Can the stalled peace process between the Duterte administration and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) be restarted yet once again?
From where we sit, not by a long shot, if recent statements of President Duterte are any indication.
Last weekend, Duterte said peace talks with the communists could still be salvaged if the rebel leadership would agree to his conditions for the resumption of talks.
The President said he was giving a small window to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to reach a common agreement with the government within 60 days or two months.
“If after that, nothing happens, I tell you, prepare for war because this rebellion of the communist party will go on.”
The first condition is for the rebel group to refrain from asking for power-sharing or a coalition government. CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison denied, however, that they had asked for power sharing as a precondition to the resumption of talks with the Duterte administration.
Second, the New People’s Army (NPA) should cease attacks on government troops. The NPA should restrict themselves in their camps, but not necessarily disarmed.
Third, the communists should stop their extortion activities through the so-called revolutionary tax.
Fourth, the political negotiations should be held in the country.
And fifth, rebel commanders in the countryside should engage in localized peace talks with military and civilian authorities.
We can almost anticipate the reaction of the communist to all this: total rejection, as they believe this would be tantamount to surrender.
Given the hardline stance of Duterte, we expect the armed rebellion in the countryside to accelerate in the coming months.
But it appears that the military is dead-set on putting an end to the nearly 50-year-old communist insurgency through aggressive search-and-destroy operations in known NPA strongholds in the three main island groups, particularly in Mindanao. If that happens, will the CPP-NPA-NDF rebellion simply wither on the vine?