Is peace process hopeless under Duterte admin? ‘Most likely,’ says Panelo
MANILA, Philippines — The romance between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Left has long ended since the self-described leftist-socialist president assumed office in 2016, but is peace still on the table?
When asked by a reporter during a press conference on Thursday afternoon if there’s “no hope for peace talks,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo answered “most likely.”
“You know, the president has opened his heart to peace talks,” Panelo elaborated. “He appointed those identified with the Left in the Cabinet, but what did they do — these people on the Left?”
Panelo said that after allowing progressives to the four Cabinet posts, “while negotiating with us, they committed criminal acts, terrorist activities; burning properties, exacting revolutionary taxes without sincerity.” He added, “the president’s patience ran out.”
Duterte appointed four “leftist activists” to agencies under the Office of the President: Liza Maza to the National Anti-Poverty Commission; Judy Taguiwalo to the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Rafael Mariano to the Department of Agrarian Reform; and Joel Maglunsod to the Department of Labor and Employment.
The appointments were meant to be a gesture of sincerity while the administration pursued peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). Although the appointees were left-aligned, and not necessarily directly involved in the armed movement itself.
Duterte formally ended peace talks with the communists last November 2017.
Shortly after the end of the peace talks, Duterte signed a declaration in December 2017 designating the communist movement a terrorist organization.
All left-aligned appointees have either resigned, had their appointments declined by the Commission on Appointments, or sacked by the president.
The left-aligned Makabayan bloc was once a member of the Duterte-allied supermajority until they left in September 2017.
“As representatives of the poor and marginalized sectors in Congress and as nationalist and progressive legislators, it would be a violation of our duties and principles to remain with a majority that enables and defends the fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people policies of the Duterte regime,” the Makabayan bloc said when they ended their alliance with the administration.
Aside from often describing himself as a leftist and socialist during the 2016 elections, Duterte would repeatedly mention his relationship with CPP-NPA founder Jose Maria Sison, who was his former teacher, during the campaigns as a reason to be hopeful over the possible end of the 50-year armed insurgency.
On November 28, Duterte said he wanted to create an armed civilian unit that he hopes would counter the New People’s Army’s Sparrow unit.