Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said President Rodrigo Duterte may have terminated the peace negotiation with the communist rebels “for good” as it has not progressed for the longest time.
“I think it's for good, especially that there are lot of surrenderees because the President has given them incentives to come down,” Lorenzana said in an interview on CNN Philippines when asked he if sees the President will revive talks with the communists.
Asked on whether it’s time to say a “final goodbye” to the peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), Lorenzana answered in affirmative.
“Yes, because we have been talking to them for the longest time and hindi naman nagproprogreso eh. I always maintain that the CPP-NPA when they come to the negotiating table and talk peace, they are not actually after peace,” he said.
The communist rebels, according to the Defense chief, is only after the “advantages” that they could get on the peace negotiation, adding that leaders of the communist rebels were even freed in 2016.
It was in August 2016 when the government released 22 NDF consultants for the negotiation, including CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma, who were arrested in 2014.
The Duterte administration then conducted its first round of peace talks with the NDF in Norway, ending almost five years of impasse.
Lorenzana, meanwhile, said the government did not get anything in return when the communist leaders were released.
“They went to Oslo, Norway to talk. Because our troops were prevented from operating against them, so they were able to recover a lot of barangays that we have taken from them,” he said.
“What did we get? Nothing, so ‘yun ang masasabi ko, they're just trying to take advantage of the peace talks, to gain a space to pursue their range,” he added.
The Defense chief also pointed out that he did not think that peace negotiations under the Duterte administration would work right from the start.
“No I did not think, a lot of us, the defense community did not think it would work and also lot of civilians did not think it would work,” Lorenzana said.
On November 22 last year, the government cancelled the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, citing “recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels.”
President Duterte has also signed a proclamation formally tagging the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group.
With this, Lorenzana said government forces could easily arrest communist leaders who were “set free” during the peace talks.
“The tag of terrorist will help us give more teeth to our effort to capture them,” he said. — Marlly Rome Bondoc/BAP, GMA News