PEACE TALKS. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. tackles the stalled peace talks between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) during the Palace briefing on Thursday (June 8, 2023). Teodoro said he will have to ask President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s stance on the stalled peace negotiations. (Photo courtesy of PCO FB page)

MANILA – Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. on Thursday said he will ask President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s stance on the stalled peace negotiations between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

"I have to consult regarding that," Teodoro said in a Palace briefing, as he noted that his "personal" position is there is no reason to resume the talks with the CPP's political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

For Teodoro, the CPP may take up its concerns with Congress, instead of seeking a dialogue with the national government.

"Puwede naman nating pag-usapan 'yung mga isyu na iyan sa tamang forum. Iyan ay ang Kongreso. At sumanib sila sa legitimate political process (The issues may be discussed in the proper forum. And that is the Congress. They can seek a legitimate political process)," he said.

The CPP earlier expressed openness for the possible revival of peace talks with the Marcos administration after the death of its founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison in December 2022.

Teodoro said the CPP may apply to become a "legitimate" political party, so long as there is evidence that there is a "total disavowal of resort to subversive means in order to gain political power."

"So to me, there’s no such thing as… It’s an oxymoron, 'yung legal front. Walang ligal na front. Ang front ay iligal (A legal front is an oxymoron. There is no legal front. A legal front is illegal)," he said.

"Hindi naman bawal ang CPP eh (The CPP's existence is not illegal). Republic Act (RA) 1700 has been repealed long ago. Pero 'yung indirect at direct support sa armadong pakikibaka, iyan ang problema (However, the indirect and direct support for armed violence is the problem)," Teodoro added.

RA 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Act, signed into law in June 1957, declares the CPP illegal as an organized conspiracy to overthrow the government for the purpose of establishing in the Philippines a totalitarian regime.

During the martial law period, RA 1700 was expanded through Presidential Decree (PD) 885 in 1976 and PD 1835 in 1981. These decrees made it a subversive criminal act to be affiliated with a group and attend a meeting or take part in any activity meant to overthrow the government with the open or covert assistance and support of a foreign power.

In 1987, former president Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 167, repealing PDs 1835 and 1975 and reviving RA 1700.

Then President Fidel Ramos in 1992 signed RA 7636 repealing RA 1700 and making subversion no longer a criminal offense. However, sedition remains a crime under RA 7636.

Teodoro said the government is willing to help the members of the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), who want to return to the fold of the law.

He said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is doing its job to dismantle the guerrilla fronts, while the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity is ready to rehabilitate the former rebels.

"So, what we intend to do is to convince those that are still continuing whatever business they’re continuing which is against the law to come back and join the fold of law and join hands for national development," Teodoro said.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte on Nov. 23, 2017 signed Proclamation 360, terminating the national government's peace negotiations with the CPP's political wing, the National Democratic Front, following a series of attacks waged by the NPA against state forces and civilians.

However, Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018 signed Executive Order (EO) 70, insitutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach that will be implemented by the NTF-ELCAC to achieve "inclusive and sustainable peace."

Under EO 70, local peace bodies are directed to negotiate with communist rebels in their respective areas.

Affiliation with communists

Meantime, Teodoro also responded to the issues of supposed red-tagging of some personalities, including journalists.

Teodoro said there should be enough evidence to prove that an individual is linked to the CPP.

"Red-tagging is a nomenclature given by current events. Pero kung talagang miyembro naman ng armed group at mayroon namang ebidensiya (But if the person is really a member of the armed group and there is an evidence), we call a spade a spade," he said.

Teodoro also thumbed down the proposal to institutionalize the 1989 University of the Philippines (UP)-Department of National Defense (DND) accord into the UP Charter.

"Ngayon kung isabatas iyan ng ating legislators at pinirmahan ng Presidente, ‘di susunod tayo pero hindi ko susuportahan (Now, if the legislators will pass the measure and the President will sign it into law, we will follow. But I will not support it)," Teodoro, the 3rd vice president of the Up Alumni Association, added.

While he was not open to reviewing the terminated UP-DND deal, he urged all law enforcement officers to be mindful of the "balance between freedom of expression and protecting the peace."

The DND-UP Agreement, signed on June 30, 1989, prohibits the military and the police from entering all UP campuses without prior notice to its administration.

The DND decided to terminate the agreement effective Jan. 15, 2021. (PNA)