Philippines braces for possible collapse of peace talks with communist rebels

The Communist group formally launched their oust Duterte operation to culminate in October 2018. (AFP)
Updated 02 July 2018
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Philippines braces for possible collapse of peace talks with communist rebels

  • Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana backs the termination of the increasingly problematic peace negotiations
  • The problem with the other side is they’re asking things that the government can not give them, says Defense Department spokesman.

MANILA: The Philippine government is bracing for the possible collapse of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), the Defense Department said Monday.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana backs the termination of the increasingly problematic peace negotiations with the rebel group. He cites the latter’s plan to oust President Rodrigo Duterte as among the main reasons to end the talks.
In a statement, Lorenzana said Sunday they found out that during the last unilateral cease-fire covering the period 2016 until January 2017, “the CPP/NDF held the largest and the 2nd People’s Congress in October to November 2016 and the Central Committee Plenum on December 2016.”
According to the defense chief, It was during these two occasions that the rebel group’s three-year plan to “advance the revolutionary movement, which included the planning for the Oust Duterte Movement” if the president did not agree to a coalition government, was crafted.
On May 2017, the Communist group formally launched their oust Duterte operation to culminate in October 2018, Lorenzana continued.
He also accused the communist rebels of using the cease-fire to consolidate and recover their lost ground and expand their influence.
Lorenzana likewise cited the CPP/NDF/NPA’s failure to comply with the four preconditions by Duterte so they could go back to the negotiating table, which to the president is a sign of insincerity on the part of the rebels. Duterte’s four preconditions to the Reds are: No coalition government; no arson/attacks, no revolutionary tax/extortion; no permission to stay in safe areas of their choice; and no recruitment/mass mobilization.
Further, Lorenzana pointed out that the CPP-NPA have been tagged as a terrorist organization locally and Internationally.
“They had their chance to work for peace when President Duterte appointed four of their members to the Cabinet. But they betrayed the government when they used their positions to advance the CPP’s revolutionary movement,” the defense chief said.
In an interview, Arsenio Andolong, spokesman for the Defense Department, told Arab News that given the reasons cited here, Lorenzana is now considering advising to the president to end the negotiations between the government and the communist rebels.
“The problem with the other side is they’re asking things that the government can not give them. Like a coalition government, that’s out of the question. It’s the biggest issue but we only have one government,” Andolong stressed.
“If they persist in pushing for those demands, then that may become a problem, and here in the Department of National Defense we are preparing for any eventuality,” he added.
Andolong emphasized, however, that the government wants to have the peace talks to finally end the nearly half-century communist rebellion. “But there has to be a reality check for those on the other side,” he said, adding that the president has already bent backward in his desire to have just and lasting peace in the country.
And while they’re looking at the possibility of a collapse of the talks, Andolong said the government will still pursue the negotiations but on a local level.
“Logic dictates that perhaps we can work out better agreements on the ground if we engage directly the leaders (in the field and no longer with CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison and the NDF),” he added.
Andolong went on to say that those in the Defense Department and the military are being portrayed as an entity that’s intent on wiping them (the communist rebels) out. “That’s not it,” he said.
“No one detests war more than a soldier because he has to be the one to fight it,” Andolong pointed out, quoting US General Douglas MacArthur.
“I think our soldiers are not any different. I think they’d rather be home with their families ... rather than staying out in the jungles and fighting fellow Filipinos. So we in the department, we still want peace. We wanted it yesterday but the problem is the other side doesn’t seem to have the same concept of how peace should be,” he added.
Still, he said, should the peace talks collapse, “in terms of internal security operations we are pretty much ready.
“We don’t want to end the peace talks but how can you work out an agreement if you cannot agree on terms? That’s the purpose of negotiation. If you are hard line with your stance, we will not achieve anything,” said the defense spokesman.
The Communist rebels accused Duterte of being the biggest spoiler of the peace process, and Lorenzana of being a war promoter.
“Gen. Lorenzana, defense secretary, has elaborated the anti-peace talks policy of the Duterte regime ... Indeed, for quite a while now, it has been Lorenzana, who has in fact, been defining the Duterte regime’s true anti-peace policy based on his one-track militarist mindset,” the CPP said in a statement.
“To Lorenzana and his ilk of fascists, including Duterte himself, the only solution to the civil war in the country is the military solution. This is the old 1930s dogma promoted by the US military, which sees profit in every war it instigates and foments,” they added.
“Lorenzana is a war promoter and consummate militarist. He wants no non-military end to the civil war in the Philippines. He fears losing significance if the present civil war in the country is settled politically through peace negotiations,” the CPP added.


Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

In this handout photo taken and released by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Communication Department on July 19, 2019, Indian politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (2L) meets Sonbhadra massacre victims at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Trauma Centre in Varanasi. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019
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Priyanka standoff ends with visit to victims’ families

  • Priyanka Gandhi’s protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families

NEW DELHI: A political standoff over detained Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi ended on Saturday after she was allowed to meet relatives of 10 people killed in a caste clash in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress general secretary and sister of outgoing party president Rahul Gandhi was detained in Mirzapur on Friday while traveling to Sonbhadra to visit family members of 10 people shot and killed in a land dispute a day earlier.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh, led by Yogi Adityanath, detained Gandhi for violating the peace and stopped her from traveling further. The Congress leader then began a sit-in protest with her supporters at the Mirzapur guest house where she was held.
Her protest continued throughout Friday night while she demanded the right to visit the victims’ families. Television images showed Gandhi sitting in the dark after power and water supplies in the guest house were allegedly cut off by the local administration.
Her presence in the area, which also falls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency in Varanasi, galvanized Congress workers who staged protests across the state.
Early on Saturday, relatives of some of the victims visited the guest house to meet the 47-year-old leader of the Gandhi-Nehru family, India’s pre-eminent political dynasty.
“My objective has been served as I have met the victims of the shooting,” said Gandhi before calling off her protest.
“The responsibility for the Sonbhadra massacre lies with the Yogi government,” she said.
Gandhi told her supporters, “I will be back,” before flying to New Delhi.
The BJP has accused the Congress leader of playing politics over the shootings.
“Congress has a history of playing politics over dead bodies,” said Swatantra Dev Singh, BJP president in Uttar Pradesh.
“The drama should stop. That is what I will say to Priyanka. All the accused have been arrested, and the officials responsible have been suspended,” he said.
The fatal shootings in Sonbhadra, 800 km southeast of New Delhi, drew mainstream media attention only when the Congress leader arrived in the state.
Observers say that the killing of 10 socially marginalized and landless tribes people by members of the dominant caste has highlighted the fragile caste situation in India’s most populous state.
The people of Gond tribe have been working the disputed land for generations. According to reports, the village head wanted tribes people to vacate the farm land. This led to conflict, and on Friday more than 200 armed men attacked the helpless villagers, killing 10 and injuring several others.
Gandhi, who entered politics only a few months before the general elections in May this year, seized the opportunity to connect with the people.
For the BJP, Uttar Pradesh is the jewel in the crown. The state gave the party 62 of its 303 parliamentary seats, and it is determined to maintain its political grip.
Political analysts say that Gandhi is determined to revive the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh by 2022 when the state goes to the polls.
“Priyanka Gandhi handled the Sonbhadra incident in a mature way, exposing the ham-fisted attitude of the Yogi government,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi-based analyst and author.
“She also managed to expose the BJP’s class bias  and how the ruling party is protecting the interests of  dominant caste in the state,” said Mukhopadhyay.
“This incident gives the party a chance to go back to the people immediately after the huge loss in the elections,” Mukhopadhyay told Arab News.
Lucknow-based political analyst Ram Dutt Tripathi said that Gandhi has “shown her courage as a political leader willing to fight administrative injustice.”
“Her detention was illegal and the Congress has high hopes that she can lead the revival of the party,” said Tripathi.
“It is unfortunate that the state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has not visited relatives of the victims so far and is putting restrictions on political opponents who want to stand with them,” he said.