MANILA – Leftist members of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte are urging the chief executive to reconsider his decision to scrap the government’s peace talks with communist rebels.
In a joint statement, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chairman Liza Maza said the Duterte government should not waste the gains achieved in the negotiation table.
“As heads of national government agencies tasked to address poverty and improve the quality of life of the Filipino, we believe that the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines) should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) forward,” the three officials said in a statement.
“This time, by pursuing peace, and through the political will of President Duterte, the talks have been productive. The government and the NDFP have never been closer in their articulation of a shared vision of a society that addresses the root causes of war, poverty and inequality.”
The three Cabinet members noted, the two sides were already discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, considered the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, when Duterte scrapped the negotiations.
A ceasefire was declared in August and last month, the government asked the U.S. State Department to remove the rebel movement's Netherlands-based founder and leader, Jose Ma. Sison, from its terrorist blacklist to move negotiations forward.
But both sides later traded accusations of truce violations and negotiating in bad faith.
Duterte said he had "walked the extra mile" to bring peace by resuming talks and freeing rebel leaders but his efforts were never reciprocated by the communists who took advantage of the talks to recruit fighters and extort money.
The three Cabinet members, meanwhile, said they will “continue to engage within the Cabinet” despite the breakdown in the negotiations.
“We are one with the peace advocates, legislators, and individuals who urge both parties to resume the talks,” the three said.
“We will continue to engage within the Cabinet and the rest of the administration towards the resumption of the talks and strengthening the civilian voice in the peace process.”
There have been talks that the leftist Cabinet members will soon be given the boot following the collapse of the peace talks, given Duterte’s previous move of barring Vice President Leni Robredo from attending Cabinet meetings.
Duterte barred Robredo from attending the meetings following rumors that the vice-president was plotting to oust the chief executive. – with Reuters