CAGAYAN de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Sunday urged the government to restart peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and their political arm, National Democratic Front.
He made the appeal in reaction to the statement of newly installed Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. that he personally was not in favor of resuming negotiations with the communists.
Rodriguez said it was unfortunate that the defense chief has taken such a personal stand.
“I hope that he reconsiders that position, because this long-running communist insurgency has resulted in the loss of many Filipino lives – communist guerrillas, soldiers and civilians, including children. Just one Filipino the government could save by talking with the communists is worth all the effort,” he said.
He said if the military’s claim that the communists are dwindling in number were true, the state is morally obliged to get them to talk peace instead of “finishing them off,” as one officer has put it.
“I am sure that these CPP-NPA-NDF remnants would want to enjoy life in peace with their families, instead of getting exterminated by the overwhelming military power of the state. They should realize that their dream of more 50 years of taking over the government has remained just that – an impossible dream,” he added.
The Mindanao lawmaker reminded Teodoro that many towns in his home province of Tarlac and neighboring Pampanga were hotbeds of communist insurgency in the past.
“Look where Tarlac and Pampanga are now. They are growth areas, they are booming because there are no more communists there and because the government built infrastructure like roads in these provinces,” he said.
He said he was sure this is also the case in communities in Visayas and Mindanao state forces, including the police, have liberated from communist insurgency.
“Entrepreneurship and economic activities thrive in communities where there is peace,” he stressed.
He added that said Teodoro should convince communist stragglers to follow the example of his province mate, the famous NPA founder Bernabe Buscayno, alias Kumander Dante, who had given up armed struggle in favor of enjoying civilian life as a farmer and farmers’ cooperative organizer in his hometown of Capas in Tarlac.
At the same time, Rodriguez urged Teodoro to also reconsider his position to not reinstate his department’s security agreement with the University of the Philippines, which former defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated in 2021.
The decades-long agreement banned military and police presence in UP, except in special circumstances.
Rodriguez said he and Teodoro are both UP law graduates, “and we know that academic freedom and excellence flourish in an environment free of military and police interference.”
The defense chief said terminating the UP-DND agreement was a policy decision taken by his predecessor and he would not reverse it.
He also said UP should not be a special case.