MANILA (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino III said the resumption of peace talks depends on the willingness of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front to cooperate with the government.
“They [CPP-NPA]…walked out [of] the peace talks, if you remember correctly. It really depends on their willingness to go back to the bargaining table,” Aquino told reporters during an interview.
He issued the statement after authorities arrested over the weekend CPP chair Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the party’s secretary general Wilma Tiamzon.
Earlier, the CPP during its 45th founding anniversary said it will no longer engage in formal talks with the Philippine government, citing the “proven unwillingness of the Aquino regime to negotiate a just peace.”
But citing media reports, Aquino said the Tiamzons were in possession of hand grenades and pistols, something he said “normally does not occupy the belongings of a peace negotiator.”
As for possible retaliation, the President said it would not make a difference since “the attacks [from them] have not ceased.”
“So what are they saying? For them, it’s business as usual, I guess,” he said.
Benito is included on the “Big Five” fugitive list alongside fellow NPA leader Jorge Madlos. His arrest follows the arrest of Delfin Lee, who was nabbed in connection with a multibillion-peso estafa case.
Last Wednesday, Aquino hinted another big-name fugitive would be arrested soon, but did not elaborate.
On Monday, the President confirmed he was pertaining to Benito.
“It [The arrest] wasn’t a surprise because I did mention it,” he said.
“I believe it does deliver a serious blow [to the NPA]. And it shows you also the competency of our security forces,” he added.
Aquino, meanwhile, said they still have to deal with the “root causes” of the insurgency problem.
“That’s why we are focused on empowering our people especially in trying to move them out of poverty in the various interventions that we have been doing from education, to health, to livelihood, to housing, to disaster preparedness and so on and so forth,” he said. (MNS)