DAVAO CITY – The government’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a “terrorist organization/ association” in its Resolution number 21 signed on June 23 but announced early this week.
The NDFP has been engaged in peace talks with the Philippine government since 1992 to “address the roots of the armed conflict” waged by Maoist revolutionaries for five decades.
The designation as a “terrorist organization” drives what the NDFP says is the “final nail to the coffin” of the GRP-NDF peace talks that started in a positive tone in Duterte’s administration.
The resolution of the ATC designated the NDFP as “an integral and inseparable part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).”
The council has earlier designated the CPP as a terrorist organization in its Resolution No. 12 in 2020, and thereby categorizes the NDFP as “organized, controlled, acting on behalf of or at the direction of, and operated by the (CPP).”
The resolution was signed by the council chairperson, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and vice-chairperson, National Security Adviser retired General Hermogenes Esperon.
Talking peace before
The NDFP on its website said it has “15 other revolutionary allied organizations” with bases in 70 provinces in the country.
Within the first two years of the Duterte administration, President Rodrigo Duterte, who called himself a “leftist president”, revived peace talks with the NDFP and released its detained consultants.
Both NDFP and government panels then met in three countries in Europe drafting a program for socio-economic reforms. The president also hosted a meeting with the two panels in Malacanang in September 2016, a historic event, where the NDFP expressed hope the talks will not be postponed.
But Duterte called off the peace negotiations on November 23, 2017 through Proclamation 360, and later designated the CPP and NPA as “terrorist” organizations on December 5, 2017 via Proclamation 374.
The NDFP sees ATC Resolution 21 as an “unpeace act” that “throw(s) away all that have been achieved in the prolonged and arduous peace negotiations”.
Julieta de Lima, interim chairperson of the NDFP negotiating panel, said the designation aims “to ensure that no peace negotiations would take place for the duration of the Duterte presidency and to give Duterte all the advantages of staying in power with his daughter Sara as his stooge.”
Jose Maria Sison, founder of the CPP and current NDFP chief political consultant, also warned that the move has a “diabolical purpose…. to harass, silence, arrest or even kill the NDFP consultants and resource persons and others involved in the peace negotiations and target even the broad range of peace advocates, critics and oppositionists.”
Sison noted that peace consultants have been murdered in recent years especially during the pandemic, including Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, the Topacio couple, the Cabanatan couple, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan.
Other consultants such as Adelberto Silva, Rey Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, Renante Gamara and Ferdinand Castillo were arrested and faced trumped up charges.
Sison also warned this might pave a path for Duterte to rig the 2022 election and to declare Martial Law to preempt political unrest.
The CPP in a statement said the designation seeks “to draw away attention from the regime’s crimes against humanity and its policy of attacking civilians in the course of waging its dirty counterinsurgency war.”
President Duterte is facing a probe by the International Criminal Court on his drug war that has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings.
“Being the number one terrorist in the Philippines, the tyrant Duterte has zero moral authority to denigrate the people’s national democratic cause,” the CPP statement said.
De Lima expressed optimistic possibility that Duterte may not stay in power and peace talks may resume in a new administration.
“But I am optimistic that the people will prevail and will eventually put Duterte out of power as they did with Marcos and that they would put to power a president who would be willing to resume the peace negotiations for a just and lasting peace,” she said.