MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels mocked President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest hint of a general amnesty, calling it “absolutely unacceptable” for being “nothing but a psywar (psychological warfare) tool to create division within the revolutionary movement and to spread the illusion of magnanimity among the general public.”
The executive committee of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the umbrella organization that represent the rebels in peace talks with government, asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government’s chief negotiator, to explain to Duterte that they were rejecting his offer “because it violates the letter and spirt of the whole” negotiations.
Meeting media in Davao late last week, Duterte said, should Congress agree, he “might just declare … general amnesty” for New People’s Army fighters who surrender.
Duterte, who has billed himself as a “leftist” and even “socialist,” began his presidency on friendly footing with the communists, resuming long-stalled peace talks with them and with both sides declaring ceasefires.
However, negotiations have been called off and fighting has resumed, although both parties have said they remain open to resuming talks.
Earlier, the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines also dismissed Duterte’s repeated demand for the rebels’ surrender as “empty bravado” and said “the NPA will continue to carry out tactical offensives in order to hold the Duterte regime accountable for all its crimes and rights abuses.”
The NDFP explained that the Hague Joint Declaration, which sets the framework for the peace talks, calls for mutual amnesty for both NPA fighter and government troops “as part of the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces,” which is supposed to be the final pact forged by both sides, following agreements on human rights and international law, social and economic reforms, and political and constitutional reforms.
So far, only the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law has been signed. The next two “main agenda” — social and economic reforms, and political and constitutional reforms — were being discussed when the talks bogged down.
The NDFP stressed that the amnesty floated by Duterte “is different from his promise in May 2016 to (chief rebel negotiator) Fidel Agcaoili to grant amnesty to all the political prisoners being held in GRP (government) prisons as a confidence-building measure for the resumption of the peace negotiations upon the assumption of Duterte to the GRP presidency.”
“If Duterte is really serious in talking peace with the NDFP, he must listen to the wise counsel of his
peace negotiating panel head Sec. Bello who is knowledgeable about the history of the peace
negotiations and the stand of the NDFP on many questions,” it added.