President Rodrigo Duterte's sudden, unilateral postponement of the resumption of peace talks was in consideration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' all-out offensives against the revolutionary forces, the Communist Party of the Philippines claimed.
In press release on Sunday, the CPP said, "By calling off the scheduled peace negotiations with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), Duterte aims to give the AFP more time to complete its military campaign plan for 2018."
The organization added that the military is mounting bigger offensives under "Oplan Kapayapaan" in hopes of crippling the New People's Army and inducing the NDFP to negotiate a surrender.
In calling off the talks, Duterte said that he needs more time and more consultations before resuming the talks.
"This narrow pretext is a thin veil that fails to conceal his real aims," said the CPP.
"Duterte wants the AFP to rush its all-out offensives against the NPA. The AFP has recruited at least 5,000 troops last year and seeks to add 10,000 more troops until the end of the year," the organization added.
However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied the CPP's claims.
"That is not true. The first briefing during that command conference was conducted by Sec. Bello to update the president of the result of their back channelling with the NDF. It was in the course of this briefing and subsequent Q&A that the president decided that he needed more time to review all past agreements between the NDF and GRP and the results of the recent backchanneling," Lorenzana told GMA News Online.
The secretary added that the president has already decided to postpone the peace talks when the AFP gave its security briefing and its recommendation to postpone the resumption of the talks for three months. The military needed the time to study the stand-down agreement and how to implement it.
"In that briefing there was no talk of an all-out war but to continue what they have been doing in the past months, i.e., continue their normal security operations," Lorenzana pointed out.
"If we want an all-out war we would not only request for postponement but termination of the peace talks."
Last week, the government unilaterally cancelled the scheduled talks with the NDFP, after the president was briefed on the status of Oplan Kapayapaan in a meeting with the top brass of the AFP and defense officials.
The peace talks were supposed to resume on June 28, the date agreed upon by both peace panels during backchannel negotiations.
In a statement on Facebook, CPP founding chairperson and NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that it is "starkly clear" that the government is "not interested in serious peace negotiations" with the NDFP.
"Because the GRP under Duterte is obviously not interested in serious peace negotiations, the revolutionary forces and the people have no choice but to singlemindedly wage people’s war to achieve the national and social liberation of the Filipino people."
"Instead of rationally talking with our Panel to discuss how to move forward the resumption of the peace talks, he goes into tantrum and orders the NPA to wage a people’s war," said Lorenzana, a retired general.
Sison later clarified that he was not giving an order to the NPA, but just making an "observation."
"Hindi utos kung hindi obserbasyon ang ginawa ko na sinabi ko na the revolutionary forces and the people have no choice but to single-mindedly wage people's war. Dati namang ginagawa ng kilusang rebolusyonaryo ang digmang bayan," Sison said.
In its statement, the CPP claimed that large-scale offensives by the military are ongoing nationwide: "Even now, the AFP is mounting large-scale offensives nationwide, laying siege to several hundred rural barangays, targeting civilian populations, occupying schools and barangay halls, and unleashing its fascist brute force against unarmed people."
Formal peace negotiations were scheduled to resume on June 28-30 as agreed upon by the NDFP and GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) negotiating panels at the close of the four-month backchannel talks.
A stand-down agreement was signed on June 8 and was supposed to take effect one week before the opening of formal talks.
Agreements on a timetable and a guidelines for resuming talks and forging an interim peace agreement (IPA) were also signed by both parties and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian special envoy. — LBG/BM, GMA news