(File photo)

MANILA – A party-list group composed of former high-ranking officials and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is supporting local peace engagement and localized peace initiatives.

In a statement issued on Monday, Abante Sentrong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Bayan (SAMBAYANAN) said the overall strategic direction of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) should be anchored on a clear peace mechanism.

The group said the central and core objective of Executive Order 70 in December 2018 that created the NTF-ELCAC institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in obtaining sustainable peace.

Appropriate, responsive, and peace-founded approach mechanisms are important in the success of the entire mission to achieve lasting peace, the group stated.

“The strategic direction therefore of our peace approach mechanism is a peace process that is centrally-directed, nationally-coordinated but locally-implemented peace mechanism approach, where the dynamic implementation of local peace engagements and localized peace initiatives are being given emphasis and premium,” their statement read.

They said the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) asserted old and obsolete mechanisms to continue their pretensions that they are promoting the peace agenda.

Using their “distorted mechanisms”, Sambayanan said the CPP-NPA-NDF did not end armed conflict in the country.

“They do not accrue nor subscribe to the real and sincere mechanics of attaining disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the NPA, and they do not even subscribe to the unitary and sovereign authority of the Republic of the Philippines,” Abante Sambayanan stated.

At this point, they said that the most strategic path that the NTF-ELCAC should take is direct community-based and local government-supported peace initiatives through dialogues and peace exploration methods at the local levels.

Lacson for localized talks, too

Presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, clarified that he has always supported localized peace talks rather than holding a dialogue with exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison.

During a television interview on Tuesday, he said he suggested the idea years ago to then-Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus Dureza, and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who was part of the government panel.

“Earlier I suggested to localize the peace talks. Why? Because pa-ikot-ikot lang ‘pag kausap si (It’s is a never ending dialogue with) Joma Sison,” Lacson said.

He said that localized peace talks are more practical as not all regions, provinces, or towns have the same insurgency situation.

Walang mangyayari sa pakikipag-usap kay Joma kasi may agenda 'yan, malevolent 'yung agenda niya para maka-buy ng time at the same time, nagbi-build up ng forces sa ground (Nothing will happen if we hold a dialogue with Joma because he has a malevolent agenda and they just want to buy time while building up their forces on the ground),” he said.

Lacson added that Sison seems to have lost control of his people on the ground because while a ceasefire is in effect, the CPP-NPA fighters are violating it.

In a television interview of presidential candidates on Saturday night, Vice President Leni Robredo, Lacson and fellow senator Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso answered “yes” to the question on whether they would continue the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

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.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)