Clad in full battle gear, President Duterte (center) visits Marawi City for the third time on August 24 to boost the morale of troops from Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident. During his visit, the President said words of encouragement to the troops and again vowed that he will cover the educational expenses of their children. Accompanying the President were National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go. PCOO


By Jun Ledesma

They had it coming. Five Presidents offered the communist rebels and its armed militia peace but the settlements have not arrived into fruition.

The peace negotiation is done thousands of miles away and is extremely expensive. It is not a walk in the park in that if we consider the number of times the peace panel had to fly to the Netherlands, every word can translate to a dollar. The last one is the 5th under the Duterte administration alone, and each round a new agenda and new demands are put across the table.

It is an endless exercise and personally I am amazed at the patience of Sec. Jess Dureza and Sec. Bebot Bello in what looks like a bumpy ride in theme park. In the meantime, police and military peace patrols are ambushed. In some cases, the victims’ dead bodies are mutilated and if civilians happen to be along the path they are consigned to mistaken casualty.

In an apparent affront to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, even the Presidential Security Guards are not spared. And what about the helpless corporate farms and road contractors’ equipment in remote areas that are being harassed and are set on fire for not paying the so-called “revolutionary tax?”

I was told by a government official from Davao Oriental that even the PPP beneficiaries are also being taxed!

What classic tomfoolery is this? At the height of the Marawi siege when the President was forced to declare martial law in Mindanao, CPP chieftain Jose Maria Sison ordered the escalation of NPA hostilities against the government forces. If you do not call that a declaration of war, it must be something else. Still, Duterte held his forces and another attempt at backdoor negotiation was dispatched. Before Jess and Joma could say hello, an infant was killed in an ambush in Talakag, Bukidnon. Talks were suspended and finally we are back in ground zero. President Duterte had declared the CPP/NPA a terrorist organization.

In hindsight, it is, or was, the peace negotiation that allowed the Netherlands to continually extend Joma and his ilk the mantle of protection even as they were extended some degree of security for having been granted political asylum. This, even as the CPP/NPA had been tagged by both America and the European Union as terrorist.

But time has changed. The reason for their escape to the Netherlands, former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, is now six feet below the ground. It is now President Duterte at the helm of the government and known for his closeness with the NPA rebels. But Duterte cannot allow that intimacy to be abused and his leadership insulted or ridiculed by Joma, his former professor. He is now President and the entire nation depends on him on how to address syndicated crime, corruption and insurgency. Duterte has goals to achieve and Joma’s antiquated ideology cannot be a deterrent to his government pursuit in achieving these objectives. Duterte made it clear to Jose Ma. Sison that neither government nor any piece of the Philippine territory is subject to negotiations and demands.

But one thing is clear, and President Duterte is not reneging on his promises, members of the New Peoples Army may return to the folds of the law and live a normal life. Land, housing and opportunities Duterte will give them. An offer which, I surmised, is not for eternity.

After the terrorist tag, there are only two options left for the members and those identified supporters of the CPP/NPA. Lay down their arms and seek amnesty or continue with the armed struggle. A refurbished Armed Forces of the Philippines in no other time, is more prepared and ready to deal with those who cannot live in peace.

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.

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