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Fallout from peace talks breakdown continues

AMONG his hopes when President Duterte began his administration was that he would end the nearly half-century-long rebellion of the New People’s Army (NPA), along with peace with the Moro Liberation Fronts in Mindanao. He reached out to his old mentor at the Lyceum of the Philippines, Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which, with the NPA and the National Democratic Front (NDF), are at the core of the leftist movement in the country today.

President Duterte invited the CPP-NPA-NDF to propose names for his cabinet and the NDF’s Fidel Agcaoili submitted a list of 10 names. Soon afterwards, the President appointed Judy Taguiwalo, as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Rafael Mariano, as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform; and Liza Masa, as lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Peace talks also began with the CPP-NPA-NDF, initially in Oslo, Norway, later in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Months of successful talks led to agreements on socio-economic and political-constitutional reforms but the two sides were divided on the issue of release of political prisoners and on ceasefires. After continued NPA attacks in the field, President Dutere decided to call off the talks.

Last August 16, Secretary Taguiwalo faced the Commission on Appointments which proceeded to reject her appointment.

Then last September 6, the same commission met and rejected the Secretary Mariano.

In both cases, critics said President Duterte should have defended his cabinet members in the Commission on Appointments, most of whose members – senators and congressmen – are his allies. But with the government peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF apparently given up, the President was understandably in no mood to defend either Taguiwalo or Mariano.

The qualifications of the two were no doubt discussed, along with their official decisions and related actions. Both secretaries were cited for their good work in their departments. But, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the members of the Commission on Appointments look at a host of considerations – qualifications, competencies, political concerns, party interests, national developments, etc.

The Taguiwalo and Mariano rejections have now become an unfortunate part of the fallout from the breakdown in the talks. But we continue to hope that eventually the talks will resume so that the long-for peace with the leftist rebels in our country will be realized.

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