MANILA — Vice President Sara Duterte pleaded with President Marcos to reconsider his decision, calling the Marcos administration’s agreement with communist rebels to resume peace talks to end the decades-long communist armed conflict “an agreement with the devil.”
Speaker Martin Romualdez, on the other hand, categorically threw his full support behind his cousin’s move to reopen peace talks with the communist rebels, which were suspended in 2019 during the incumbency of the Vice President’s father.
In her message on the fifth anniversary of the National Task Force to End Local
Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) – an agency created by her father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, in 2018 after his relations with communists soured – the Vice President said reconsidering the resumption of peace talks would “honor the memory of those who died in the senseless and bloody attacks” of communist rebels.
“I support the steps to establish peace in our country because the fight against terrorists is deeply personal to me, as it is deeply personal to the families of countless Filipinos whose lives were forever upended because of the madness of terrorists,” the younger Duterte said in the recorded message.
“But giving out amnesty cannot lead the way to peace. What we need to do is continue what the NTF-ELCAC started and make these stronger. We’ve already won as communities continue to fight,” she added.
Last week, the Marcos administration and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), agreed to a “principled and peaceful resolution” to the longest insurgency in Asia in a joint statement dated Nov. 23 and signed in Oslo, Norway.
The move is touted as a linchpin that could finally settle the conflict within the term of Marcos, whose father’s dictatorship launched the decades-old battle between state forces and communist rebels.
While the public might welcome the move, the former president’s supporters might see it as an undoing of sorts of the previous administration’s scorched-earth policy against the communist movement.
The Vice President called the amnesty and resumption of peace talks a deal “with the devil” and a sign of letting the “enemies” win.
“Mr. President, the government’s statement with the NDF in Oslo was an agreement with the devil. History has proven how unserious and insincere they are in peace talks. They will use the peace negotiations to betray the government and deceive the public. We appeal to your power to review these proclamations and agreements,” the younger Duterte said.
“Let us honor the memory of those who died in the senseless and bloody attacks of the NPA-CPP-NDF. Mr. President, we can negotiate for peace and reconciliation and pursue meaningful development efforts in the Philippines without capitulating to the enemies,” she added.
For Romualdez it is worth giving peace a chance without resorting to war.
“Enough of the war. Our citizens are tired of conflicts. Let’s give peace a chance,” he said in Filipino during the giant Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the House of Representatives last night.
“This negotiation is more than just a political maneuver; it is a moral imperative, a chance to mend the fissures that have long divided our nation. We are not just negotiating terms; we are weaving the fabric of a peaceful future for every Filipino,” he added.
The Speaker enjoined the public to “embrace this opportunity with open hearts and minds, fostering an environment where peace can flourish.”
“Together, under President Marcos’ leadership, we shall strive toward a Philippines that is not only prosperous, but also harmonious and united in its diversity,” he declared.
“Let tonight’s ceremony stand as a symbol of our continuing commitment. That we, at the House as a nation-loving institution, will not waver, that we will remain steadfast in our solemn duty to be shining lights for peace, comfort, security, understanding and unity for our country. Let this be our gift for our countrymen this Christmas,” he added.