No ceasefire despite exploratory talks with Reds: security officials

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 17 2019 11:08 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2019 12:04 AM

MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon agreed there would be no ceasefire declared on the side of security forces, despite President Rodrigo Duterte sending Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to talk to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

“Walang ceasefire, so tuloy 'yung ating operation sa kanila. Hanggang mag-umpisa siguro yung talks nila ni Presidente saka ni Sison, tuluy-tuloy naman eh. Hindi din naman tumitigil yung NPA na kaka-attack sa atin eh,” Lorenzana told reporters Tuesday.

“That is already a common decision, in the same manner that the lifting of the martial law is a common decision in what we call the security cluster,” added Esperon.

While maintaining they would support Duterte’s decision on whether to resume peace talks or not, Esperon remains highly skeptical of the communists' sincerity in returning to the negotiating table.

“The talks to me is a way from the President to tell them that indeed, he is a president who will never close that small window for peace talks. But truth to tell, what kind of peace talks are we talking about?” Esperon asked. 

He claimed he had videos of the negotiators of the leftist National Democratic Front (NDF) saying peace talks were merely meant to advance the armed struggle and win politically. 

“I will give you a videotape recording of Jalandoni, who has been a chairman of the NDF panel, saying the peace talks are just a platform to advance the cause of the armed struggle,” said Esperon. 

Esperon said, as far as he knew, Duterte’s stand remains firm that should talks resume, it should be in the Philippines – a condition that Sison has rejected for fear that they would merely land in the hands of security forces that have for decades been pursuing them.

Lorenzana also rejected a suggestion by Senator Imee Marcos to declare a holiday ceasefire in order to give operating troops a chance to rest, saying it was not necessary. 

“No, no, no, we do not recommend the holiday ceasefire, kasi lugi tayo diyan eh,” said Lorenzana. “Alam nila kung sino ang sundalo natin, hindi natin alam kung sino sila at saka ano ginagawa nila."