NPA should walk their talk for peace dialogues to resume: Galvez

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MANILA — Before peace talks can resume, communist rebels should first walk their talk, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Monday as he condemned the recent attacks made by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) since December despite the ongoing truce.

In a statement, Galvez denounced three separate attacks made by the NPA in Surigao del Sur on Dec. 3 last year, in Compostela Valley on Dec. 30, and in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon on Jan. 4 this year.

“Clearly, these acts of terrorism are meant to instill fear, anger, and hatred in the hearts and minds of the people, particularly among our Lumad brothers and sisters,” Galvez said.

“By and large, these attacks run counter to the cessation of hostilities declared between the Reds and government during the holiday season,” he added.

The holiday ceasefire, which took effect on Dec. 23, 2019, will end at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020.

With the ceasefire agreement, Galvez said President Rodrigo Duterte had opened “a window of opportunity” in which stalled peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), could move forward.

However, he cast doubt on the communist rebels’ sincerity in resuming peace negotiations for their failure to comply with the unilateral and reciprocal holiday ceasefire.

“We cannot talk peace when there is a lack of sincerity from the other party. The government had already walked the extra mile not once but several times as a sign of goodwill,” Galvez said.

“But we have yet to see this same level of sincerity on the part of the rebels. Aside from the yuletide ceasefire they issued, there has to be another concrete sign of reciprocity from their side,” he added.

Galvez asked members of the NPA to stop the killings, lay down their weapons, and cease from performing other acts of lawlessness such as extortion, rape, and destruction of public and private facilities.

He said both parties could not just sit across the negotiating table if civilians and troops continued to be attacked.

“For the peace negotiations to happen, there is a need to create a conducive environment where both parties can face each other, confident that each one will keep their word, and most importantly, no innocent lives will be lost,” Galvez said.

“In short, we must walk our talk,” he added.

Last month, Duterte said he was ready to revive the peace talks with the NDF two years after he had canceled the negotiations.

He later called for a one-on-one meeting with the CPP founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison sans the presence of peace panel from both the national government NDF.

Duterte, who initially had warm relations with the communists, was forced to sign Proclamation 360 on Nov. 23, 2017, which formally shelved the talks between state peace negotiators and NDF consultants, following the NPA’s continued attacks against the government forces and civilians.

The President also signed on Dec. 5, 2017 Proclamation 374, which brands the CPP-NPA as a terror organization.

No arrest for Sison

Galvez, meanwhile, reassured Sison that he will enjoy temporary liberty upon return to the Philippines for the possible resumption of peace talks.

Sison has been in self-exile with his wife, Juliet, in the Netherlands since 1987.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has already expressed his willingness to talk with CPP-NPA founding chairman Jose Maria Sison here in the country. The ball is now, so to speak, in the hands of Mr. Sison and the rest of the NDF leadership,” Galvez said.

Galvez said that the President’s invitation is an opportunity for Sison to show to his followers his desire to find a peaceful, solution to the communist insurgency.

“Mr. Sison has nothing to fear. The President has given his word that the rebel leader will not be arrested if he decides to return to the Philippines,” Galvez said.

“If the leadership of the communist group cannot reciprocate the sincerity shown by the Duterte Administration, then there is no reason for the government to engage Mr. Sison since he himself has no moral high ground to demand such recognition,” he added,

Sison earlier expressed willingness to meet Duterte “in a country near the Philippines”.

Citing reports, Galvez said members of the NPA seized two Manobos from the village in Sitio Inadan, Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur on Dec. 3, 2019.

The Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative of the municipality of San Miguel has sought the help of the government to locate their missing tribe members.

On December 30, around 30 heavily armed members of the CPP-NPA burned an indigenous peoples’ (IPs) livelihood center in Barangay Panansalan in Compostela, Compostela Valley.

Members of the CPP-NPA gunned down tribal leader Datu Sammy Diwangan in front of his nine-year-old son in Barangay Canangaan in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon on Jan. 4.

Based on reports, the Malayag Guerilla Front murdered Datu Sammy due to his vocal stand against the aggressive recruitment being carried out by the CPP-NPA in the community.

The CPP-NPA has been listed as a terror group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. -PNA

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