ROUGH CUTS| Who is to blame for peace talks collapse

THE GOVERNMENT has now officially terminated all activities related to the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA).

And even before the last decibel of the President’s order died down the CPP chair Jose Ma. Sison fired his acidic salvo against President Duterte calling him the number one terrorist.

This is the CPP chair’s reaction to the President’s branding the insurgents “terrorists and common criminals” not anymore rebels espousing legitimate causes.

In addition, as if to spite the President, Sison warns that rebel attacks will further be heightened so that the government will eventually fall.

Well, Sison’s pronouncements are big words given the rebels’ estimated number. The government could take those as propaganda laced with threats.

But people know that in this war of nerves the immediate losers are the civilians living in communities where the communist rebels have some degree of influence because of the hardly felt government services.

These areas located mostly in the hinterlands will continue to be the battlegrounds of government soldiers and the NPA, the armed elements of the rebel group.

Thus, we can already foresee some villages being abandoned by its residents. And those who would opt to stay find themselves cowering in fear. Anytime soldiers and rebels will have a chance encounter. It is also a given that where NPAs are known to operate soldiers go hunting them down. And the rebels know this as well. So, chances of encounters abound.

At the same time residents in those areas, whether or not they are taking sides, become subject to suspicion by both government soldiers and rebels. And they are the most likely to bear the brunt of the insurgency war.

Who should the people heap the blame for the collapse of the peace talks?

The government says the leaders of the rebel group are not sincere. They claim that while the heads of the CPP/NDF/NPA were sitting in front of government negotiators sipping coffee and exchanging smiles, their men on the ground were conducting ambushes, burning heavy equipment and collecting revolutionary taxes from companies with operation in areas they claim to have influence over.

On the other hand, the rebel leaders were also throwing back the charges of insincerity on the government. They alleged that the government wanted to ram down to their throat what it wants. They claimed that the government was bullying them into giving in to the former’s demands.

Who really between the two is telling the truth?

As to the claim of the government of the continuous rebel atrocities, all these were documented and even admitted by the insurgents. There were body counts among the victims, as well as charred remains of burned down heavy equipment and plant facilities.

And somehow, the worst collateral damage in the series of rebel ambushes on soldiers and police elements was the life of a 4-month old baby who was killed in Bukidnon the other week. It could have been the last straw that broke the President’s patience.

In the case of the rebel leaders’ allegation that the government bullied them into submitting to the former’s demands, many wonder if they have shown documented proof of the bullying. Until now their claim has remained verbal issuances to the media.

How could such claim of bullying be done by the government if the peace talks already reached the fifth level? The negotiations could not have gone beyond second or third level if there was bullying by the government.

Besides, every Filipino was witness to the peace that prevailed in the countrysides when government and rebel negotiators were in their first, second and third levels of the peace talks. It only started getting sour when after the three successful meetings in the Netherlands the rebels on the ground started attacking government and police troopers. From then on, the hope of attaining a lasting peace in the country and putting an end to the more than half a century of the communist insurgency started dying down.

Somehow, there are questions as to the level of control of the foreign-based insurgent leaders on their ground forces. It appears that while the rebels claimed there was a stop to rebel atrocities while the peace negotiations were in progress, seemingly they were not heeded by their armed units in the Philippines.

We hope the Netherlands-based rebel leaders can find time to look into their communication lines with their ground commanders. There might be some major gaps in between that what they wanted to be done is not followed.

Or, are the armed units no longer taking orders from the people who claimed to have led the insurgent group for a long time. This must be established not just by the foreign-based insurgent executives but by the government as well.

They might have been negotiating with the wrong entity.

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APOLOGY. Our heartfelt apology to former Ombudsman-Mindanao Justice Cesar Nitorreda and his family. We have mistakenly mentioned him in our column last Monday to have already died. His son Manny who is a friend and lawyer of this paper called the office to point out the mistake we have committed.

Manny, we are very sorry. We might have been misinformed or got an erroneous information about one death that we learned some years back. We were actually wishing to pay a visit to the wake of the person we thought was the former Ombudsman based on the information shared with us.

Again, our apology. We are hoping that the former Justice who is a friend and was always there to update us on important developments in his agency during his watch will continue to live his full life.

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