Since I have left government several months ago to return to the private sector, I still get questions up to now asking why the peace talks between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF had been terminated. The nagging question is: “Who’s to blame?”
Several of those comments are in fact taking to task President Duterte, who of course makes the final judgment call on the matter. And yes, the rebel groups too are getting the blame.
To answer the queries and to make the public know why and to determine for themselves whether it’s the government under the President that should be blamed and put to task, I am now re-posting hereunder my opening statement during the resumption of that 5th round of peace negotiations held exactly two (2) years ago in the Dutch city of Noordwijk in the Netherlands. You be the judge.
Here goes my opening statement:
“WHILE WE HAVE GONE THIS FAR AND THE FILIPINO PEOPLE ARE ROOTING AND SUPPORTING US, THERE ARE CHALLENGES THAT WE MUST TOGETHER ADDRESS AS WE MEET HERE TODAY ON THE SCHEDULED 5TH ROUND OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS.
PRESIDENT DUTERTE HAS GIVEN THE MANDATE AND STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS WHERE WE ALL CAN POSSIBLY CONVERGE; DOING UNPRECEDENTED, EVEN UNCONVENTIONAL AND NEVER-DONE-BEFORE ACTIONS AND DECISIONS TO SEEK PEACE, AS FOLLOWS:
A) ENGAGING THE CPP/NPA/NDF EVEN BEFORE THE ASSUMPTION
INTO OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT DOING “BACK CHANNELING”TO RE- START THE LONG STALLED AND MORIBUND PEACE TALKS;
B) INVITING THE OUTLAWED CPP/NPA/NDF TO NOMINATE CABINET MEMBERS AND IN FACT APPOINTING THEM IN HIS CABINET;
C) RELEASING FROM JAIL THEIR PRISONERS FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES AND OTHERS ALREADY CONVICTED BY OUR REGULAR COURTS AND THOSE WHO ARE OLD AND INFIRM AND SICK TO ENABLE THEM TO JOIN THE PEACE TABLE;
D) DECLARING A UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE AND HALTING OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE NPAS;
E) PERSONALLY WELCOMING AND MEETING FACE-TO-FACE SEVERAL TIMES WITH LEADERS OF THE CPP/NPA/NDF IN MALACANANG
F) DESPITE THE OPEN AND BLATANT ATTACK OF NPAS IN THE COUNTRY AND EVEN IN DAVAO CITY, THE PRESIDENT’S OWN HOME TURF, HE DIRECTED THE PANEL TO KEEP THE COURSE OF PEACE.
HIS ACTIONS WERE DECISIVE THAT ENTAILED INVESTMENT OF VALUABLE SO- CALLED POLITICAL CAPITAL, BUT HE KEPT THE COURSE STEADY IN PROTECTING THE GAINS OF THE PEACE TALKS WHICH HAVE REACHED THIS UNPRECEDENTED STAGE.
HOWEVER, TODAY AS WE MEET HERE TODAY, THERE ARE SERIOUS CHALLENGES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED:
PLEASE ALLOW ME TO MENTION A FEW:
***THE NOTICEABLE UPSCALE OF INCIDENTS OF OFFENSIVE ATTACKS BY THE NPAS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY
***THE SEEMING PERCEPTION OF THE BIGGER PUBLIC THAT THESE NPA OPERATIONS ARE IN OPEN AND PUBLIC DEFIANCE OF PRESIDENT DUTERTE WHO HAS CONSISTENTLY ACCOMMODATED THEM IN UNPRECEDENTED WAYS
***THE RENEWED SURFACING OF PUBLIC APPREHENSION QUESTIONING THE SINCERITY OF THE CPP/NPA/NDF IN THE PEACE TALKS;
***THE PUBLIC ADMISSIONS OF SOME PANEL MEMBERS OF THE CPP/NPA NDF LEADERS THAT THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THEIR FORCES ON THE GROUND;
*** THE SUDDEN AND PERCEPTIBLE EROSION OF PUBLIC SUPPORT TO THE PEACE TALKS WITH STRONG MESSAGES RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLIC TO ALTOGETHER STOP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS;
***THE CLAMOR NOW TO PURSUE INSTEAD LOCALIZED PEACE TALKS;
***AND THE LATEST AND RECENT PRESIDENT’S PUBLIC STATEMENTS THAT HE WILL NO LONGER ALLOW SIGNING OF AGREEMENTS WITH THE CPP/NPA/NDF IF ALL OF THESE WILL CONTINUE AND NOT ADDRESSED.
ALL OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS NOW PUT AT GREAT RISK OUR EFFORTS TO STAY THE COURSE OF PEACE.
BUT THE MOST SERIOUS DEVELOPMENT OF LATE AND WHICH NOW PUTS IN GREAT JEOPARDY AS TO WHETHER OR NOT WE CAN STILL KEEP THE COURSE OF PEACE IN THIS PEACE TABLE IS THE BLATANT PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED DECISION OF COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES, THE POLITICAL ORGAN OF OUR COUNTERPARTS ACROSS THE TABLE WHO ARE HERE, ORDERING THEIR FORCES ON THE GROUND TO ACCELERATE AND INTENSIFY ATTACKS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FACE OF THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO WHICH WAS PRINCIPALLY DIRECTED AT EXTREMISTS AND TERRORISTS WHO OPENLY AND DEFIANTLY CHALLENGED THE GOVERNMENT AND PUT TO HARM THE FILIPINO PEOPLE TRIGGERED BY THE STILL-ONGOING VIOLENT INCIDENT IN THE ISLAMIC CITY OF MARAWI IN MINDANAO.
BY SUCH DEFIANT, BLATANT AND SERIOUS CHALLENGE BY THE CPP/NPA/NDF DIRECTED AT THE GOVT UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE DESPITE ALL THESE GAINS IN OUR WORK FOR PEACE AND DESPITE THE PERSONAL SHOW OF GOODWILL AND TRUST THAT THE PRESIDENT NO LESS HAS EXTENDED TO THE LEADERS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES, THE GOVERNMENT PANEL IS NOW LEFT WITHOUT ANY OTHER RECOURSE BUT TO ANNOUNCE, WITH DUE RESPECTS TO OUR COUNTERPARTS AND TO OUR FACILITATOR, THE ROYAL NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT THAT IT WILL NOT PROCEED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SCHEDULED 5TH ROUND OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THERE ARE CLEAR INDICATIONS THAT AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE TO ACHIEVING JUST AND SUSTAINABLE PEACE IN THE LAND THROUGH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS ACROSS THIS TABLE SHALL BECOME EVIDENT AND PREVAIL.
WE THANK THE ROYAL NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS SO FAR STEADFASTLY AND FULLY SUPPORTED OUR JOINT WORK FOR PEACE FOR SO LONG. I TRUST IT WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE AT THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT SIDE HAVE ARRIVED AT THIS DECISION.
AS WE ALWAYS SAY AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO SAY SO: THE ROAD TO PEACE IS NOT A WELL PAVED ROAD. IT HAS HUMPS AND BUMPS ALONG THE WAY. BUT LET’S ALL STAY THE COURSE IN THIS NOT- SO-EASY ROAD TO PEACE IN OUR LAND.”
In conclusion I ask again the question “WHO’S TO BLAME”?
Suggested answer, if I may:
This should never be a ‘blame game’ or a search of who to blame. Instead, it should be an unending, true search of how all sides ( not only the government and those opposing it but including the general public), to continue working together or even separately , whether in or out of the peace table — jointly, mutually or even independently — to eventually bring about a better place, if not for us in our present time, but more importantly for our children and the next generations to come. We owe it to them!
We all now know that peace negotiations, although important, is NOT the only way. Nonetheless, efforts must still be open to resuscitate it if still possible. Otherwise, there are OTHER alternative paths to sustainable peace.
Hence, the “peace-by-piece” work must continue. It never ends! Indeed, it’s a work of a lifetime for all!”