“We are done with the peace talks”

We’re not sure we fully understand what new national security adviser Clarita Carlos really meant when she said recently that she was “done with peace talks” with communist rebels.

That’s because, in the same breath, she said they should be invited “to be part of the change.”

Maybe she was referring to official peace talks that took place abroad, brokered by the Norwegian government in its last round, which happened pffft because talks were still going on at the negotiating table then that both sides were rushing to the throat in the battlefield seemingly with unrelenting joy.

But the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was created precisely in response to the futility of formal peace talks without a bilateral ceasefire in place.

The aim was to seek out armed rebels in remote areas and convince them to surrender their firearms and reintegrate into society in exchange for livelihoods and housing assistance for their families.

The Task Force boasts of having convinced thousands of rebels and NPA sympathizers to return to the fold of the law.

But didn’t the army also boast of having reduced the number of NPA rebels to only a few thousand thanks to relentless offensive operations against them?

The problem with ignoring the national leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF and dealing only with local cadres and commanders is that the latter only move under central direction or instructions from above.

If local cadres and commanders travel alone, they run a big risk of finding themselves facing the commercial end of an AK-47 assault rifle from the higher organs and their own comrades in arms.

The retired UP professor said the two sides had already come to an agreement on “some things”.

To our knowledge, the only agreement concluded as early as the 1990s was the JASIG, or Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees for rebels participating in the peace process.

But it seems that only the pseudonyms of the rebels and not their real names were reflected in the JASIG documents.

Again, if we are not mistaken, both sides at the 2016 peace talks discussed draft agreements on social and economic reforms.

But no agreement was reached at all on substantive issues, as the NDF draft contained outlandish demands, short of calling for a coalition government.

Carlos is therefore mistaken in saying that the two parties have already reached an agreement on “some things”. If they did, it is not about social and economic reforms, electoral and political reforms, cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces that constitute the substantive phase of a comprehensive peace agreement.

In other words, we are back to square one with regard to formal peace talks, and we have not moved an inch to reach an agreement on the root causes of the armed conflict.

Carlos, however, is absolutely right that red marking is counterproductive and does not create an atmosphere conducive to lasting peace in this country.

The new administration should work towards what could be called an “inclusive peace” that involves the government, the private sector and civil society in the search for lasting solutions to the poverty and social injustice that breed rebellion.

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