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

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.


Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

Updated 06 June 2020

Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

  • US tops COVID-19 mortality rally with 108,000 people confirmed dead
  • Trump says more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump effectively claimed victory over the economic crisis and COVID-19 on Friday as well as major progress against racial inequality, heartily embracing a better-than-expected jobs report in hopes of convincing a discouraged nation he deserves another four years in office.
In lengthy White House remarks amid sweeping social unrest, a still-rising virus death toll and Depression-level unemployment, the Republican president focused on what he said was improvement in all areas.
He was quick to seize the positive jobs report at a time when his political standing is at one of the weakest points of his presidency less than five months before the general election. Just 2 in 10 voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, a Monmouth University poll found earlier in the week.
The president also addressed the protests, which have calmed in recent days, that followed the death of George Floyd, the black man who died last week when a white police officer knelt for minutes on his neck.
Claiming improvements everywhere, Trump said, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. ... This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”
Trump condemned “what happened last week,” said no other president has done as much for black Americans, and declared that an economic rebound was “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.”
Putting words in the dead man’s mouth drew quick criticism, including from likely presidential foe Joe Biden, who said it was “despicable.” The Trump campaign said any reports saying Trump was contending Floyd would be praising the economic news were “wrong, purposefully misrepresented, and maliciously crafted.”
A few blocks away, city workers painted a huge “Black Lives Matter” sign on 16th Street leading to the White House.
Politically, few things matter more to Trump’s future than the state of the US economy, which was all but shut down by state governments this spring to prevent greater spread of the deadly coronavirus. Defying health experts, the president has aggressively encouraged states to re-open and has assailed state leaders by name who resist.
At the same time, he’s taken an uneven approach to explosive racial tensions in the wake of Floyd’s death. As he has in recent days, Trump on Friday offered a sympathetic message to Floyd in one breath and lashed out at protests in his name the next.
Local governments “have to dominate the streets,” Trump said. “You can’t let what’s happening happen.”
The president spoke in the Rose Garden after the Labor Department said that US employers added 2.5 million workers to their payrolls last month. Economists had been expecting them instead to slash 8 million jobs in continuing fallout from the pandemic.
The jobless rate, at 13.3%, is still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression. And for the second straight month, the Labor Department acknowledged making errors in counting the unemployed during the virus outbreak, saying the real figure is worse than the numbers indicate.
Still, after weeks of dire predictions by economists that unemployment in May could hit 20% or more, the news was seen as evidence that the collapse may have bottomed out in April.
Friday’s report made for some tricky reaction gymnastics for Trump’s Democratic election opponent, Biden, who sought to contrast the improving figures with the fact that millions of Americans are still out of work. The high jobless rate, he said, is due to the Trump administration mishandling the response to the pandemic.
“Let’s be clear about something: The depth of this jobs crisis is not attributable to an act of God but to a failure of a president,” Biden declared in a Delaware speech shortly after Trump spoke.
The presumptive Democratic nominee said Trump was patting himself on the back as America faces some of its sternest challenges ever.
“It’s time for him to step out of his own bunker, take a look around at the consequences,” Biden said.
It’s unclear how many jobs that were lost as a result of the pandemic are permanently gone or whether the reopenings in states will create a second surge of COVID-19 deaths. In addition, the report from mid-May doesn’t reflect the effect that protests across the nation have had on business.
Many economists digging into the jobs report saw a struggle ahead after the burst of hiring last month.
Friday’s report reflected the benefits of nearly $3 trillion in government aid instead of an organic return to normal. Only one of every nine jobs lost because of the pandemic has been recovered, and the specter of corporate bankruptcies hangs over the recovery.
Much of the growth came from 2.7 million workers who were temporarily laid-off going back to their jobs. This likely reflected $510 billion in forgivable loans from the Payroll Protection Program to nearly 4.5 million employers — an administration initiative that helped push the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April. African American unemployment rose slightly to 16.8 percent.
Late Friday, Trump signed legislation to add new flexibility to the PPP, giving business owners more flexibility to use taxpayer subsidies and extending the life of the program.
As the money from the PPP runs out, there could be another round of layoffs, warned Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University.
“There will be continuing residual fear and uncertainty,” Sohn said.
Trump on Friday defended his handling of the pandemic, contending that more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted. More than 108,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Now, though, Trump said states and cities should be lifting remaining restrictions. “I don’t know why they continue to lock down,” he said of some jurisdictions that have maintained closings.
Former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who briefly mounted a primary challenge to Trump last year, dismissed any employment gain due to federal deficit spending.
“What we have right now is federal policy aimed solely at boosting numbers that obviously would help in a reelection effort,” Sanford said in an interview. “We’re literally buying jobs.”
But there was little sign of concern among Trump and his Republican allies in Washington.
“This shows that what we’ve been doing is right,” Trump said of the jobs numbers. He added: “Today is probably the greatest comeback in American history.”
He pitched himself as key to a “rocket ship” rebound that would fail only if he doesn’t win reelection.
“I’m telling you next year, unless something happens or the wrong people get in here, this will turn around,” Trump said.