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An opening for a return to negotiation

/ 12:12 AM August 12, 2016

This is in response to Solita Monsod’s column, “Sison and the peace talks” (Opinion, 8/6/16). Monsod began questioning Jose Maria Sison’s differing views on certain issues, particularly his stand on the planned Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It is important to note, and I agree, that Sison initially expressed disagreement with the idea. However, the shift in view does not make him less critical of Marcos. He has consistently said that Marcos is “conclusively defined as a traitor by his fascist dictatorship and by his monstrous human rights violations and corruption” during his regime. Categorical statements like this should be considered to arrive at an objective assessment.

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Second, Monsod claims that Sison suddenly changed his “tone” about President Duterte. I think it is important to differentiate between liking one’s politics and liking one’s character. My reading of Sison’s initial admiration of Mr. Duterte came from the latter’s openness to progressive issues, his political will, and his “socialist” politics which is very much in line with the National Democratic Front’s ideology, not to mention his relationship with Mr. Duterte being his former student.

As to Mr. Duterte’s character, Sison has been consistent in describing Mr. Duterte’s attitude. With Sison’s close reading and monitoring of Mr. Duterte’s declarations going back to the campaign period, the “butangero” comment should not come as a surprise. Sison’s changing positions and fluid pronouncements should be put in context.

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The Duterte administration has just assumed office, and many political groups, specifically the NDF, are just beginning to get the sense of building trust and confidence with the government. It is clearly understandable if many things are still in flux, including political proclamations. Consistency in statements is important, I agree. But a critical reading of their firm policy positions going beyond rhetoric and objectively assessing their actions should be more imperative.

As to the NDF influence in the conduct of the peace talks, this should not come as something disturbing. After all, “peace talks” translates into negotiation. Compromise and tactical conditions go into the process where you lose some and gain some. It is a discussion between two equals, in search of win-win solutions for both.

The issue of including a military and LGU representative in the government’s negotiating panel is still under discussion. Whether it would be just to do so should be left to the judgment of the two parties.

“From an intellectual point of view, who would benefit more if there was no ceasefire?” Monsod asked, then discussed its benefits for the military and roughly for the New People’s Army; she said a ceasefire will put a stop to the NPA’s “revolutionary tax.”

What about the ordinary Filipinos? The innocent ones who suffer every day from the protracted war? I think it is counterproductive to frame the issue of ceasefire as only between the military and the NPA. Vulnerable communities and families are at stake when an impulsive decision is made, by either of the parties in war, to declare or suspend a ceasefire.

Monsod concluded: “The military is telling the truth. The CPP/NPA/NDF are lying.”

I ask: Do we really have to choose who to believe between the two? Is it productive to believe one group by demonizing the other? Achieving peace is an arduous and tedious process. Many lives have been sacrificed to the cause of just and lasting peace.

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With the openness of the Duterte administration, this is clearly an opportunity for us to go back to the negotiating table and put an end to the meaningless killings. And choosing who between the NPA and the military is telling the truth is the least we should be doing at this time.

—ALEJANDRO S. IBANEZ, ibanez_ali@yahoo.com

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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos, Joma Sison, Libingan ng mga Bayani, Rodrigo Duterte
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