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Amnesty for rebels

Manila Standard

We hailed the proclamation issued by the Marcos administration last November granting amnesty to former members of four rebel groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

We said then this was an important step forward in restoring peace after decades of armed conflict.

But the directive recently issued by the President to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to expand the amnesty program to include around 1,500 communist rebels who have yet to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law, while laudable, is not likely to lead to peace within the foreseeable future.

Why? Because it sets a precondition: that it will apply only after a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the communist rebels shall have been signed.

Considering that peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front have proceeded in fits and starts and achieved limited success since 1987, and even totally collapsed during the previous administration, there’s little hope the next round of peace talks, if it is held at all, will lead to a comprehensive agreement acceptable to both sides.

Our pessimism stands on solid ground.

While the NDF agreed to hold talks with the Philippine government in Oslo last year, the CPP and the NPA have issued separate statements during their respective anniversaries ordering their members and fighters to pursue armed struggle until they have achieved victory in the battlefield.

We take this to mean that while their political arm, which is the NDF, has agreed to hold peace talks with the government, the underground political structure and guerrilla forces of the rebels will be unrelenting in their efforts to achieve political power through the barrel of the gun.

In other words, the NPA will not go back to their barracks even as peace talks at the national level are ongoing, but will continue to engage the armed forces at every possible opportunity as part of ‘‘people’s war’’ aimed at encircling the cities from the countryside according to Maoist dictum.

With both the CPP and its armed component unwilling to give up the armed struggle even as peace talks are ongoing between the government and the NDF, the planned amnesty for rebels to be implemented only after a comprehensive peace agreement has been reached after the expected protracted negotiations is as good as dead in the water as of now.

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