Gov't suspects Joma Sison, local Reds not in sync

by Dharel Placido,

Posted at Apr 30 2013 02:15 PM | Updated as of May 01 2013 02:40 AM

MANILA - Government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla on Tuesday said talking to the leadership of the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, seems to be of no use.

Padilla, who has already given up hopes that the insurgency will end within the term of President Benigno Aquino III, said he is now favoring a suggestion that the government peace panel employ a new approach to end the decades-long communist insurgency in the Philippines.

The government chief negotiator explained that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, in December last year, proposed a draft Declaration of National Unity and Just Peace.

Padilla said the draft declaration paved the way for the two panels to employ the "special track" approach in their talks, abandoning the stalled "regular track."

He explained that under the special track, which the CPP-NPA-NDF itself had proposed, the communist leadership would no longer set preconditions in order for the talks to progress.

"We agreed that using the special track was doable," Padilla told radio dzMM.

However, two months after the meeting in Amsterdam, Padilla said Sison backtracked from his original position for a draft declaration.

Padilla said when the government panel met with the NDF leaders in Amsterdam in February, they were surprised by the decision of the other side to abandon the earlier draft in favor of three new documents, which called for the release of captured communist rebels, among others.

He said the government does not want to release the captured rebels since there were instances in the past that the released rebels returned to the hills to resume the armed struggle.

The Netherlands-based communist leaders also demanded that the government abandon its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the PAMANA (PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and the Oplan Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We don't want to go back to the regular track anymore. We have been doing this for years and nothing has happened. We are frustrated because we thought we were making good progress," Padilla said.

Localized peace talks

Padilla suspects the local communist leadership may have not agreed with the proposal of Sison.

"The government panel suspects that the Philippine communist leadership did not agree with the decision of their counterparts in the Netherlands and may have suggested that the latter abandon the plan," he said.

"So my question is: Are we talking to the right people? Or should we just focus on holding talks with local communist leaders? There have been signs that there is a disconnect between the communist leaders here and those in Utrecht (the Netherlands)," he added.

Padilla said the government may instead pursue localized peace talks in an effort to end the world's longest-running Maoist insurgency.

"This might be the answer. We are not closing our doors to all options," he said, adding that the government peace panel wants a "time-bound and agenda-bound" peace talks.

Padilla said under the localized peace talks, the government may enlist the help of local leaders and civil society groups in dealing with communist rebels.

May elections

Padilla also noted that the upcoming May elections may have played a big part in the communist rebels' decision to abandon the special track.

He said the election season is important for the rebels because they are able to rake in millions of pesos by extorting money from candidates.

Major-General Jose Mabanta, commander of one of the country's army divisions, earlier said that cach candidate illegally pays between P50,000 and P5 million to buy protection from the NPA, which the military estimates has 4,000 members.