The peace overtures between the government and the communist rebel movement have always been blowing warm, blowing cold ever since President Rodrigo Duterte took power.
On several occasions, the peace negotiations that were carried out with promising dispatch in Norway and the Netherlands had been subjected to stop-and-start lurches because of speedbump issues and technicalities.
In the most recent caustic aggravation, an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) of a military vehicle in Bukidnon happened to claim non-combatant collateral damage: A private van that was cruising too close got caught in the cross fire. A four-month old infant died as a result.
The unfortunate incident happened after Duterte played host to the Summit meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations, which was attended by a number of guests, including US President Donald Trump, who was all-praises for the leader of America’s long-standing ally in this part of the world.
The ambush that went awry prompted Duterte to declare his intention to proclaim the NPA no longer as a rebel movement but as plain criminals for their “depredations”.
“We will consider them terrorists. Ordinary brigands and no more about principles there. You are not fighting for any principle. My God,” Duterte said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said this development is not exactly new, because the NPA has long been declared as terrorists by the United States, adding that the declaration of intent by the President “is an indication that, for now, peace negotiations are suspended.”
For his part, Sen. Panfilo Lacson has said: “Other countries have already declared them as terrorist, because for the longest time they have engaged in terroristic acts to extort money.”
Nevertheless, Duterte has indicated his inclination toward localized peace talks, such as moves being considered by the Mayor of Davao City, who happens to be his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.