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.


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 20 February 2019
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.