MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:10 p.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte formally terminated peace negotiations with communist rebels and was promptly accused of wasting “an opportunity to achieve a just and lasting peace for the people.”
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had signed Proclamation 360 Thursday afternoon, November 30.
The proclamation maintains that the administration is “committed to achieving a secure and progressive nation by attaining just and lasting peace” and to “negotiate and implement peace agreements with all internal armed conflict group.”
However, it said despite government’s “best efforts,” the communist movement “failed to show its sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged in acts of violence and hostilities.”
Prior to this, Duterte had ordered his peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, chief government negotiator, to cancel all meetings with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the rebels.
Former NDFP peace panel chairman Luis Jalandoni said for scrapping the talks, Duterte “must answer to the Filipino people who long for a just ad lasting peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict” waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army for almost 50 years.
Jalandoni said Duterte had acted “like a crazed tyrant” in calling the revolutionary movement “terrorist” and by threatening to go after alleged “legal fronts” of the rebels.
At the same time, he rued the fact that ending negotiations also meant the loss of “significant and unprecedented advances in the peace talks,” including the proposed release of political prisoners and “coordinated unilateral ceasefires” that were to be up for discussion in the now scrapped fifth round of talks on November 25-27 in Oslo, Norway.
CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison also lashed at Duterte, calling him “the No. 1 terrorist in the Philippines.”
He said Duterte “is culpable for the abduction, torture and mass murder of an increasing large number of poor people suspected drug users and pushers, peasants and indigenous people in suspected guerrilla fronts and Moro people suspected of aiding the Dawlah Islamiyah from the time of the indiscriminate bombing of Marawi City to the present in several Bangsamoro areas.”
“Duterte’s bloodlust and mania for mass murder are boundless. He expects to wipe out through arbitrary arrests, torture, indefinite detention and massacre of suspected revolutionaries and legal social activists both the armed revolutionary movement and the legal democratic movement,” he added.
Sison said the rebels “have no choice but to intensify the people’s war through an extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare in rural areas and partisan or commando operations in urban areas” and predicted that a crackdown on dissent could only “encourage endangered activists to become fighters in the people’s army.”
But Roque, in his statement, accused the rebels of failing to “show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations.”
“The President, as we all know, has always wanted to leave a legacy of peace under his administration,” he said. “He has, in fact, walked the extra mile for peace.”
“Rest assured that he will continuously pray that we may all find the peace that we seek for our beloved country in the fullness of God’s time,” Roque added.