The New People’s Army (NPA) and the communist movement in the country was the topic of the first session of the Ateneo de Davao University’s (AdDU) Pakighinabi Conversation Series for the academic year 2016-2017.
The session took place yesterday, June 8, 1PM at the Finster Auditorium with Fidel Agcaoili of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as the lead discussant.
The NDFP is a coalition of 18 communist member organizations. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is a member of the NDFP and it directly controls the New People’s Army (NPA).
Hon. Ariel Casilao from Anakpawis was the first to discuss about how the Aquino administration began its term by claiming that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was a propaganda document of the NDFP.
The CARHRIHL was an agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP. CARHRIHL was a product of the peace talks between the two groups.
Casilao said that disrespecting the CARHRIHL was a breach of trust between GRP and NDFP.
He also explained that the Aquino administration, in partnership with the United States government, began the Oplan Bayanihan campaign which aims to counter the efforts of the Communist movement.
According to AdDU representative Dr. Rhodora Gail Ilagan, the Bantay Bayanihan of AdDU watches the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ actions regarding Oplan Bayanihan.
“The current Manila government under President Benigno Aquino III is carrying out a US-designed counter-insurgency plan called Oplan Bayanihan… It has sabotaged the peace talks,” NDFP’s website states.
Meanwhile, Lumad representative Timway Jimid Mansayagan said the Lumads have been ignored in the issue between the Communist movement and the government.
“The left wing [communist] and the right wing [government], to us, belong to the same bird,” Jimid said. He explained that for the Lumads both the communists and government are part of their problem.
He further said that during shootings between the NPA and the military, the Lumads are caught in the crossfire while the latter are not even aware of the cause of the fighting.
“Mag-evacuate kami sabihin ng NPA informant. Hindi kami magevacuate, [baka] sabihin NPA kami,” Jumid said.
On the other hand, during the second part of the session, University President Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, referring to the stories and reports of the NPA getting money through instilling fear, asked Agcaoili if terrorism is part of the NPA’s plans.
Agcaoili replied that the NDFP has its own rules which it follows. He pointed to two books which contain the constitution of some of the groups belonging to the Communist movement.
“[NDFP] is principle-based,” Agcaoili said.
He added that there are bandit groups which falsely claim to be part of the NPA.
Near the end of the forum, all the panelists agreed that under President-elect Rodrigo Duterte the peace talks should resume again.
Other members of the panel were Fr. Christopher Ablon who represented the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP); Fr. Romeo J. Intengan, SJ, from the Loyola School of Theology; Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, speaking as RGW-SER; and Bai Ali Indayla, from the Women’s party-list Gabriela.
Photo-taking, audio and video recording were prohibited during the entire forum. A separate press- conference was held to allow the media to speak with the panelists.
The Pagkighinabi forum format gives one person (the lead discussant) the task of opening the discussion. His/her talk will mark the starting point of the conversation.
Following him, the other panelists will present their views and additional facts. Afterwards, the panelists will ask and answer questions among themselves.