Government News Analysis

The elusive peace

Peace talks Philippines

Tomorrow, peace talks are set to resume between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) – representing member organisation, the Communist Party of the Philppines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) – in yet another attempt to halt the running sore of insurgency that’s spanned the terms of five presidents. Given the history of failure in reaching a peace settlement, however, few hold out any real hope that this time it will bear fruit.

As usual, the background to these talks, to be held in Oslo, Norway, is marred by the ongoing conflict. On Thursday, two soldiers and 10 communist rebels were killed in clashes at General Nakar, a small town in Quezon province. The following day, around 100 CPP members and supporters demonstrated outside the presidential palace of Malacañang in the capital, Manila, in a lightning rally that shouted for revolution.

Meanwhile, it seems there’s little appetite for a ceasefire which would give the upcoming talks at least a semblance of sincerity. What’s happening, in fact, is what always happens when the two sides are due to meet to discuss peace. Demands are put forward by both parties outlining their respective cease-fire requirements – meaning that the two sides will continue fighting as they sit down together to discuss an illusory willingness for peace.

And so, the first item on the Oslo agenda will be to reach some kind of accommodation on the terms for a cease fire. And that’s likely to be difficult in itself given the history of failure surrounding previous cease fires.

In fact the last peace talks in the Netherlands in February collapsed after rebel NPA fighters killed three unarmed soldiers at Kibalabag, Bukidnon province in northern Mindanao while hostilities were on hold. Wearing civilian clothes, the troops were ambushed and died in a hail of bullets as they were returning to camp after collecting their allowances.

This needless attack threatened to put an end to a resumption of talks. And any repetition of that during these talks will almost certainly curtail the chance of the two sides coming together again in the foreseeable future. President Rodrigo Duterte’s patience at that point would almost certainly run out.

Indeed a month ago, this, the fourth round of peace talks with the communists under this administration looked like they would never take place. The Bukidnon incident was the last in a series of cease-fire violations perpetrated by the NPA but it was, in the words of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, “the final straw”.

The fact is, the Maoist NPA – the CPP’s military wing – has never shown any real commitment to peace. In fact, it’s difficult to work out which communist faction is really in charge; for while the NDF and the CPP seem ready always to “talk peace”, the NPA demands to hold onto its arms. In fact, the decommissioning of those arms in any future settlement seems to be a real sticking point.

This conflict has been going on since 1968 – in other words for nearly half a century – and it’s no nearer reaching a solution. To date, there have been more than 40 rounds of talks between the two sides. In that time some 40,000 people have died in what is one of Asia’s longest-running conflicts. The NPA’s current troop strength is estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000, but as with all rebel movements its membership is fractured by in-fighting and factional differences – the usual hardliners-versus-moderates syndrome.

While it was de-listed as a terrorist organisation by the previous Philippine administration under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the NPA remains designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US State Department and as a ‘terrorist group’ according to the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The Duterte government is under no illusions regarding the odds of success from the Oslo meetings. Warning that there could be no assurances that the government will attain its objectives, Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said: “We expect the discussion in this round of talks to be very difficult and exacting”.

And they will be, particularly if they start from where they left off in February with the communists demanding the release of around 400 imprisoned guerrilla fighters. That’s what shattered the cease fire, brought the Netherlands’ talks to an abrupt end and threatened any resumption of talks.

Based on the track record, we hold out little hope for any meaningful breakthrough from Oslo. The problem is that the same old barriers to reaching a solution – including the NDF’s demand for prisoner releases and “revolutionary taxes” levied by the CCP-NPA – still exist. Indeed, Duterte said after the last failure that achieving a peace settlement with the communists seemed impossible within his generation.

Furthermore, with the manpower resources of the Philippine military stretched – its beefed-up campaign to defeat Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists in and around the southern island of Mindanao; its supplementary role in the War on Drugs – the communists might feel that the government is reluctant to instigate a major offensive against them at this time. And if that’s the case, it would embolden them to hold out in making and real concessions.

And while we all hope that this time it will be different, it’s hard to see how it can be. The language of the communists remains hard line; the NPA remains battle ready and uncompromising; their positions remain entrenched. This is old-school, 1960s-style Maoist communism and all that would seem to outweigh the desire for peace.

The first thing to watch for is how long it takes for the two sides to agree to bilateral terms for a ceasefire – the talks can’t resume until the guns go silent. The second thing to watch for is how long the ceasefire holds.

23 Comments

  • U CAN NOT LIVE IN PEACE IF YOUR NEIGHBOUR DOESNT LIKE IT! DIGONG MADE A NEVER BEFORE CONCESSION BY HIRING 3 COMMIES IN HIS CABINET AND FREED TOP RANKING CPPS BUT ITS NOT ENOUGH FOR THE REDS. GIVE THEM A FINGER AND THEY WILL GRAB YOUR ARM. THE AFP SHOULD BOMB THEM TO KINGDOM UNTIL THEY VOLUNTARILY SURRENDER!!!

  • EVERYBODY LOVE PEACE UNFORTUNATELY NO PEACE IS POSSIBLE WITH THE CCP NPA. IT IS PURE BUSINESS SOWING TERROR IS GOOD BUSINESS. EXTORTION IS EASY MONEY AND IT CAN ONLY BE DONE BY VIOLENCE.

  • The president wants peace.so was I.. Us..the peace loving Filipinos but these terrorists wants power ..their ideals are far from the govt.main objective..I don’t think peace would be realized..yet I’m hoping for the better..

  • PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE IS THE AUTHORITY ESTABLISHED BY GOD FOR THE PHILIPPINES!

    ROMANS 13

    Submission to Governing Authorities

    13 Let everyone be subject to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

  • SI PANGULONG RODRIGO DUTERTE ANG ITINALAGA NG DIYOS NA MAMUNO SA PILIPINAS.

    ROMA 13

    Tungkulin sa mga Pinuno ng Bayan

    13 Ang bawat tao’y pasakop sa mga pinuno ng pamahalaan. Sapagkat walang pamahalaang hindi mula sa Diyos at ang mga pamahalaang umiiral ay itinalaga ng Diyos. Kaya nga, ang lumalaban sa pamahalaan ay lumalaban sa mga itinakda ng Diyos; at lalapatan ng parusa ang sinumang lumalaban. Ang mga pinuno ay dapat katakutan ng gumagawa ng masama ngunit walang dapat ikatakot sa kanila ang gumagawa ng mabuti. Ibig mo bang huwag matakot sa mga namumuno? Gumawa ka ng mabuti at papupurihan ka nila. Sila’y mga lingkod ng Diyos sa ikabubuti mo. Ngunit matakot ka kung gumagawa ka ng masama, sapagkat sila’y talagang may kapangyarihang magparusa. Sila’y mga lingkod ng Diyos at magpaparusa sa mga gumagawa ng masama. Kaya nga, dapat kayong pasakop hindi lamang upang maiwasan ang poot ng Diyos kundi dahil sa iyon ang matuwid.,

  • THE CPP-NPA-NDF HOOLIGANS TALK WITH CROOKED TONGUES, WITH THEIR SALIVA SPLATTERING ALL OVER THE PLACE ….. THEY ARE ALREADY IN A MORIBUND STATE ….. THEY CAN NO LONGER WAGE A PROTRACTED PUTSCH, SURROUNDING THE CITY FROM THE COUNTRY SIDE ….. EVERY TIME SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS TALK PEACE WITH THE CPP-NPA-NDF HOOLIGANS, THEY GET RESURRECTED ….. THEY DO NOT WANT PEACE DURING THESE PEACE TALKS ….. THEY JUST WANT TO ADVANCE THEIR AGENDA, TO GRAB POWER, THAT THEY CAN NOT GET THROUGH THE BALLOTS ….. REMEMBER THE MV KARAGATAN, A SHIPLOAD OF THOUSANDS OF HIGH POWERED ASSAULT RIFLES, BAZOOKAS, MORTARS, ROCKET LAUNCHERS, ANTI AIRCRAFT WEAPONS, GRENADES, AMMUNITION, ENOUGH TO KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND OF FILIPINOS, WERE SEIZED BY THE MARCOS GOVERNMENT ….. REMEMBER THE BLOODY PURGES WHERE THOUSANDS OF SUSPECTED TRAITORS, INFILTRATORS, DEEP PENETRATION AGENTS WHERE ASSASSINATED BY THE CPP-NPA-NDF HOOLIGANS ….. REMEMBER THE ANARCHY, THE VIOLENT RALLIES WHERE HUNDREDS WERE KILLED ….. AND I WAS ONE OF THESE CPP-NPA-NDF HOOLIGANS BEFORE ….. HEHEHE

  • Let us hope for the best! But if the best effort of the government is not enough for them red/commies, I think it is time to abandon that illusory goal of peace with them red/commies.

  • Maganda tlga hangarin ng Pangulo,pero ang problema nga lang itong mga rebeldeng to..tira patalikod,yung ng yareng cease fire nung unah..inabangan ang mga sundalo,yun ba ang cease fire,habang nag peace talk,busy rin ang mga rebelde sa pang aatake,sinamantala ang cease fire na pinag utos ng pangulo,malaking KALOKOHAN,NEW PEOPLES ARMY pa ang meaning ARMY un ang taga pag tanggol,di taga kuha kung anoh mang pwde nilang makuha sa mga mamamayang wlang kalaban laban!!

  • sa tingin wala parin yan hindi na yan ang dati npa na makabayan ngayun mga terrorist na yan makita na man natin yung mga kilos nila extortionist grabeh pati mga magsasaka kaunti lang kinikita walang patawad mga hayop na yan

  • That is just a waste of time, pers0nally hnd na kontrolado ng CPP-NDF ung mga tao nla sa field or sa kabundukan, kc while they are declaring ceasefire their people on the ground are doing terroristic acts.

  • Hope for the elusive peace be a reality. May our rebel brothers are sincere enough to stop the killings of their fellow Filipino brothers in the AFP.and stop their banditry. Russia destroyed their iron curtains and yet you are still espousing communism,a lost cause. Your leaders are in foreign nation are living comfortably but you who are left here in our country are on the run,living miserable. Hope you will wake up and lay down your arms and enjoy life openly with your family and with us,live a normal life,not hiding.

  • If it will turn out ok then it is surely good for the country BUT if it isnt then im not surprise coz the CPP-NPA are turning their ideology into a big & lucrative biisniz from rev. taxes!