President Duterte is unprepared to handle the complexities of the affairs of government and the peace process with communist insurgents, according to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
In a statement issued early on Friday from the Netherlands where he is based, Sison said the Cabinet and the military “should consider whether [Duterte] is mentally fit for his office or needs to be replaced in accordance with their 1987 Constitution.”
The President on Thursday signed Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace talks with the rebels, represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He said the CPP and its armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), failed to show sincerity and commitment in the negotiations.
He slammed the NPA for attacking government troops and civilians, and for shaking down industries and extorting money from them to fund their activities.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President “walked the extra mile for peace as he has always wanted to leave a legacy of peace under his administration.”
Ending the nearly half-century-long conflict, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed, was among Mr. Duterte’s priorities since he took office.
But Sison, the NDFP’s chief consultant in the peace talks, refuted Roque’s statement and said Mr. Duterte “maliciously sabotaged” the peace process, which was being brokered by Norway.
“In the course of his rants, Duterte unwittingly exposed his scarce, shallow and defective knowledge of the peace process,” Sison said.
“Among [Mr. Duterte’s] lucid statements … are those pertaining to his voluntary admission as a fascist in the service of the [United States], his overwhelming desire for killing and war, and his advice to the NDFP to negotiate with his successor in due time,” Sison said.
Revolutionary forces now have no choice but to intensify guerrilla warfare, he said.
Until the President completely scuttled the peace talks, Sison said both parties “were ready to do a little polishing of common drafts” last Wednesday and Thursday in Utrecht, the Netherlands, for finalization in the slated fifth round of formal talks in Oslo starting on Saturday.
The meetings were supposed to tackle the drafts on general amnesty and the release of political prisoners; coordinated unilateral ceasefires; and agrarian reform and rural development, and national industrialization and economic development under the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).
“We, at the NDFP, think that Duterte does not want peace talks anymore. He has the mind of a criminal. He is happy to commit mass killings, with impunity,” part of Sison’s statement said in Filipino.
In formally declaring the government’s withdrawal from the peace talks, the President also bared plans to declare the NPA a terrorist group and to crack down on its “legal fronts.”
Activist human rights watchdog Karapatan said the President’s threat to crack down on legal leftist groups already started on Monday with the arrest of 11 members of progressive organizations following a clash between Philippine Air Force combat troops and NPA rebels in Nasugbu, Batangas.
Ozamiz Archbishop Martin Jumoad said the President “may have seen that the other party is not sincere in the peace talks.”
“In dialogue, both parties must show sincerity and honesty. No betrayal of what has been agreed,” the prelate said.
Also on Friday, Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan expressed hope that the cancellation of the peace talks was only temporary.
“Both sides have already endured enough, and canceling the peace talks would only mean further suffering for all, especially civilians caught between the seemingly endless struggle,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Luis Jalandoni, former NDFP chief peace negotiator, said Mr. Duterte’s move put to naught the negotiating panels’ “many hours of intense meetings.”
The President “must answer to the Filipino people who long for a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Jalandoni said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL, JULIE M. AURELIO, JOCELYN R. UY, KARLOS MANLUPIG, ALLAN NAWAL AND REUTERS