MANILA – “It’s complicated.”
This was how Malacañang described the current status of its relationship with the communist movement after two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s leftist appointees to the Cabinet were rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments.
"...[Y]ou know, if we are going to work together, then there must be some form of agreement. And apparently, at this stage, it’s a little bit… ‘complicated.’”
Leftist lawmakers have said they would hold an emergency meeting to reassess their membership with the supermajority at the House of Representatives after the CA, dominated by the President’s allies, rejected Wednesday the appointment of peasant leader Rafael Mariano as Agrarian Reform Secretary.
This followed the bicameral body's rejection of activist Judy Taguiwalo as Social Welfare Secretary last month.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said leftist lawmakers, collectively called the Makabayan bloc, were free to “express their own belief, disbelief or participation, non-participation, support and non-support” for the government.
“It’s going to be their call if they resign or not resign. But it’s quite regrettable that… people of opposing beliefs are not there,” Abella said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist, had tapped left-leaning leaders to hold key positions in government at the start of his term as he pursued peace negotiations with the Left.
But he has been accused of not doing enough to spare his leftist Cabinet appointees from rejection.
The promising resumption of peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines early in Duterte's term turned sour when Duterte ordered its suspension over the string of rebel attacks on state forces.
In putting negotiations on hold, the government panel also cited the Left's call for its armed wing to beef up forces in response to Duterte's martial law declaration over Mindanao amid clashes between government troops and terrorists in Marawi City.
Despite the suspension, Abella said Duterte “continues to be open” to the Left.
“However, there must be an agreement on both sides. You know, when you say Left, that’s a very broad label covering just about everybody, from the Cabinet secretaries, all the way to those who are in the field,” he said.