“If there’s an opportunity [for peace talks to continue], we will support it. But we also know that the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] is hell-bent on continuing its militarist approach.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Xandra Bisenio held a photograph of her father Rey Claro Casambre, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as she joined a protest action in front of Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, January 7.
Bisenio’s father is one of NDFP consultants arrested and detained on trumped-up criminal charges.
As the ceasefire between the government troops and communist guerrillas ended today, families of political prisoners like Bisenio and progressive groups see a possible resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP.
“If there’s an opportunity [for peace talks to continue], we will support it,” Bisenio told Bulatlat in an interview. “But we also know that the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] is hell-bent on continuing its militarist approach,” she said, citing Executive Order No. 70, which mandates the creation of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Bisenio lamented that EO 70 has resulted in extrajudicial killings of civilians and other human rights violations.
In a statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) called on President Rodrigo Duterte to ignore the “peace spoilers” and proceed with the resumption of formal peace talks.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. branded AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as “peace spoilers.”
Lorenzana and Esperon have publicly opposed the recentl-concluded holiday truce and the resumption of formal talks with the Reds. Both officials and Galvez insist that Executive Order 70, which calls for the localized peace talks, is the way to go.
Bayan’s Reyes slammed these pronouncements, saying the “peace spoilers oppose the resumption of peace talks out of an arrogant and mistaken belief that the CPP-NPA-NDFP is a spent force and that the armed conflict can be defeated through rehashed counterinsurgency strategies that have failed since the Marcos era.”
Reyes also pointed out that the said military officials want to impose unreasonable and impractical conditions for the talks such as the NPA’s surrender and laying down of arms, or for the talks to be held in the Philippines. These issues, he said, have already been resolved in the past.
Socioeconomic reforms urgent
Bisenio, who also serves as the head of IBON’s Media and Communication Department, said that the resumption of talks, particularly the negotiations for socioeconomic reforms, would benefit the majority of the Filipino people who are even more “burdened with economic woes.” She noted that Duterte has been “subservient to foreign powers and has served the interest of the local oligarchy to the detriment of the poor.”
Before Duterte ordered the termination of formal talks with the NDFP, both parties were discussing the draft of Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (Caser).
Esperon recently criticized the NDFP’s draft of Caser, saying it “do (sic) not directly reflect the best interest of the nation,” but that of the National Democratic Front (NDF), its allied organization Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the armed wing New People’s Army (NPA). “For one, their CASER was crafted with the goal of turning the Philippine economic model to nationalist and socialist,” Esperon said.
Bisenio said Caser really means “land reform, developing rural ares, building our own industries, making the environment a conduit not a victim of development, advancing rights and welfare, just taxation and other fiscal policies as well as having an independent economy which will benefit millions of Filipinos.”