Yearender: Peace with Reds as elusive as ever

Published by rudy Date posted on December 27, 2008

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), stalled since 2004, showed no encouraging signs of being revived in 2008.Even the five-year plan unveiled by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Central Committee during its 40th founding anniversary yesterday did not mention anything about the stalled negotiations.

The CPP is in fact further pushing its so-called “revolutionary goals” and has warned of more offensives against government forces both in the countryside and the urban areas.

The committee’s push for dealing with “despotic landlords and their armed minions” is a signal for its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to stage more attacks against “still existing haciendas or big landowners that employ force versus landless peasants who challenge their land ownings.”

The cessation of hostilities or ceasefire is the last in its four-point substantive agenda.

During the Estrada administration, the first substantive agenda – the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) – was forged. A Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) was even constituted to monitor cases of violations from both sides.

However, the party only accepted centralized negotiations with the government while continuing its so-called “protracted people’s war” primarily in the Philippine countryside. This was the rallying point of the NDF in its “talks” with the government, both in formal and backdoor negotiations.

The Arroyo administration claimed during the 73rd anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that the number of communist rebel fronts has dwindled over the years, from 107 in 2005 to 63 this year. The CPP Central Committee however claims they still control over a hundred guerrilla fronts in more than 70 provinces in the country.

It even vowed to increase its guerrilla fronts to 168 or one in every congressional district in all provinces. The plan includes the activation of “armed city partisan units” with specific missions in highly urbanized congressional districts.

In the next five years, the NPA is also expected by the CPP Central Committee to “intensify guerrilla warfare to wipe out enemy units, destroy enemy facilities, interdict enemy lines of supply, force the enemy to take guard duties and go on the defensive.”

It also vowed to “dismantle the land-grabbing operations of foreign and local agri-corporations, mining companies, logging companies for export, real estate companies and similar enterprises that reduce the land for agriculture and land reform and that result in the destruction of the environment.”

Yet another stumbling block in finally forging a peaceful agreement with the government is the “terror tag” on the NPA and CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who has been in exile in the Netherlands for the past 15 years. The terror listing by the European Union and US is a major issue for the communists.

Moreover, domestic legal offensives by government forces against purported communist leaders and left-leaning activists arising from the discovery of alleged mass graves of victims of the rebel movement in different parts in the country are another thorny issue that has marred the progress of peace negotiations.

The NDF also insisted back in 2007 that “it sees no possibility of resuming the talks with the Arroyo administration still in place.” Sison, also the chief political adviser of the NDF negotiating panel, had said that all forces must help “hasten the downfall of the Arroyo administration.” –Artemio Dumlao, Philippine Star

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