Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Philippines - Peace talks with CPP-NPA: A question of sincerity

THE Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) has been waging their so called protracted people’s war to seize political power from the government for the past 42 years; a war which brings nothing but sorrows, wasted opportunities and shattered dreams not only between the warring parties but more on the civilian populace.

Over the years, the CPP-NPA’s membership has dwindled, and is on a steady decline.

Realizing the senselessness of armed struggle to effect political and social change, a significant number of their members has decided to join the mainstream society to live as ordinary citizens.

The government for its part has been unrelenting ever since, in reaching out and persuading the CPP-NPA-NDF that the road to change can be pursued through peaceful means.

Since 1986, the government has been consistent in pursuing the path to peace through the negotiating table. Various political concessions and accommodations were made to show the government’s earnest desire to stop the senseless killings and achieve lasting peace.

After a hiatus of almost 6 (six) years, formal talks on peace resumed early this year between the government and the CPP-NPA through the National Democratic Front leaders.

The last talks collapsed in 2005 after the previous administration was not able to act favorably to their demands, particularly, the removal of the CPP-NPA from the US and European Union watch list as a foreign terrorist organization.

Obviously, the probability of acceding to a demand of such nature is presumptuous considering that doing so is tantamount to an encroachment on the sovereignty of another state.
At any rate, the resumption of talks is a welcome development. Once again, the light of peace amid the darkness of war begins to flicker. The hope that solutions to certain issues are again
within reach seem to be in the offing.

In the pursuance of peace through the negotiating table, mutual trust and sincerity between parties are essential. Mutual trust which can best be attained through a demonstration of sincerity will be defined by their actions.

Government actions
In the government’s desire to give space to the CPP-NPA, Republic Act 7636 was enacted in 1992, repealing Republic Act 1700 other wise known as the Anti-Subversion Law, an act which outlaws the Communist Party of the Philippines and similar associations.

With the repeal of RA 1700, mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines is now legally allowed. The threat of prosecution and subsequent incarceration for members is now a thing of the past.

Members can now enjoy the democratic privileges enjoyed by ordinary citizens of the society. The freedom to articulate their ideas and principles to the public so long as it is not contrary to law, morals and public policy is now expressly recognized by the government.

Subsequent to this, Congress passed Republic Act 7941 in 1995, providing for the election of party list representatives through the party list system provided in the Constitution. This move has made it possible for the marginalized sectors of our society to seek legislative seats and represent their groups. Thus, we now see a wide range of individuals, to include those from the so called leftist organizations able to promote their stand on issues affecting Philippine society in the halls of congress. This phenomenon which has been perceived by many in the past as unthinkable and unlikely to happen is today a fact of life before us.

CPP-NPA response
The decision by the CPP-NPA through their political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF) to return to the negotiating table is indeed laudable. For one, perhaps it is an indication that they now realize the futility of achieving change through armed violence and are now willing to talk peace.

However, certain demands and actions coming from the NDF negotiating panel as well as their members on the ground seem to negate the presumption that indeed they are sincere in the quest for peace.

A few months ago, they sought the release of two prominent members, Alan Jasminez and Tirso Alcantara, on the pretext that the two are political consultants of the NDF Peace Panel and, as such, they are immune from arrest as provided for by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Security Guarantees (JASIG). This demand was coupled with the threat of backing out of the peace talks if not met.

The claims that they are covered by the aforementioned agreement nevertheless, remain unsubstantiated. Further, the arrest of the duo on separate occasions was made under an existing warrant of arrest issued by the civil courts for numerous heinous crimes such as murder, kidnapping, etc. At this instance, the cause of their arrest disqualifies them from the immunity privilege provided for by the JASIG, granting that they are indeed included in the supposed list.

Also, even as their negotiating panel continues to whine on the government’s negative response to their demand, their armed component, the NPA, continues to commit armed atrocities, mostly against civilian targets.

Very recently, they kidnapped four jail guards belonging to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Bukidnon who were then transporting one of their detained comrades to a court hearing. What is appalling is their demand to release six more of their detained comrades in exchange for the jail guards’ freedom.

Likewise, local government officials have also become prey to the NPA’s violent rampage lately. Take the case, for example, of the fate of Lingig, Surigao Del Sur Mayor Henry Dano and two of his army escorts who were abducted and kept in detention against their will.

As of this writing, the CPP-NPA is waging a series of attacks against various police stations and military detachments nationwide.

Sincerity in question
The acts of the CPP-NPA-NDF of making impossible demands and setting pre-conditions before the peace talks can continue, as well as the violent rampage being committed by their armed group against the public, again puts into question the sincerity of the group in pursuing lasting peace.

The government has been acceding to most of their reasonable demands but it is high time that they reciprocate this with acts of good faith and sincerity to achieve lasting peace, otherwise, their seriousness in pursuing the path to peace will continue to remain doubtful.

No other way but peace
At this point, the CPP-NPA-NDF should not make the mistake of using the negotiation to buy time for the group to replenish what is left of their dwindling capability. In the same manner, they should not fall for the mistaken belief that their atrocities serve to strengthen their position on the negotiating table.

Anchored on an ideology that is now passé in the emerging global order, the CPP-NPA-NDF must face the reality that they are now fast becoming irrelevant and on the verge of suffering the fate that has befallen their counterparts in Europe—extinction.

They should take advantage of the present peace talks where the government is still bent on exerting much effort to reach out and forge a peaceful agreement. Furthermore, they should be conscious of the fact that as an offshoot of their violent ways, their alleged “revolutionary struggle” is now perceived as the handiwork of a ragtag group of bandits engaged in massive extortion activities nationwide.

To the CPP-NPA-NDF, there is no other way but to pursue peace negotiations with the government without delay in order to save whatever is left of their dignity as a group fighting for a “cause.”

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