Palace says to pursue move to declare NPA as terrorists

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2018 03:38 PM

FILE PHOTO: Guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) stand in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, July 30, 2017.

MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s openness to resume peace talks with communist rebels would not affect the government’s move to have the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) formally declared a terror organization.

Duterte had on Tuesday said he was open to resuming peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organization of the Philippine communist movement, if the NPA would stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes from businesses and burning down equipment of construction firms.

“For now, that statement from the President will not affect in any way the pending petition for the proscription of certain individuals as terrorists,” said Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra in a Palace press briefing.

“Unang-una, wala pa naman ang mga pag-uusap na iyon.”

CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, Duterte’s former professor, has welcomed the President’s statement, the latest in the chief executive’s constantly changing position towards the peace talks and communist rebels.

“We are likewise open and ready to resume the peace negotiations and expect the GRP (Philippine government) and NDFP negotiating panels to meet as soon as possible in order to make a significant advance on the basis of the drafts prepared on October 4, 2017,” Sison said in a statement.

“We are sincere in striving to negotiate and forge with the GRP comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis of a just and lasting peace as well as corollary agreements to amnesty and release all political prisoners and to have coordinated unilateral ceasefires to start the enjoyment of peace.”

The peace talks collapsed in November last year amid what Duterte said was the rebels’ persistent attacks against state troops.

The President then moved to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili earlier said this move was a hindrance to the possible resumption of peace talks, but added that this may be dealt with in backchannel discussions.

If the declaration is granted by court, it would allow government to seek the permission of the Court of Appeals to engage in wiretapping activities against the communists, as well as apply for a freeze order on, and examination of, the bank accounts and assets of their financiers, leaders, and identified members.