No ceasefire with communist rebels

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Alcuin Papa, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:09:00 07/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Friday ruled out a ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines or its 5,000-strong armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and pledged a robust response to escalating guerrilla attacks on businesses.

“There is no change in the President’s policy,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesperson Jesus Dureza told reporters.

Dureza said there were no talks with the CPP or the NPA, who had been waging a 39-year Maoist guerilla campaign.

The clear statement from the Palace regarding its position on the matter should put an end to the clash between Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano who each in recent days in public offered conflicting views on how to deal with the communist insurgency.

Yano had declared that the military was gearing up for an indefinite ceasefire with the rebels, a position that was quickly refuted by Teodoro, who claimed that the government was “on track” in fulfilling its goal of licking the insurgency problem by 2010.

The clash on Friday prompted former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and now Senator Rodolfo Biazon to urge President Arroyo to put her foot down to stop the public debate between the two top security officials.

“(The decision) cannot be made by the Secretary of National Defense, by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or even the Presidential Peace Adviser, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon,” Biazon said.

“The national policy of pursuing either a ceasefire, peace talks or military actions can only be made by the President and, of course, after listening to her advisers. But the pronouncements to the public must be clearly a decision of the President, the Commander in Chief,” he said.

Biazon said the open display of clashing opinions between the government’s top defense and military officials only showed that the insurgency solution was “not well ‘strategized’ but is characterized by confusion among the decision-makers, program and policy implementers of the country.”

He said the dispute not only created uncertainty but might also cause demoralization in the military.

Teodoro on Friday restated his position, saying military force was the means to be taken to finally defeat the insurgency.

Rejecting Yano’s proposal to declare an “indefinite” ceasefire with the rebels to revive peace negotiations, Teodoro said the war with communist insurgents should be “won with military force, not without.”

“I know what’s always said, the cliché that you cannot win it by military force alone. But it (communist insurgency) should be won with military force, not without, or else you will not be able really to have a clear settlement of the problem,” Teodoro said.

He added that sustained military offensives were necessary to meet the President’s 2010 deadline of defeating the rebels.

For his part, Yano on Friday stood by his earlier statement that a ceasefire would hasten the government’s objective of ending the insurgency problem.

“The idea of a ceasefire will enhance the AFP offensive, allowing the CPP/NPA to take the better option of helping the country move forward by talking peace, thereby fast-tracking the ultimate resolution of the problem,” Yano said in a statement.

But Yano added, “Still, until an official policy is given on the matter, the AFP will not waiver on its campaign to reduce the insurgency problem to an inconsequential level by 2010.”

“We are on track and we can reduce the insurgency problem to a mere police problem,” Yano said.

On Thursday, Yano was asked by reporters if he agreed with former Armed Forces Chief and now presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who earlier proposed a three-year ceasefire with the communist rebels to revive the government’s stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the CPP-NPA.

The question was asked after a breakthrough in the negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was reached last week that could pave the way for the resumption of the peace negotiations, which also ground to a halt because of the contentious issue on ancestral domain.

Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels have been stalled since 2004 after the CPP-NPA protested their inclusion on the list of terrorists groups of the United States and the European Union. Leaders of the CPP also said the government did nothing to take the organization out of the lists. With a report from Agence France-Presse(PDI)

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