PhilStar: No control

They deserve an A for candor, but if communist rebel leaders admit that they have no control over all units of their armed wing the New People’s Army, how effective is the ongoing negotiations with the National Democratic Front? Especially if the NPA units over which NDF representatives have no control are the ones engaged in armed attacks on government forces and violent shakedowns of civilians.

President Duterte himself disclosed this, based on what he was told during a recent meeting at Malacañang with communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon. The President has been asking the rebels to stop attacking police and military targets as well as extorting “revolutionary taxes” from private individuals. NPA extortion employs raids on business establishments and the torching of vehicles, offices, heavy machinery and electric and telecommunications towers.

Stopping such activities, which have hindered development and poverty alleviation efforts, is among the objectives of any peace process. The failure of the NDF to put a stop to such activities has raised suspicions for some time now that communist leaders, living in comfortable self-exile for many years now in one of the most liberal countries, have lost control over NPA militants. The admission of the Tiamzons validated this perception.

This should encourage President Duterte to consider tweaking his peace efforts. The previous administration, aware of the exiled rebel leaders’ failure to control the NPA, scuttled the formal negotiations with the NDF and instead initiated peace efforts at the local community level.

While reviewing the direction of his peace efforts, the President should also consider a growing sentiment in the military and certain quarters, that the rebels are again exploiting the peace process merely to build up strength and raise funds. The communists are said to be mobilizing for a nationwide takeover of government mass housing projects, and they can now afford to publish a sleek magazine for their propaganda. Are they being subsidized by government funds?

Since peace talks resumed, the rebels have repeatedly reneged on agreements and violated their own ceasefire deadline to kill and kidnap government forces. They have continued their attacks on private enterprises, including several in the President’s home city of Davao. The admission that rebel leaders have lost control over their fighters should prompt the President to review his peace initiative. He need not give up on the process; he just needs to consider a different path to enduring peace.

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