Twitter convo with NPA: Duterte, ceasefire, revolutionary taxes
MANILA, Philippines – New People's Army (NPA) spokesperson Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos invited reporters to send questions as private messages on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, February 1, after announcing the termination of their unilateral ceasefire.
Rappler asked him about the possibility of the NPA reinstating the ceasefire, the rebels' sentiments about President Rodrigo Duterte, and their response to military protests against their collection of revolutionary taxes.
"Sana pumanig siya sa mamamayan.... Panindigan niya ang sovereignty (I hope he takes the side of the people... He should make a stand for our sovereignty)," wrote Madlos when asked for their message to Duterte. He reiterated calls for the release of political prisoners.
Open to joint ceasefire
Madlos told Rappler the NPA is open to reinstating its ceasefire with the government through an agreement that will define activities that the military and the communist armed group are allowed to conduct.
They have reviewed government's draft on the proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement and submitted recommendations to the National Democratic Front (NDF), the group representating the rebels in talks with government. (READ: Gov't panel seeks to reinstate ceasefire, NDF commits to talks)
Government panel member Hernani Braganza, who is on top of ceasefire talks, said this bodes well for the scheduled February 22-25 meeting in The Netherlands.
"That is definitely a good sign. But we have yet to see their comments on GRP's draft bilateral ceasefire proposal. Sa minimum may pag-uumpisahan na ang pag-uusap sa (At the minimum, we have something to start with when we talk on) 22 February sa Netherlands," said Braganza.
Difficult talks: Revolutionary taxes, buffer zones
But talks for the joint ceasefire deal will be challenging, based on recent statement from both armed groups.
Negotiators will have to resolve, among other issues, military's protests against NPA's collection of revolutionary taxes and the communist armed group's demands for the military to adjust its deployments.
Below are excerpts of the Q&A with Madlos on Twitter.
Ano ang mensahe ng NPA kay Pangulong Duterte? Sana pumanig siya sa mamamayan.
Nabasa na po ba ng NPA ang proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement na ibinigay ng gobyerno sa NDF? Yes. Nabasa na. At gumawa na kami ng mga rekomendasyon sa NDF.
Posible bang magkaroon ng bilateral ceasefire agreement? Posible kapag magkaroon ng bilateral ceasefire agreement kung magkaroon ng malinaw na agreement sa terms of reference (TOR).
Revolutionary tax ang issue ng military? Kailangang daw ihinto. Ang taxation ay function ng government. It is the inherent right of the people's democratic government, of any legitimate government.
Ano ang pinaka-importanteng ma-resolve sa terms of reference (TOR) ng bilateral ceasdfire agement? Una, deployment of forces. Back to barracks of all combatant troops. Tapos, yung pangakong bigyang hustisya sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalaya ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitikal.
Ano ang gusto niyong marinig ngayon kay Pangulong Duterte? Ang gusto namin marinig na irelease niya ang lahat ng political prisoners, at i-implement ang tunay na uniltearal ceasefire.
Anog aksyon ang gusto ninyong makita agad? Panindigan niya ang sovereignty.
Masasabi niyo bang suportado pa rin ninyo si Pangulong Duterte? Handa pa rin kaming mag-explore ng possibilities through peace talks para sa kapakanan ng sambayanan.
PH military's concerns
Defense and military officers earlier submitted to the government panel their inputs in the proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the process should not be rushed. (READ: Further delay looms in PH-NDF joint ceasefire deal)
"Government security forces will continue to maintain peace and order and run after lawless elements whoever and wherever they are," Lorenzana said on Wednesday after the NPA's announcement ending its ceasefire.
"We emphasize that we do not recognize the NPA's claims to areas which they believe are under their control and our forces are ready to defend themselves when attacked," Lorenzana said.
The military scored the rebels' practice of collecting revolutionary taxes, dismissing it as extortion and thus a criminal act. They also scored alleged burning of buses and facilities owned by companies that refuse to pay.
Madlos said it's their right. "Ang taxation ay (is a) function ng government. It is the inherent right of the people's democratic government, of any legitimate government," he said.
The military has launched offensives against these activities, sparking clashes between the 2 armed groups. This was the debate in the aftermath of the Makilala, North Cotabata incident, the first firefight to disrupt the 5-month-old ceasefire.
The NPA also dismissed supposed "peace and development" activities by the military in areas they claim to occupy, dismissing them as intelligence operations.
The military reported alleged NPA's attacks against troops involved in these activities. Two soldiers were killed, one was abducted, and several others were wounded in clashes in Luzon and Mindanao shortly before the NPA announced it was terminating its unilateral ceasefire. – Rappler.com