ROUGH CUTS| The first hump on the road to peace

WAS PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to call off the unilateral truce he has issued in connection with the decades old communist insurgency arrived at after due consultation with his peace and security advisers?

If it was, then we can say he was wrongly advised. If the decision was solely made by the President himself then we would say that it was a wrong decision. Not unless he did it as a strategy of outsmarting the leadership of the rebel movement who are known shrewd and astute in their own way.

There actually is a very strong optimism that finally the bloody ideology-driven insurgency will actually be terminated under the administration of the President from Davao City. It is because peace with the communist rebels was his campaign promise. Moreover, many Filipinos believe that he can hack it because the President is known to have established good relation with the communist insurgents. In fact the President did not hide the fact that he has direct contact with the founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Jose Ma. Sison, and his advisers who are on self-exile in the Netherlands.

In fact, the optimism even became higher when during his first state of the nation address (Sona) the President surprised everyone when he used the occasion to declare a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels.

But barely one week after his declaration, headlines in national broadsheets are already screaming that he has taken back his truce offer all because of the reported ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) on a group of paramilitary personnel in Kapalong, Davao del Norte middle of last week that left one person dead and four others wounded.

Immediately after being informed of the incident, the President demanded an explanation from the Netherlands-based CPP leadership asking them why it has happened. In addition to the sought-out explanation the President set a deadline for the submission of the CPP report. And perhaps what got the goat out of Chairman Sison was the President’s question regarding the issue of the CPP’s reciprocal action on his issuance of a unilateral ceasefire. “Are we in or are we not with it,” thundered the President sort of saying that the CPP leadership should issue its own ceasefire order to its fighters in the hinterlands of the Philippines.

Sison’s reaction to the scuttling of the government truce offer was a simple “We won’t be bullied.” This, the chairman said even as he claimed that his consultation with the leaders of the revolutionary movement has resulted to a positive response to the President’s unilateral truce. But accordingly, the response was decided by the revolutionary leaders three hours after Duterte’s ultimatum of 5 o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday expired. So the supposedly positive response from the CPP would now be moot and academic? From the orders issued by the President to the military and other security forces it appears everything in the peace overture has reached a dead end.

But as far as Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza the efforts to continue the peace negotiation with the communist will be pursued, and that the government negotiating team headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III will reach out unceasingly to their counterparts in the CPP-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF).

The Dureza statement has given a lot of Filipinos long weary of the senseless war of attrition some degree of relief. That after all, despite the exchanges of harsh words from the President and the CPP chairman, pursuing the talks is still possible.

We can just hope that the death of one Cafgu member will not compromise the long-sought end to the insurgency that has already resulted to the deaths of thousands of Filipinos and perhaps even bigger number if the negotiations eventually fail.

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Another issue that we are not in accord with is the proposal of the President to abolish the Party-list representation in Congress. While we strongly believe that President Duterte is correct in saying that the Party-list system provided for in the 1987 Constitution is being abused by some vested political and even economic interests we feel that it is not right all together to, in the words of Bayan Muna Secretary General Renato Reyes, “burn the entire house to get rid of termites.”

Yes, very clearly that Constitutional provision is abused. Imagine having scions of politicians and big time businessmen suddenly becoming representative of this and that supposedly disadvantaged sector in the Lower House! Imagine Party-list groups organized by politicians to represent fraternities, ethnic lineage, seafarers, farmers, and athletes among others who they claim to be unrepresented in Congress!

And the top three nominees to assume the post if these Party-list groups get the needed number of votes are fraternity brothers, close relatives of incumbent politicians, scions of businessmen, etc. Wow! What a way to circumvent the real intention of the law.

Not only that the organizers of the Party-list groups are closely associated with vested interest, they are also adept in coining Party-list group names to ensure easy name recall.

Who are not familiar with PBA, 1BAP, Ako Bicol, 1Pacman Party-list? All these groups are bell ringers.

But why are the sectors under these Party-list groups claiming non-representation in the Lower House. Where are they residing; under the oceans, above the atmosphere, or in hell? Do they not belong to a district where a congressman is elected to bring their voice and present their needs in Congress?

Who were those who said that the blame should he heaped instead on the framers of the 1987 Constitution and the Commission on Elections. The former for rewarding those groups who helped topple the dictatorship in 1986, while the latter for its failure to impose stringer policy for accrediting Party-list organizations.

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