The doomed peace talks with the CPP-NPA
With the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s tenure and the government declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) a terrorist organization, I doubt there can still be a chance for truly meaningful peace negotiations. between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the CPP-NPA to restart.
President Duterte at the start of his presidency should be credited with being serious about peace negotiations with the CPP and its military contingent, the NPA. Unfortunately, the ardent efforts and sincerity of the president and his peace negotiators were not reciprocated by the CPP-NPA.
The Communist insurgency in the Philippines is now the longest in history. The Communist rebellion was started by the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and its armed group, the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan in 1939. The PKP rebellion ended when the party accepted President Ferdinand Marcos’ offer of amnesty. in 1975 and rose to a parliamentary struggle. In turn, the so-called CPP-NPA People’s War is now the longest in the world, having started in the late 1960s until today – a span of over 50 years.
The Philippine government’s quest for a peaceful end to the CPP-NPA insurgency led by José Maria Sison began with President Corazon Aquino and continued through successive presidents, namely Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo , Benigno Aquino 3rd (Noynoy) and now Duterte. Throughout more than 35 years without success. They are also perhaps the longest peace negotiations in the world.
Sison left the PKP and on December 26, 1968, founded the Communist Party of the Philippines, Marxist-Leninist thought Mao Zedong. Of course, the PKP central committee excluded Sison from the party.
I remember an incident in 1968 when Sison and Nilo Tayag, the chairman of Kabataang Makabayan, visited me in the infirmary of the University of the Philippines after my appendectomy, convincing me to join them in the new party. I was then a young cadre of the PKP and vice-president of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN), whose president was the late Senator Lorenzo Taňada, and also vice-president of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation (BRPF), whose president was the journalist and professor Hernando Abaya. Kabataang Makabayan, the PKP youth organization, had joined Sison and wanted me to bring the MAN and BRPF to his party. I chose to stay with the PKP.
A day before Sison’s visit, PKP leaders told me that Sison’s decision to quit his old party was due to the ideological struggle between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party of Mao Zedong. The PKP allied with the Soviets even as Sison tried to defend the Chinese.
In Southeast Asia, only the Indonesian Communist Party known as Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) has accompanied China in the ideological conflict. According to PKP leaders, one of the main members of the PKI political bureau was sent to the Philippines to convince and support Sison in organizing a pro-Chinese party. Indeed, before the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Philippines, China was the main source of funding and arming of the CPP-NPA.
In 1996, when I was Executive Secretary, President Ramos sent me to the Netherlands to talk to Sison about the continuing peace talks in the Philippines. President Ramos then believed that peace talks with the CPP-NPA should not be conducted in a foreign country as this would internationalize the dispute. Despite guarantees of his personal safety, Sison refused. Apparently he was enjoying his exile in the Netherlands away from hostilities in his own country. In the Netherlands, Joma does not ask his comrades in exile to “pass the ammunition” but rather to “pass the beer”. What a way to lead a proletarian revolution!
While Sison is alive and the leader, although not officially, as he claims he is only a consultant to the CPP-NPA, I believe there is no bright future for peace by the negotiations. He is a strong supporter of the theory of protracted struggle and guerrilla warfare. It is evident that Sison uses the principles and tactics of protracted war and guerrilla warfare in negotiations with the government.
The government has declared the CPP-NPA a terrorist organization. This categorization is an obstacle to any peace negotiation. The firm policy of President Ramos’ administration was not to negotiate with terrorist organizations. At the end of 1996, when Abu Sayyaf, through an emissary, wanted to negotiate peace, President Ramos told me not to hold talks with the terrorists. If the Duterte administration and subsequent governments adhere to this policy, the peace process with the CPP-NPA is doomed to failure.
The government demanded that the CPP-NPA abandon the armed struggle as a precondition for resuming any peace talks. This is a precondition that Sison will definitely reject. If Sison and his organizations accepted this offer, the CPP-NPA would be treated simply as a non-governmental organization or at best a legal political party. No government would see any reason to negotiate with such an organization. We have to talk about peace because there is armed conflict.
I don’t know if Sison realizes the incongruity of his situation. He lives comfortably in the Netherlands while his comrades, police officers, soldiers and even innocent civilians die in his country of origin which he wants to transform into a “communist paradise”. In Sison’s dialectic, there is only the thesis and the antithesis, without a predictable synthesis.
Ruben Torres was labor secretary in the administration of Corazon Aquino and executive secretary to President Fidel Ramos. At present, he is the General Secretary of the Asean Trade Union Council. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him @ RubenDTorres4.