The Duterte administration has not set peace process barriers as claimed by columnist and political activist Satur Ocampo but the communists themselves, according to Atty. Wilben Mayor, spokesperson of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
“We would like to remind Mr. Ocampo that President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks specifically because of the lack of sincerity on the part of the insurgent group (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” Mayor said in response to an October 12 article by Ocampo published in The Philippine Star.
“From the start of his administration, President Duterte created a platform for peace negotiations and even went the extra mile to appoint leaders of the left-leaning groups into his cabinet; acts of goodwill which were reciprocated by planting seeds of distrust and sleeper cells who created more problems than solutions in their agencies, while a series of violent acts were carried out by the communist terrorist group in the countryside,” Mayor said.
“So brazen were these actions that even while the Philippine government was engaging them in peacetalks, the New People’s Army continued to attack government forces with continued extortion and burning of development equipment and commercial establishments. It also proceeded in recruiting young cadres from prominent schools to its fold, and thus robbing them of their future,” he said.
“One of these recruits is Jane from Bulacan. She was convinced to join the communist movement at the tender age of 15, and was prevented to leave the organization until she became pregnant and gave birth,” Mayor said.
“Now, we are asking Mr. Ocampo, who is setting the peace process barriers?,” he asked.
In the said opinion piece, Ocampo asserted that Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70, also known as the Whole-of-Nation Approach to end local communist armed conflict, negates the gains achieved during the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the CPP-NPA.
Ocampo was specifically referring to Local Peace Engagements (LPE), one of the 12 clusters of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, as a barrier to attaining genuine peace.
“Since the military first suggested it (LPE), this framework has been consistently rejected by the National Democratic Front (NDFP) as divisive rather than unifying,” Ocampo claimed in his column.
In response, Mayor said it is the insincerity of the communist group which pushed President Duterte administration to look for an alternative solution that would directly address the social conditions and threats posed by them against vulnerable communities across the country.
“This gave birth to Executive Order 70 known as National Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict which aimed to empower these communities in most conflict-affected areas and enable them to face the rebel organization head on, and at the same time, enhance the delivery of much-needed government services to residents in the countryside,” he said.
Mayor said that the LPE approach is inclusive and puts the interests of the Filipino people front and center through active peace dialogue and non-violent efforts.
“We believe it is crucial for local stakeholders to be directly involved in the peace process. As what we have witnessed, it is pointless to talk to leaders of an organization who employ deception and duplicitous tactics,” Mayor said.
The OPAPP spokesperson further clarified the Whole-of-Nation Approach involves the participation of all stakeholders in the community in order to ensure the more effective implementation of peace and development programs.
“By and large, localized peace engagements provide a stronger platform wherein the voices of the people who are the ones most affected by armed conflict, can truly be heard and whose sentiments can be acted upon,” Mayor said.
In fact, Mayor said the National Democratic Front (NDF) never intended to use the peace talks as a means to peacefully resolve their grievances, but rather, utilize it as a tool to advance their organization’s political agenda.
Citing a video posted by YouTube user karomaloveskaaya on August 19, 2009, it showed NDF senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, saying: “We see that peace negotiations are another form of legal struggle, which is possible to be used by the revolutionary forces in order to advance the revolutionary armed struggle and the revolutionary mass movement.”
“Clearly, Jalandoni and the NDF had no intention whatsoever of using the peace talks with the government as a means to reach a just and peaceful settlement to their armed struggle. Rather, they merely utilized the negotiations as a tool to advance their organization’s twisted political agenda and strengthen their mass base,” Mayor said.
“Moreover, his statement is a reflection of the revolutionary group’s underhanded tactics, and willingness to use any means necessary to prop up its tarnished image, and consequently, obtain the sympathy of those who are most likely to be drawn to their cause, particularly the unsuspicious international community, labor organizations, and students,” he emphasized.
Mayor then threw back the question to Ocampo.
“Again, we are asking Mr. Ocampo: Do you think that giving people in communities the chance to actively participate in localized peace engagements a barrier to the peace process?,” he asked.
The Whole-of-Nation Approach, he pointed out, has shown significant positive results.
“Many local government units with Tapang and Malasakit have declared the communist insurgents as persona-non-grata in their areas,” Mayor said.
“By doing this, people now have gathered strength, and are rising up and rejecting the communist terrorist group’s atrocities and twisted ideology. They are showing that their communities have no room for an organization that has only instilled fear, hatred, and violence among the people. Enough is enough,” Mayor pointed out.
“We hope Mr. Ocampo and his comrades will be enlightened on the government’s efforts to put an end to the communist armed struggle which for more than 50 years, became the true and only remaining barrier to enduring peace and sustainable development. We encourage him and everyone else to reflect on their group’s obsolete ideology, and examine how their actions have adversely affected the Filipino people whom they profess to serve,” Mayor said.