POSTSCRIPT / February 7, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Du30 getting even after talks’ collapse

WITH the killing of Army troopers by communist insurgents during a ceasefire and the collapsing last week of the administration’s peace negotiations with the rebels, an embarrassed President Rodrigo Duterte vows to get back at them.

Duterte has lent a sympathetic ear to the communists represented by the National Democratic Front and gone out of his way to grant a number of requests just to facilitate the talks that have taken them to various tourist spots in Europe in search for peace in the homeland.

The parties failed to sign a ceasefire agreement after the third and latest dialogue in Rome last month, but may resume discussions Feb. 22-27 in the Netherlands. Another meeting set April 2-6 in Oslo has been left hanging.

The killing of government troops by rebels days ago broke the truce and embittered Duterte enough to now talk of scuttling the talks and getting even with the rebels’ violating the amiable air pervading the discussions.

Over the weekend, in a televised unburdening during the wake in Cagayan de Oro for the fallen troops, Duterte disclosed to the media that he would:

  • Have the NDF and its armed group in the countryside, the New People’s Army, declared as terrorists subject to sanctions.
  • Cancel the passports of NDF personalities who had been released from prison (supposedly to enable them to join the talks) and have them arrested if they do not voluntarily yield and go back to detention.

That was Duterte last Sunday — when he was still smarting from the embarrassing collapse of the peace talks and the gunning down of soldiers despite the ceasefire. Watch for any change of mind or mood.

Duterte firing tricks or threats?

IT COULD be that Duterte, who dreams of ending during his term the decades-old insurgency, was just firing threats to prod rebel leaders to approach the negotiation table in good faith and to take advantage of the favorable climate under his administration.

After all, the present NDF leadership managing the rebellion by remote control from Europe is an ageing crop now feeling “intimations of mortality” and may want to come home before old age or disease gets them. As Duterte said last Sunday:

“Now if you want to seek asylum in the Netherlands, go ahead. You know the most ignominious thing that can happen to a Filipino is to die in somebody else’s country. You want that for yourself? I’ll give it to you.”

Duterte’s threat to declare the NDF and the NPA as terrorist groups would cripple their accepting and moving money to support the European lifestyle they have grown accustomed to and to bankroll the protracted rebellion back home.

For one, the United States could get into the act, and set in motion the close monitoring and possible freezing of funds held by entities declared by the Philippine government to be terrorist groups.

For another, the Dutch government which has given them haven and reportedly some material assistance may be forced to review, revise or recall altogether the hospitality extended to them.

It is anomalous enough that the Netherlands gives a base of operations to foreigners (Filipinos) undermining or acting to overthrow the government of another sovereign state (the Philippines).

Under previous administrations, the Philippines had lifted its objections to the giving of aid and comfort to the Filipino rebels. The issue could be reopened if Duterte now demands an end to such hospitable treatment to terrorists.

Du30 to keep accommodating NDF?

WE THINK, however, that Duterte is unlikely to declare as a terrorist group the rebel front operating from Europe. Because of their ideological affinity, both sides are likely to continue scratching each other’s back.

In fact, the plan of Duterte and his cohorts to restore the death penalty falls neatly into NDF leaders’ formula for continuing their comfortable lifestyle in self-exile.

Among the reasons they gave in seeking asylum in the Netherlands is the probability of their being sentenced to death once tried in the Philippines. Putting back the death sentence would buttress their argument.

The status of NDF members who had been set free to join the talks is still a question. Will they walk back to prison or will they also ask for asylum? The handling of so-called political officers was one of the issues that precipitated the breakdown of the Rome talks.

Duterte said: “Nagmamagandang loob ka na nga, ipapahiya pa ako sa mga sagot ng p***** in* akala mo kung sino… You give them all the leeway and everything and you (respond to me with stupidity)…From now on I will consider the CPP-NPA-NDF a terrorist group.”

“They were released on the condition that they will participate in Oslo talks. The only way to do that is to give them the right to bail. They’re not qualified, but we had to convince the judges… Nakiusap na lang kami.”

Duterte said NPA members were just bandits and that the Geneva Convention (that the NDF invoked) did not apply to them.

The NDF demanded the release of about 400 prisoners, saying it was in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed in 1998.

Duterte rejected the demand, which he said was tantamount to granting amnesty. He noted: “We started with 18 and we came up with 23 leaders and now it’s 400. If that’s the case, we might as well surrender.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 7, 2017)

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