Let Church lead localized talks, civic leader says

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BACOLOD CITY – A social entrepreneur here suggested that the Roman Catholic Church take the lead in holding local talks on urgent social issues, not necessarily a peace negotiation, in order to bring together conflicting parties in a decades-old war.

Edwin Marthine Lopez, who is also executive director of Alter Trade Foundation, Inc., said if the talks will be billed as “local peace negotiations,” the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing, the New People’s Army and political arm, the National Democratic Front, would never agree to such.

The proposal for local talks was first announced by Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo who called it a “different tact” by the Duterte administration to attain peace.

He said in a statement reported by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on March 23, 2019 that concerns of rebel groups vary from one locality to another, especially so that (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison seems to have no control over communist rebel forces in the Philippines.”

Red fighters of the New People's Army had their faces painted with the CPP flag in an unknown NPA base. | Photo from Philippine Revolutionary Web Central.
Red fighters of the New People’s Army had their faces painted with the CPP flag in an unknown NPA base. | Photo from Philippine Revolutionary Web Central.

Last month, action star and Army reserve captain Robin Padilla echoed the position of Panelo. Padilla was in Escalante City September 20 and spoke during a government-led commemoration of the Escalante Massacre, an incident on September 20, 1985 during which 20 people were killed and scores more wounded when paramilitary men fired on protesters.

Lopez, who is reportedly the former head of the Visayas Commission (VISCOM) of the CPP, told DNX it is highly unlikely that the Negros leadership of the Party would agree to proposals for localized talks.

“The Party would never agree to such an arrangement because it is bound by its so-called principle,” the veteran ex-cadre who is reported to have also held high positions in the CPP pointed out.

Other underground sources claimed the Party believes that the country is still under a” semi-feudal, semi-colonial economic system.”

This simply means that problems cannot be solved at local levels but would require a total overhaul of the entire system, a former Party member assigned to the national peasant secretariat in the 1980s explained.

Lopez suggested a different approach to encourage the local CPP to the table.

He said “consultations” can be called for with the Church acting as the lead convenor.

Among those who can be invited to take part are the provincial government, the security sector and other stakeholders.

The issues, however, must not focus on the insurgency problem alone but on urgent ones like climate emergency and/or calamities that have happened.

“This could be a start then the topics could be expanded that could eventually lead to a resolution of the conflict,” Lopez said.

As to security considerations, a historically ticklish issue in talking to underground groups, Lopez said Church leaders or the bishop can talk separately to leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Various commands of the NPA have expressed opposition to the Malacanang proposal.

One of those, the Efren Martires Command in Eastern Visayas region, called it a psy war to sow disunity and bring about the surrender of the revolutionary forces.”

The CPP, on July 2018, had already expressed opposition to the plan in a statement published on the Philippine Revolutionary Web Central website. The localized talks, it said are a “sham, a waste of people’s money.”

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