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CASER

THE SAGAY MASSACRE IN THE CONTEXT OF AGRARIAN REFORM

in Countercurrent
by Tagumpay Felipe 


(Editor’s Note: In one of his recent rambling speeches, President Duterte vowed to carry out agrarian reform, minus the participation of the Left revolutionary movement represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). How he would do that is not clear, considering that the futile amendatory Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reform (CARPeR) has long lapsed without being completed.

What is clear is that Duterte let pass the opportunity to carry out a genuine agrarian reform program, mutually agreed on in a three-month back-channel talks (which he had authorized) and set for signing by the GRP and NDFP peace panels in June 2018. But he unilaterally cancelled the formal talks. Earlier in November 2017, he issued Presidential Proclamation 360 “terminating” the GRP-NDFP peace talks, sans the required notice to the NDFP.

Had he not done that, the infamous Sagay Massacre, the subject of this article, could have been averted.)

On October 20, 2018 nine peasants, including three women and two minors, were brutally massacred in Sagay City, Negros Occidental. They were part of a bigger group of sugar farm workers working on a land cultivation area (LCA) within Hacienda Nene, a 75-hectare plantation.

The LCA is a project of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) to help peasants during the tiempo muerto or dead season, a 4-month period between the sugar cane harvest and the next planting cycle when sugar farm workers have no income. Rather than watch their families starve, the farm workers plant food crops on idle hacienda lands (“bungkalan”) to tide them over this dreaded season.

However, many hacienda owners would have none of this. They violently harass peasants engaged in “bungkalan.”

The National Democratic Front in Negros has since identified the four perpetrators of the Sagay 9 massacre. They are former elements of the renegade Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) who had joined the AFP-directed Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and were in the employ of Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and his son, Sagay City mayor Alfredo Marañon III.

The Sagay 9 massacre brought to 197 the total number of peasants killed in agrarian-related struggles under the Duterte regime.

With Duterte’s orders to the police and military to shoot peasants engaged in “bungkalan,” the death toll is sure to rise further.

Evils of the hacienda system

The gruesome massacre at Hacienda Nene has once more brought to the fore the utter failure of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to effect social justice through genuine agrarian reform.

For too long, peasants have had to bear the brunt of the evils of the hacienda system. Continuing land monopoly by a handful of landlord families have left peasants severely impoverished, heavily indebted, chronically hungry and poorly nourished.

The fight for land at Hacienda Nene began 30 years ago, when the peasants first petitioned the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to put the estate under land reform coverage in 1988. It took another 26 years for the hacienda to be covered by the program. On June 27, 2014, the DAR issued the Notice of Coverage for the 76 hectares of the 90 hectares of Hacienda Nene. Thanks to landlord-bureaucrats like the Marañons, estates like Hacienda Nene have remained intact, their centuries-old evils kept alive.

The graver responsibility, however, lies with the Duterte regime for having scuttled the peace negotiations and preventing the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)’s section on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD).

The draft ARRD was scheduled for signing by the two peace panels as early as November 2017, when Duterte abruptly, unilaterally cancelled the peace talks.

ARRD as key to social justice and economic development

Putting premium on uplifting the countryside is both socially just and economically sensible. Neglecting agricultural development and the welfare of the peasantry means neglecting the largest number of Filipino producers and the single largest sector of the domestic economy. ARRD is thus the key to ending rural poverty and the starting point for rapidly developing the Philippine countryside.

Agrarian reform under the CASER’s section on ARRD calls for breaking land monopolies through expropriation with selective compensation. It covers not only private and public agricultural land but also fishing grounds, fisheries, and aquaculture while recognizing ancestral domain.

The policy of expropriation with compensation was adopted to encourage landlords to invest in industrial and other productive enterprises. It shall also apply to landlords who have a proven record of actively supporting progressive land reform.

The applicability, amount and methods of compensation shall be determined in close consultation with peasant associations and according to the criteria and general guidelines outlined in the CASER.

However, landholdings proven to have been acquired through illegal and fraudulent means— such as land-grabbing, misrepresentation, circumvention of agrarian reform laws, distortion of the history of tenancy, and the use of violence—shall be subject to confiscation without compensation.

Abandoned and idle agricultural lands over the retention limit specified in the CASER shall also be subject to expropriation without compensation.

Surplus landholdings and other means of production of rich peasants and middle peasants shall not be subject to expropriation. Rich and middle peasants shall be required, however, to raise the wages of the farm workers they hire in accordance with the standards set by the peasant associations.

There will be measures to prevent reconcentration of land, such as a prohibition on the sale or mortgaging of distributed land to former owners, money lenders and local officials.

In distributing the land, preference shall be given to immediate family members and relatives of tenants who are willing to cultivate the land and able to make the land as productive as possible, provided their landholdings do not exceed the land retention limit.

In the absence of a member of the immediate family, the peasant association or peasant cooperative of the farmer beneficiary shall be encouraged to purchase the land for cooperativization.

The ARRD moreover prohibits the conversion of land producing food into other use in order to ensure that the country achieves food self-sufficiency.

Notably, the ARRD section of the CASER goes beyond land distribution. Agricultural production shall be developed with ample budgets for developing agricultural science and technology, agricultural credit, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, farm-to-market roads, and marketing support.

The section likewise upholds and promotes the rights of the peasantry, including farm workers and fisherfolk, to living wages, humane work conditions, benefits, and to be free from usury.

The ARRD section identifies 16 rural industries to be targeted for development: coconut, sugar, cacao and coffee, meat processing, fish processing, fruit, spices and vegetable processing, salt and seaweeds processing, dairy products, leather processing, abaca products, bamboo and rattan, clothing and textiles, pottery, furniture, and agricultural by-products processing.

The ARRD would have provided for the free distribution of big landholdings and landed estates, including lands targeted by the GRP for distribution; haciendas controlled by private individuals or entities; disputed lands with local agrarian reform and peasant struggles; and lands already occupied by peasants through various forms of land cultivation and collective farming programs.

In a statement condemning the Sagay 9 massacre, the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER), which helped draft the ARRD, stressed that the break-up of land monopolies and free land distribution are the “just, necessary and urgent corrective measures to the centuries-old social injustices suffered by the peasantry.”

NDFP RWC-SER: SAGAY 9 MASSACRE UNDERSCORES EVILS OF HACIENDA SYSTEM AND THE NEED FOR GENUINE AGRARIAN REFORM

in Statements
Juliet de Lima
Chairperson, NDFP RWC-SER
22 October 2018

The NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) strongly condemns the massacre of nine peasants, including two minors, in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on the night of October 20.

The victims, who were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), were having supper after working on their land cultivation area in the 75-hectare Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon as part of efforts to stave off hunger during the “tiempo muerto” or dead season in the sugar industry. The peasants plant food crops to feed their families in idle lands that are already covered by, but remain undistributed under the government’s land reform program.

This massacre bring to 197 the total number of peasants killed under the Duterte regime in connection with agrarian struggles.

The murder of the Sagay 9 underscores the evils of the hacienda system and the failure of the GRP to effect social justice through genuine agrarian reform.

As long as a handful of landlords monopolize land ownership and perpetuate their power through force, the Sagay 9 will not be the last victims of agrarian-related violence. Agrarian unrest will persist as the peasant masses continue to suffer from widespread poverty, high indebtedness, severe hunger and malnutrition.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the militarists in his cabinet have blood on their hands for terminating the peace negotiations that would have resulted in the adoption of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)’s section on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD).

The draft ARRD, which was scheduled for signing last November before Duterte abruptly cancelled the peace talks provides for the free distribution of big landholdings and landed estates including lands targeted by the government for distribution, haciendas that are under the control of private individuals or entities, disputed lands with local agrarian reform and peasant struggles and lands already occupied by farmers through various forms of land cultivation and collective farming activities.

The break-up of land monopolies and free land distribution are the just, necessary and urgent corrective measures to the centuries-old social injustices suffered by the peasantry. ###

#JusticeForSagay9
#StopKillingFarmers

“BBB”: BUILDING THE ROAD TO PERDITION

in Countercurrent
by Tagumpay Felipe

The Duterte regime’s much-touted “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program is purported to be a “game changer” for the Philippines: they said it would accelerate growth towards a modern, industrialized economy. The program comes with a whopping price tag of Php 1.5 trillion, to be funded largely with foreign and local borrowing and increased taxation – both burdens ultimately to be borne by the masses.

Boldly, the regime claims that the BBB will lift 1.5 million Filipinos from poverty every year and reduce poverty incidence from today’s 22% to only 14% by the end of Duterte’s term in 2022.

It aims to achieve that by building as many as 75 infrastructure projects in various parts of the country. It avers that it will serve as the “solid backbone for growth.” Per June 13 reports, the implementation of 30 of the 75 projects are targeted to begin this year.

It is the BBB the Duterte regime invokes as rationale for the new taxes it has imposed this year on goods and services under the Tax Reforms for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

But there’s a caveat to pursuing such an ambitious program.

Without addressing the country’s fundamental social and economic problems—such as landlessness, social and economic inequity, and multi-dimensional (economic, social, cultural, institutional) injustices—any economic program driven by massive infrastructure-building will primarily serve the interests of big business and the ruling elite, with little, if any, deepgoing improvement in the life of the poor majority.

The BBB’s monstrous tax-and-debt-driven budget easily conjures the image of hapless Filipino masses being crushed by the weight of trillions of pesos worth of concrete and steel.

Worse, instead of promoting self-reliant national development, the BBB program will lead the country on a disastrous road of indebtedness to and dependence on a fast-emerging foreign power: China.

Government tries to placate public unrest stirred by the TRAIN law. It saysthat up to 70% of revenues to be collected will be spent on the BBB. This is on top of other fund sources such as the floating of Php 12 billion in government bonds and a projected $167-billion loan package from China.

Already, the new taxes which took effect this year are being blamed for the highest inflation rates—3.8% in the first quarter of 2018, with a new high of 6.4% in August.

DEBT AND NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY

But the loudest alarms are being raised about the serious repercussions on national sovereignty of getting heavily indebted to China.

Last March Zhuang Guotu, a Chinese academic from Xiamen University, said in an interview with the Global Times that “Chinese loans are usually accompanied by repayment agreements, which use certain natural resources as collateral.”
Duterte’s spokesperson refused to elaborate on that statement, dismissing it as “gossip.” China’s foreign ministry was likewise quick to shoot down Zhuang’s statement as his personal opinion and not reflective of the Chinese government’s policy or practice. But take note that Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s revisionist ruling party.

China’s denial flies more in the face of what has befallen Sri Lanka. Last year Sri Lanka was forced to practically cede its strategic port of Hambantota to China, through a 99-year lease due to its inability to pay off more than $8 billion in debts to Chinese state firms.

Causing further suspicion is the thick veil of secrecy over the Duterte regime’s loan negotiations with China. To date, Duterte’s economic managers have not been transparent on what the actual interest rates, the conditions and repayment terms are of these Chinese loans.

Perhaps part of the reason lies in the fact that the terms are downright indefensible. Only last February, NEDA director general Ernesto Pernia caused an uproar when he admitted that the Duterte government has chosen to secure loans from China despite the far lower interest rates of 0.25% to 0.75% by other lender countries like Japan, as opposed to China’s 2-3%. This means it is 3,000% more costly to borrow from China.

In May last year, an article published by the influential business magazine Forbes warned that “Dutertenomics, fueled by expensive loans from China, will put the Philippines into virtual debt bondage.” It predicted that with the estimated $167-billion infrastructure loans from China added to the Philippines’ current foreign debt of $123 billion, the high interest rates imposed by China could cause the entire debt to balloon to over a trillion US dollars in ten years.

“Once the country has trouble repaying $167 billion in debt, plus interest, to China,” wrote Forbes contributor Anders Corr, “the Philippines will have to give political and economic concessions to China in order to repay annual interest, or renegotiate such a large quantity of debt.”

Corr added that this could include political concessions, such as giving up territory or oil rights in the South China Sea or Benham Rise. Or it could include economic concessions, for example, selling China its national companies, or agreeing to below-market rates on exports to China.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison has followed up Corrs’ article by lambasting the Duterte regime for accepting not just loans at high commercial rates but also defective and overpriced supplies and services from China.

Upon loan default, Sison pointed out, the Chinese corporations would convert the loans to equity, giving the Chinese further control over Philippine natural resources (including the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Extended Continental Shelf in the West Philippine Sea), the entire Philippine economy and government policies through puppets and dummies.

LINING THE POCKETS

Duterte’s tack, Sison added, is a foolish repeat of the Arroyo regime’s preference for overpriced projects and high-interest loan agreements (such as the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal) that benefited most big compradors and corrupt bureaucrats in both China and the Philippines, including the Arroyo couple.

In a similar vein, Corr pointed out the possibility of Duterte and his influential friends and business associates benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in finders’ fees for facilitating the debt deals with China. What Corr has posited could well be the answer to the riddle of why the Duterte government has persistently been going for the Chinese loans even under terms patently detrimental to the national interest.

DRAFT CASER PROVISIONS ON INFRA DEVELOPMENT AND TAXATION

From the NDFP perspective, infrastructure-building should be part of a purposive, strategic economic plan for national development whose implementation shall be democratically decided, publicly transparent, and socially accountable.
In stark contrast to the BBB, this is the spirit of a people-centered economic development path under the NDFP’s draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

As the Duterte regime has abandoned the GRP-NDFP peace talks, it also scrapped any opportunity to forge the CASER—a would-be historic agreement which aims to “solve the fundamental problems of exploitation, underdevelopment and poverty in order to establish the basis for a just and lasting peace.”

The Duterte government has shown that it is no different from past reactionary regimes that erroneously believed change could be effected merely through infrastructure building, without touching in any way the underdeveloped, agrarian and semi-feudal economic landscape through national industrialization and genuine land reform. Without these necessary changes, any new infrastructure will end up facilitating and reinforcing the classic exchange of Philippine raw materials, semi-manufactured goods and cheap labor for finished products from overseas that has characterized neo-colonial trade and perpetuated the country’s economic backwardness.

In the NDFP’s draft CASER, several provisions call for massive state spending on infrastructure in the push to attain rural development and national industrialization. But it stipulates the creation of mechanisms to ensure the role of people’s organizations in the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects, in both cities and countryside.

The CASER upholds both the necessity of responsible state intervention and making the welfare of the people the center of economic policies.

Taxation is one of several sources mentioned in the CASER for financing the national industrialization drive, including the needed infrastructure support. But it clearly puts in place a progressive tax system that charges lower income taxes on the masses and small firms, and higher income taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

The CASER provides for the abolition of the value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes on basic goods and services consumed by the working people. Taxes on luxury goods and services, however, shall be increased, as will consumption taxes on alcoholic drinks, tobacco products, gambling and other socially or economically undesirable items.

The CASER also calls for regulations on public and private foreign borrowing to ensure that foreign loans support national development, and save domestic monetary and exchange rate, financial, and fiscal policy from being hostage to foreign interests due to debt bondage.

And while the CASER calls for breaking the country’s economic dependence on the US and Japan, it warns about developing new dependencies on other foreign powers.

Because Duterte’s ruinous road-building program is heading towards a debt-ridden future, it deserves to be rejected by the Filipino people.

THE TYRANT DENIES THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO JUST AND LASTING PEACE

in Countercurrent

 

by Leon Castro

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte announced last August 14 that he has terminated the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). It came weeks after he, his spokesperson, and his peace adviser separately declared again suspending the peace negotiations. There was a need, the GRP said, to review the achievements of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, including all agreements between both parties since 1992 when The Hagu e Joint Declaration was signed.

“I have terminated the talks with the Reds—with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), with Sison—because in the series of agreements before, even [during] the time of [GRP President Benigno] Aquino, they entered into so many things that they scattered the privileges and power which they wanted,” Duterte said in his usual rambling way. We summed it all and it would really appear that it was a coalition government [they wanted] and I said, “I cannot give you an inch of that even. I cannot give you what is not mine,” Duterte added.

Duterte went on to declare yet again that his government would instead resume the fight against the revolutionary movement. “We have suffered and—in numbers. And I think it would not be good [to continue with the peace process]. We will just have to continue fighting,” he added.

Duterte’s latest announcement of the termination of the peace process is actually nonnews, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison said. Sison explained it was not the first time Duterte terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. The first time was actually in February 2017, as he again did on November 2017 with his Proclamation 360 that he followed with Proclamation 374 accusing the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist” organizations. Sison said Duterte’s proclamations had the malicious intent of making doubly sure that he had killed the peace negotiations.

Either Duterte was lying or ignorant of what he was saying. There had only been one formal round of talks throughout the Aquino regime and the agreements signed in The Oslo Joint Statement of February 2011 the reactionary government tried to abrogate with full malevolent intent. In addition, Prof. Sison had repeatedly denied the NDFP asked or wanted a coalition government with Duterte’s own murderous regime.

But beyond Duterte’s unfounded accusations that the NPA—and not his bloodthirsty military and police—is on a rampage in both rural and urban areas, the question of why is he bent on throwing away the substantial gains achieved by the peace negotiations with the NDFP begs to be asked. If he claims his regime is suffering from the attacks by the NPA, why would he think that to continue fighting with the revolutionary army is the best and only solution? If he still claims he is for peace and development, why can he not admit that agrarian reform and national industrialization—prospective agreements of which are already submitted to him by his own peace negotiators for approval—are tangible efforts to addressing the roots of the armed conflict?

TYRANT AND DICTATOR

GRP President Duterte has completely unmasked himself and his regime as a tyrant and dictator in the mold of Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Duterte made a complete turnaround from proclaiming himself as the country’s first “leftist” president to being the chief executive of a cabal that rules through terror, tyranny, and corruption. His Senate is presided by, like him, a misogynist. His Speaker of the House of Representatives—manouvered into place by his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte—is herself a tyrant, cheat, plunderer and human rights violator of the worst kind. He has replaced the Supreme Court Chief Justice with one who has voted to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Members of his own personal and official families are involved in smuggling, graft and corruption, and influence-peddling. They have lifestyles that could rival Imelda Marcos’s. Recently, investigative reports have shown that Christopher “Bong” Go has profited billions in government contracts as his most trusted assistant and operator.

The number of extrajudicial killing victims of Duterte’s drug war, mostly poor, has breached 20,000. The reign of terror remains unabated despite increasing opposition and condemnation in the Philippines and abroad. Despite all these deaths, Duterte’s so-called war has only succeeded in allowing tons of illegal drugs into the country while bigtime drug lords, including presidential son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, remain at large or are being exonerated publicly by no less that Duterte himself.

Like his idols Marcos and Arroyo, Duterte is succeeding in running the country’s economy to the ground. From the get-go, Duterte’s anti-people Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) measure caused inflation rates that overtook so-called growth rates and hit 6.4 percent last August. While the Philippine Peso lingers at around P53 to P54 to the US dollar, hot money from the speculative market is leaving the country, making the Philippines one of the worst performing economies in the world. The country’s foreign debt has also increased dramatically under Duterte and has gone beyond P7 trillion. As a result of all these, oil prices and prices of basic commodities have drastically gone up and continued to do so, angering more and more Filipinos. Duterte’s approval rating has also consistently taken a dive since the start of the year, one that could no longer be fixed by his totally discredited propaganda machine.

Meanwhile, poverty alleviation measures promised by Duterte the presidential candidate and Duterte the newly-installed president were exposed to be nothing but hot air and lies. Labor contractualization remains the main mode of employment for workers while genuine agrarian reform is still a dream under his regime.

But are these developments really surprising, more so that no one among the NDFP-nominated progressives remained in Duterte’s Cabinet while the most reactionary disciples of neo-liberalization are still well-entrenched? Barely a year after progressives were rejected by the Commission on Appointments, corrupt practices have returned with a vengeance at the Department of Social Work and Development at the behest of corrupt politicians across the street at the House of Representatives. At the Department of Agrarian Reform, more and more agricultural lands are being handed to landlords and land grabbers. And more than a year after the National Anti-Poverty Commission has published a progressive anti-poverty roadmap, not a single recommendation is being implemented.

In the absence of honest to goodness pro-people policies and programs by the Duterte government, the NDFP-GRP peace process was among the very few avenues for genuine social change. Alas, Duterte is determined to deny the people their right to just and lasting peace.

NATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZATION AND AGRARIAN REFORM

Last June 16, the NDFP released backchannel documents it crafted with the GRP Negotiating Panel. The documents represented weeks of hard work not just by the NDFP and its consultants and resource persons but the GRP Negotiating Panel, advisers and staff, not to mention the Third Party Facilitator, The Royal Norwegian Government. These consisted of The Stand-Down Agreement; Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement, and the Resumption of Talks, with an attached timetable; The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement; and, The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation, which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator. These documents were all ready for approval by both panels on the fifth round of formal talks last June 28. Four rounds of informal talks throughout April to June 2018 preceded the scheduled formal in June.

The “Stand Down Agreement”—a temporary cessation of hostilities—between the NDFP and the GRP, was in fact signed and approved by the chairpersons of the negotiating panels and witnessed by the Third Party Facilitator. It was due for announcement and implementation on June 21, a week before the formal talks.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiation has been postponed, canceled, and terminated by Duterte several times. Duterte thinks nothing of the hard work by everyone involved in crafting agreements already hailed as real solutions to the worst evils of Philippine society: poverty, corruption, and subservience to foreign interests. Instead of signing the initialed drafts of agrarian reform and rural development, as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements, he listened to militarists in his regime—especially defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and interior and local government and interior secretary Eduardo Año—who were all bred during the last years of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and wantonly let loose upon the people during Gloria Arroyo’s own reign of terror. With bloodthirsty officials like these three as his most trusted hatchet men, is it surprising that Duterte’s way of addressing the roots of the armed conflict in this country is heightened fascism and terrorism?

The NDFP and all its allied revolutionary organizations, led by the CPP and the NPA, on the other hand, said they condemn how Duterte waylaid the peace process. While they are not intimidated by Duterte’s bluster and threats and are ready to continue defending the Filipino people, they have expressed willingness to resume peace negotiations with any reactionary government serious in negotiating basic reforms that address the roots of the armed conflict. The NDFP said it is hopeful that a genuine peace negotiation shall contribute to the liberation of the Filipino people from the bondage of poverty, neglect and plunder by foreign and local ruling elite.

Perhaps Duterte is not ready to admit the NDFP’s seriousness and sincerity in negotiating peace. Perhaps he was surprised when he was shown by his own negotiating panel that the NDFP has initialed national industrialization and economic development as well as agrarian reform and rural development draft agreements. Perhaps he himself was not ready to implement peace even when the NDFP publicly announced it is ready to sign a stand down agreement between the NPA and the AFP and PNP, even an interim peace agreement deal. Perhaps Duterte was not really sincere when he promised he would release all political prisoners. Whatever the case may be, his repeated pronouncements to terminate the negotiations defy logic if he really wanted peace.

The question begs to be asked and asked loudly, “Why is Duterte afraid of peace?”

But, then again, is peace possible with a tyrant?

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