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 a welcome development.
That’s a 180-degree turn from about eight months ago when Duterte scuttled the peace talks with the Reds accusing them of bad faith in fatal attacks against soldiers and police despite on-going negotiations.
Duterte and Sison have since traded barbs over the media. Duterte even threatened to slap the Red leader should they meet while Sison called Duterte the number one terrorist.
It seems that after letting out their steam, rationality won and each side realized the importance of talking peace to end the nearly five decades of armed insurgency that continues to delay progress in the countryside.
Five previous administrations have tried to talk peace with the communist rebels but without success. Early into the presidency, Duterte offered to talk peace with the Reds and stopped offensive operations against them. 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 propaganda attacks against his administration continued. The last straw for the President was the attack that led to the death of his soldiers and policemen.
The mistrust between the two sides due to said incident persists up to this day. Hence, it is imperative for both parties to play a single tune and for Sison to stop playing discordant notes if the peace talks are 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 atmosphere for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agreement to be signed in Oslo hopefully on June 28.”
Duterte had proven he could give way to the Reds for peace. Now, the onus of ensuring the success of the talks rests 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 the alleged “oppression.”
In other words, he must show that there is also a Sison for peace.