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Editorial

Beware the lies

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‘‘Suspicions of betrayal from the communist groups remain the biggest hurdle to the meeting of minds.’’

Many can see through the intensified propaganda efforts of the communist movement as a reflection of its frustration on its inability to manipulate the conditions for the 60-day window that the peace negotiations will be rebooted.

President Rody Duterte’s decision to delay the start of the peace talks with the rebels citing the need to consult the public clearly threw off the timetable of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison to again use the interregnum in fighting to strengthen the movement.

Instead of an actual ceasefire, Sison came up with a so-called stand-down agreement which the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to sign at the end of the backchannel negotiations in Utrecht, The Netherlands last June 8.

While the agreement has similar features as a truce since it provided that the New People’s Army (NPA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be restricted to camp, the key difference is the word “temporary” in the agreement, a term which was not clearly defined particularly about its duration.

That makes “temporary” subject to the interpretation of both parties which the communist rebels may take advantage of.

The military had accused the rebels in the past of sneaking in attacks during previous truce agreements which the guerillas later on blamed on soldiers whom they accused of provocation.

Part of the stand-down agreement provided that both the communists and the government “shall work on measures to prevent the escalation of hostilities that may arise from certain incidents. No retaliatory act shall be taken by either Party.”

The agreement puts the government forces in a disadvantage since they are stationed in identified camps while the rebels are mobile.

The stand-down agreement should have paved the way for the resumption of the negotiations, or the fifth round of talks from the start of the peace process under Rody.
The stand-down order will remain until replaced by a Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire, according to the agreement.

The Department of National Defense (DND) apparently wanted to review the ramification of the stand-down agreement since it may put to peril the lives of soldiers if the government falls into another Red trap.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), in a statement, called the postponement of the resumption of talks as a “withdrawal” saying that Rody’s decision was made after consulting with the AFP and his national security officials. “What is clear is that Duterte is obsessed with waging an all-out war against the people and talks of peace only as a way of inducing the surrender of the revolutionary forces through a prolonged ceasefire,” it said.

The CPP then exposed its main objective by stating that it has directed the NPA “to continue to consolidate, strengthen and expand its ranks and its mass base across the country, rouse the people to fight their oppressors and exploiters, mount widespread tactical offensives.”

The DND had sought a three-month delay in the negotiations to review the effects to government of the stand-down agreement.

Suspicions of betrayal from the communist groups remain the biggest hurdle to the meeting of minds. Such doubts needed to be resolved before goodwill can dwell in the negotiating table.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the apprehension of the military and police is that the NPA could use the resumption of peace talks to regroup which has been the experience in the past.

Joma and his CPP cadres should address the lack of trust issue which is always identified with the communist front since several of the previous peace talks were called off after brutal attacks launched against government forces.

A good measure of the CPP’s insincerity is in the statement it issues that does not reflect any interest in achieving peace but spouts belligerence.

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