Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bicolanos hopeful on peace talks with rebels
By Connie B. Destura and Mar Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 1, (PNA) -- Bicolanos from various sectors of society, particularly those in Albay and Camarines Sur, favored the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire by President Rodrigo Duterte but they have remained hopeful both sides will give peace a chance.

This, as some noted that the communist organization, which displayed they lacked a cohesive leadership, “could not be trusted.”

But a human rights advocate observed “the events were ‘swift’ since the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25 up to Saturday’s lifting of the truce, when ‘uncertainties’ have started to becloud the peace process.”

On Saturday evening, at around 7 p.m., the President authorized the release of a statement declaring the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire he made during his first SONA.

At around 8 p.m on Saturday, the National Democratic Front (NDF) publicly stated in the media it was already ready to issue its own corresponding ceasefire declaration, said a statement issued by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza that was carried by the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

Broadcast journalist Melo Acuña said he is hopeful the meeting scheduled (by the the NDF) on August 20 will still push through.

“I have seen and met ranking Army officials and foot soldiers as well as (communist) guerrillas over time. They were all happy whenever ceasefires became in effect during the late 1980s,” he said.

Albay Congressman (2nd district) Jose Salceda, in a text message said: “It was a missed opportunity..” “Sayang pero magkakaayos din yan” (that is regretful but it can ultimately be ironed out)

Camarines Sur Congressman Gabriel Bordado (3rd district) said the President found himself in a Catch-22 situation: “damn if you do, damn if you don't. Joma (Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison) would later on say that they were, in fact, in the process of issuing an explanation.”

He said, however, the President must continue to pursue all avenues to end, with finality, what is supposed to be Asia’s longest running insurgency problem.

“Let's give ‘peace of the living’ (to use the President's own words) a fighting chance!,” said Bordado.

Environmentalist Romeo “Nong” Dawal Jr., head of a divers’ association engaged in ecotourism advocacy and marine protection, said he personally believes that the peace negotiations on August 20 should be pursued so a comprehensive peace agreement could be reached.

Retired government prosecutor Dominador Barrameda said The government should accept and understand that “the enemy is not at all interested in peace.”

“Knowing the enemy’s propensity to violate past ceasefires the unilateral ceasefire should not have been declared by the President after all,” he said.

Former Albay tourism officer Jose Briones said the President was right in calling off the truce as from the very first day of his term he showed great respect to CPP-NDF when he allowed the peace talks to be revived.

He said the mutual trust between the two sides was enough to give the President’s “peace offering a chance to prevail despite the differences in ideology.”

Mayor Herbie Aguas of Sto. Domingo, Albay, said there is no easy way to win the war against insurgency. He said a lot of Presidents (before Mr. Duterte) have already made attempts but Aguas said he has remained “hopeful President Duterte could make a difference.”

Berverly Baranda, a housewife, said she agrees with the President’s decision to terminate the truce as “the communist rebels cannot be trusted.”

Labor consultant Jose Leo Vega said the “problem with the Reds (referring to the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army)-NDF) is “they have no leaders as of this time. Joma is only a titular head...The real leaders of the Reds are already in captivity.”

Human rights advocate Vince Casilihan of Karapatan Bicol said the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire raised uncertainties on the prospects for peace between the two sides.

He said: “Sa statement ko noong SONA, binanggit ko na makikita natin ang kasinseruhan ng ceasefire, na ito ay magiging makatotohanan lamang, kung matutuloy ang peace talks.” (I once mentioned, in a statement, after the SONA that the ceasefire could only become a reality once the peace talks get going.)

“Ngunit heto na agad, kay bilis ng ihip ng hangin , hindi natin alam kung matutuloy o hindi,” (But events were so fast, we don’t know if the peace process would continue) said Casilihan.

Bicol University architecture professor Kristine Lagman said “if the communist rebels are sincere in bringing out peace, then they should have cooperated.”

“If we cannot trust them now, how can we trust them later?” she said. “Ceasefire is also a chance for the insincere rebels to freely roam around and recruit members,” added Lagman.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal said the President’s declaration is “a statement that he means war if the CPP-NPA will not cooperate. It’s an ‘opening.’”

College graduate Siena Lei Tabuena, said the lifting of the unilateral truce is an affirmation that the President is out “to protect the welfare of the Filipino people. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/MSA