DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said he is not going to recommend to President Duterte a ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army during the Christmas season.
This is the second time during the Duterte administration that the defense and military establishments are not going to recommend a suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) during the holidays.
“Just like last year, we are not going to recommend one because we are certain that it’s going to be disadvantageous to us if we declare a ceasefire,” Lorenzana said in an interview with radio dzBB.
Lorenzana said the communist rebels took advantage of ceasefires in the past by burning heavy equipment of companies which refuse to pay “revolutionary tax,” a euphemism for extortion.
“They also have to observe ceasefire, they should not burn equipment, they should not extort,” he said.
Lorenzana recalled a statement by made CPP founder Jose Maria Sison that they cannot stop the extortion activities because the movement need funds to survive.
The government did not declare the traditional yuletide ceasefire with the communists last year. Lorenzana has said the government would not allow the CPP to use the truce to celebrate its 50th foundation anniversary.
The communists declared a truce last year — December 24 to 26 and December 31 to January 1. There is still no word if the communists are going to declare ceasefire this year.
Lorenzana expressed support for the resumption of peace talks with the communists if these are to be held in the Philippines.
Duterte last week ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chief peace negotiator, to proceed to the Netherlands and talk to Sison about the possible resumption of the talks.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the President wants the peace talks held in the Philippines.
Sison is opposing this, saying holding talks in the Philippines will only put communist negotiators under the control and surveillance of the military.
Lorenzana said, “We have long been monitoring them, we know who they are. What is he talking about?”
Lorenzana assured Sison and the communist negotiators they would not be arrested if they come to the Philippines for the negotiations. He said President Duterte has given the same assurance in the past.
“None of them will be harmed,” said Lorenzana. He noted that many of the negotiators from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the communists, have arrest warrants, including Sison.
The government and the communists have held four rounds of formal talks under the Duterte administration. These were held in the Norway, Italy, and the Netherlands where Sison has been on self-exile since the late 80s.
The talks were cancelled by Duterte as the fifth round was to be held, mainly because of the NPA’s continued attacks on government forces and installations even while the talks were ongoing.
Duterte on Nov. 23, 2017 signed Proclamation 360 which formally scrapped the peace talks following the series of NPA attacks. On Dec. 5, 2017, he issued Proclamation 374 which classified the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations. Duterte also issued Executive Order 70 last year, creating a national task force to end local armed conflict.
Sison said the precondition that the peace talks should be held in the country is “totally unacceptable” as he said the Hague Joint Declaration forged by government and NDFP negotiators in 1992 states “no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.”
Shortly after Duterte made the announcement about sending Bello to the Netherlands, Sison welcomed Duterte’s offer to resume the talks, adding the NDFP never shut the door to the peace negotiations with the Duterte administration.
“I noticed that Duterte did not make any precondition for resuming the peace negotiations.
But within 24 hours after the Duterte offer, he and his sidekick Esperon put forward the precondition that the peace negotiations must be resumed in the Philippines,” he said.
Sison said the precondition “aims to put the NDFP and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of the Duterte regime and under the control and surveillance of the bloodthirsty military and police who engage in mass murders and other heinous crimes with impunity.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, assured communist leaders led by Sison they would not be arrested when they come to the country to talk peace.
In a radio interview, Panelo said the President would order the suspension of the arrest order against Sison and other negotiators and consultants.
He also said the venue of the peace talks should not be a cause for concern for Sison and his group since the more important thing is the conduct of the peace talks and the sincerity of the parties involved in the negotiations.
Panelo said Duterte has always remained open to resuming the peace talks. – With Jocelyn Montemayor