Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Editorial: Negotiating with rebels

From the Sun Star-Cebu (Dec 29): Editorial: Negotiating with rebels

IT'S not mere coincidence that stories about reviving the failed talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) are being circulated while the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) celebrated its 46th founding anniversary last Dec. 26. Those stories are products of the occasion.

It’s like when either Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao or American Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight separate opponents. The promotion always includes talks about the prospect of the two finally battling each other in one ring.

Earlier reports about government efforts to revive the failed peace negotiations have been confirmed by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

But she clarified that while there have been efforts to reach out to the CPP, government wants the resumption of the talks to be on the basis of a “doable and time-bound” agenda.

Deles and MalacaƱang are fresh from successfully negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a peaceful settlement of the decades-old war that it waged in Mindanao.

But the Aquino administration knows that it is dealing with a different kind of group in the NDF, the political arm of the CPP whose armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), has been engaging government troops in a protracted and nationwide war. It has as guide the lessons of the failures of previous administrations to push the talks forward.

Indeed, it would have been good if the war waged by the government and the CPP would end in the negotiating table instead of in the battlefield.

But as it is now, even bringing the two sides to sit down in front of each other is difficult considering their differences.

Besides, government seems to have lost through the year the feeling of urgency to reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict. It has, for example, been claiming success in its anti-insurgency operations by drastically reducing the NPA’s armed strength.

Meanwhile, the years have also seen a reduction of NPA operations nationwide. This obviously played a part in the hardening of the resolve of the Aquino administration not to give in too much to NDF demands. That is why reports about the resumption of the failed talks between the GRP and the NDF are akin to the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight scenario: it will be believed only when both sides sign on the dotted line.

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