THE announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte and National Democratic Front chairman Jose Ma. Sison that the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels would start by July is truly a welcome development.
That’s a 180-degree turn from about eight months ago, when Duterte scuttled the peace talks with the Reds after accusing them of bad faith in fatal attacks against soldiers and police despite the fact that peace negotiations were on-going.
Duterte and Sison have traded barbs over the media following the failed peace talks. Duterte even threatened to slap the Red leader should they meet, while Sison called Duterte the number one terrorist.
It seems that after venting their steam, rationality won and each side realized the vital importance of talking peace to end the nearly five decade of armed insurgency against the government that continues to hamper much-needed developments in the countryside.
Five previous administrations have tried to talk peace to the communist rebels but none succeeded. Early into the presidency, Duterte offered to talk peace with the communist rebels and stopped offensive operations against the rebels. He even accommodated left-leaning personalities to his Cabinet.
The trouble was that the Reds mistook Duterte’s generosity for weakness.
They wanted to have their cake and eat it too. Despite the political accommodation the Reds continued their propaganda attacks against his administration, which Duterte let pass. The rebel attacks that led to the death of his soldiers and policemen were the last straw for the President.
The mistrust between the two sides that such condition generated persists up to this day.
So, it is imperative that both sides display genuine sincerity for the peace talks to succeed.
As Sison himself puts it, both sides should first agree on a stand-down agreement or a halt of offensives which “creates a favorable air for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agreement to be signed in Oslo hopefully on June 28.”
Duterte has already proven he can give ground to the Reds for peace. Now, the onus of ensuring the success of the peace talks rests more heavily on Sison’s shoulders.
The NDF leader must prove convincingly that aside from armed struggle, he is ready to consider other viable options to free the masses from oppression.
In other words, he must show that there is also a Sison for peace.