VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Peace or war?

President Rodrigo Duterte on numerous occasions has said he would pursue peace with Moro and communist rebels to the last day of his administration.

He repeated this pronouncement early on in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday even as he acknowledged that peace may remain elusive during his term.

Toward the end of the same speech, however, he flip-flopped, and took back the olive branch he had extended to the Left.

STATEMENT

Nine minutes into the SONA, Duterte said:

“So much time has lapsed, so many lives have been lost and so much destruction has been wrought but peace eludes us still. Sometimes I am almost tempted to conclude that peace might not be able to come during our lifetime. But believe me, it will not be for want of trying. And I will persist in our goal of attaining peace (up) to the last day of this administration and maybe even beyond although in a different capacity.”

Source: State of the Nation Address, July 24 2017, watch from 50:26 to 51:13

FLIP-FLOP

Then, just moments later, the president gave up on talking peace and launched a tirade against Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison:

"Kaya gusto niyo kong mag-usap tayo, no, sumobra kayo. Ikaw, Sison, tang … Mag-inom ka ng Tang--yung orange. Matanda ka na. Kayong Pilipinas, nakinig, buong Pilipinas. Kayong mga bata, kayong mga Lumad natives, itong matatanda na ito, Sison is sick. May colon cancer. Ang gastos ng Norway, sumurender na siya. Kasi naging isyu sa pulitika eh (So if you want to pursue the talks... You Sison... you’re already old. Listen, Philippines, especially the young ones, the Lumad natives, these old people: Sison is sick. He has colon cancer. Norway has already given up on expenses because this has become a political issue). This government who sponsored those... who provided the good offices, matatalo sa eleksyon dahil sa issue diyan (This issue will cost them the elections). Kasi pabalik-balik ang mga buang, kala mo mga turista. Wala namang pinag-uusapan (These loons have been going in and out of the country, like tourists. The talks were going nowhere).”

Source: State of the Nation Address, July 24 2017, watch from 1:45:35 - 1:46:12

He added:

Kayong mga naiwan diyan sa kalsada, mabuti pa umuwi kayo. Wala kayong makuha diyan sa komunista (You on the streets, you better go home. You won’t get anything from the communists.)”

Source: State of the Nation Address, July 24 2017, watch from 1:47:26 to 1:47:31

In an earlier speech, the president had bared his feelings toward Sison and peace talks with the CPP, even daring communist rebels to “renew the fighting.” At the Davao Investment Conference in Davao City on July 21, Duterte said:

Sabi ko sa komunista (I told the communists), talking during an event like martial law would be, would render the talks unnecessary. I believe you, Mr. Sison. You are right. We stop talking. We’re wasting our time. This war that you are fighting, I was listening to you when I was a student. That was 50 years ago. Let us renew the fighting for another 50 years.”

Source: Davao Investment Conference 2017 speech, July 21, 2017, watch from 21:14 - 21:48

The president’s attacks have since triggered a word war with Sison, who is based in the Netherlands.

Watch his flip-flops on the issue:

BACKSTORY

Talking to the insurgents is part of the Duterte administration’s six-point peace and development agenda, launched on July 18, 2016. Norway has been brokering the talks to end Asia’s longest running communist insurgency.

Exploratory talks resumed in Oslo on June 14 to 15 last year after negotiations stalled in 2014 during the Aquino presidency. Both parties reached the fourth round of formal talks, and agreed to sign an interim ceasefire agreement on April 3 to 6 in Noordwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands.

The Philippine government, however, refused to pursue the next round of talks. In his opening statement, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza cited as reason the directives of the CPP to its armed forces to intensify attacks against the government following the May 23 declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Even back-channel talks were cancelled after a convoy of the Presidential Security Group in North Cotabato was ambushed.

Sources:

Agreement on Interim Joint Ceasefire

Joint Statement Fourth Round of Formal Talks between GRP and NDFP

Opening Statement of Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza during the fifth round of peace talks

Peace and development agenda of the Duterte administration

Statement of the Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on the cancellation of the backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF

FOR FURTHER READING

Peace process

2016 SONA promises on peace process

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