MANILA – The resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is an "exercise in futility" at this time.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in a statement on Friday, rejected the renewed call to reopen the GPH-NDFP peace panel in the wake of continued attacks by communist terrorist groups (CTGs).
"As these recent spates of attacks will bear us out, we believe the resumption of national peace talks at this point is an exercise in futility, given that the implementation of Executive Order (EO) No. 70 has largely benefited the Filipino people, rather than the self-interests of a few," it said.
The most recent attacks happened over the weekend when the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was ambushed in Barangay Batabat Sur in Buenavista, Quezon before noon Saturday (June 5, 2021) on their way back to camp from a gift-giving activity for an Aeta tribe.
Romar Gono, 22, an auxiliary member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, was killed.
The following day, an anti-personnel mine (APM) roadside explosion in Masbate City resulted in the instant death of Far Eastern University and former Philippine Youth team football player Kieth Absalon, 21, and his cousin Nolven, 40
In a rare instance, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) admitted that its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), planted the APM.
"What we find disturbing is that the CTGs’ wanton disregard for the rule of law and its disrespect for human rights were exactly the reasons which compelled President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate national peace talks with the former," the statement read.
OPAPP cited that for the past five years, the government pushed for the Comprehensive Philippine Peace Process, even making it one of the major pillars of the administration’s Peace and Development Agenda.
Duterte terminated the GPH-NDFP peace talks, followed by the signing of EO 70 on December 2018 that created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, mandated to institutionalize a whole-of-nation approach in obtaining exclusive and sustainable peace.
The OPPAP said EO 70 is already resolving issues with the NPA combatants.
"But with these certain groups’ renewed call to put the national peace talks back on track, it is obvious that the CTG leadership is once again seeking attention, as the successful implementation of EO No. 70 has simply rendered them irrelevant," it said.
OPAPP said EO 70, specifically addresses the root causes of the communist armed conflict, which clearly disprove the allegations by Leftist groups "that the government has failed to address the plight of the people, especially in the countryside”.
The order allows the government to hold series of community consultations and problem-solving sessions as well as to uphold peace dialogues with the CTGs.
"Since the implementation of EO No. 70, countless rebels have returned to the fold of the law, and are now living as peaceful, productive, and law-abiding citizens. They no longer have reason to engage in armed struggle," OPPAP said.
Communist rebels, the OPPAP said, commit atrocities even when peace talks were ongoing.
"Let us not turn a blind eye on the real issue before us. The CTG murdered innocent people, and they must be brought to justice, not only for these recent killings but for the countless crimes they have committed against their countrymen and humanity," the OPAPP stated.
The government assured it will continue to push the whole-of-nation approach to finally put an "end to local communist armed conflict, and bring a just and lasting peace to our people."
CTG members who wish to surrender to the government would be heartily accepted, the body assured.
"As for CTG members who wish to lay down their arms, the government is here to accept and help you, as you turn away from a life of armed violence and embrace the path of peace," it said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)