said Duterte’s statement showed her as a “warmonger… reminding us that negotiations for peace only revolve around fighting.”

“Because peace cannot be attained as long as there are people who are hungry, maltreated and exploited, we need to make people understand that peace is not the absence of fighting, but most of all it is about social justice,” the group said in Filipino.

SCMP also used the Vice President’s words about being the enemy of peace on her.

“Kaya, hiramin natin ang sinabi mismo ni Sara Duterte: Kung sino ang kumokontra sa usaping pangkapayapaan ang kalaban ng bayan.”

(Let’s use Sara Duterte’s own words: Whoever opposes the peace talks is the enemy of peace). (davaotoday.com)

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