NDF negotiators ask CPP to reconsider order to intensify offensives

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2017 03:56 PM

The National Democratic Front's negotiating panel has asked the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to reconsider the order to intensify tactical offensives against government forces.

Jose Maria Sison, founder of the CPP and the NDF's chief political consultant, bared the move in a statement released Thursday as the two sides began a fifth round of peace talks. 

He slammed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza for war-mongering by presenting President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law as also aimed at the New People's Army. 

Duterte declared martial law on May 23 to halt inroads by foreign-backed Islamic militants in the country. He pledged that martial law would only affect "terrorists." 

But on Thursday, Solicitor-General Jose Calida also hinted it would also target "groups rebelling against the government."

Explaining the NDF negotiators request to the NDF executive committee, which includes top CPP leaders, Sison said the government side "has clarified that the NPA is not a target."

"In fact President Duterte himself told Fidel Agcaoili in their recent meeting that the GRP and NDFP should unite against terrorist groups like the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf," Sison said.

The NDF in Mindanao earlier condemned the attack by the Maute group on Marawi City, where at least 17 soldiers, 31 rebels and an unknown number of civilians have died in days of carnage.

The NDF, Sison added, is with the government in fighting "the ISIS-affiliated and CIA-supported groups like the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf."

"The terrorist act by theMaute group should not be an obstacle to the fifth round of formal talks but should be an incentive to the GRP and NDFP to meet and agree to fight groups that are terrorist because they target, terrorize and harm civilians solely or mainly," Sison said. 

 Sison's statement is a marked departure from earlier statements by the CPP, which claimed that Duterte was using the Maute Group as a bogeyman.

"There are well-grounded fears that some forces may carry out dirty operations to justify the extension and expansion of Duterte’s martial law to cover the entire country," the CPP said soon after ordering guerrillas to intensify offensives against government forces.

The morning after Duterte declared martial law, the CPP said "the New People's Army (NPA) must be ready to accelerate the recruitment of new Red fighters as Duterte's martial law convinces more and more people to take up arms against the rotten system" and "plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archipelago."

It also described as "worthless" Duterte’s assurances that he will not tolerate abuses. 

"He wants to highlight the fact that civilian courts remain open, but neglect to point out that these are powerless amid the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus which has given him and the military absolute power to detain anyone indefinitely. He has also constantly threatened the Supreme Court against issuing restraining orders to preventing him from carrying out acts which potentially violate the GRP’s laws," the CPP said.