VERA FILES FACT CHECK: From ‘friend’ to foe, Duterte sees demise of CPP-NPA

In the past five years of his presidency, President Rodrigo Duterte went from trying to talk peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to declaring an all-out war with the movement to end the 52-year armed struggle within his term.

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Ending the communist insurgency by forging a peace agreement with the CPP-NPA was part of Duterte’s six-point peace and development agenda, which he approved in July 2016. To boost the peace talks, Duterte, who once described himself as a socialist and the first left-leaning Philippine president, named to his Cabinet two leftist leaders whose nominations were eventually rejected by the Commission on Appointments.

Since 2016, the president has changed his mind a number of times between resuming negotiations or continuing the fight with the CPP-NPA. The National Democractic Front, the movement’s political arm, represented the group in the talks. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte blows hot and cold with the Reds and VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo falsely claims Duterte has always been open to peace talks with Reds)

Duterte accused the communist rebels of bad faith, citing their continued attacks and ambushes on state forces and civilian leaders and collection of “revolutionary taxes” from barangay officials and private contractors even while peace negotiations were ongoing.

In March 2019, Duterte announced the permanent termination of the negotiations with the CPP-NPA after cancelling the talks in November 2017 and declaring the group as a terrorist organization.

The CPP-NPA-NDF, on the other hand, demanded, among others, the release of all political prisoners, that Duterte honor previously approved peace agreements, and institute genuine socio-economic reforms to resume the peace talks. It opposed the president’s condition to hold the talks in the Philippines and the return to the country of Jose Maria Sison, one of the founders of the CPP who has been in the Netherlands since 1987 and staying there on a political refugee status since 1992.

The CPP-NPA likewise opposed some of Duterte’s policies, such as the conduct of localized peace talks to convince rebels to surrender and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao due to the armed conflict in Marawi City in 2017. The group also withdrew its support for Duterte’s war on drugs for being “anti-people and anti-democratic” barely one month after expressing willingness to help implement it in July 2016.

In December 2020, Duterte said there will be no more ceasefire with the communist rebels until the end of his term. This came four days after a special session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), during which he supported calls for a global ceasefire on armed conflicts. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: After supporting call for 'global ceasefire' amid pandemic, Duterte says truce with 'Reds' is 'dead')

In the same month, the CPP-NPA was again designated as a terrorist group by the Anti-Terrorism Council, a multi-agency body led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, pursuant to Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti–Terrorism Act of 2020. The council clarified, however, that the designation is focused on freezing assets of the group and “without prejudice” to a pending court declaration as such.

In his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26, Duterte said that with the help of local government units in his administration’s anti-insurgency program, support for the CPP-NPA “will continue to erode in the next few months.”

He noted that the police and the military have already destroyed more than 15 “apparatus” of CPP-NPA fronts and that over 17,000 former communist rebels have surrendered to the government.


Sources

RTVMalacanang, State of the Nation Address 2021, July 26, 2021 (transcript)

RTVMalacanang, State of the Nation Address 2016, July 25, 2016 (transcript)

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, Peace Process with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), Accessed July 28, 2021

Official Gazette, GPH to NPA: Stop inflicting violence, April 29, 2013

RTVMalacanang, Fourth Round of Formal Peace Talks, April 6, 2017

RTVMalacanang, Meeting with the Peace Negotiating Panels between the GPH and CPP/NPA/NDF, Sept. 28, 2016

RTVMalacanang, Oath-taking of Peace Panel Members 7/18/2016, Sept. 18, 2016

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 360, Nov. 23, 2017

RTVMalacanang, Meeting with the Peace Negotiating Panels between the GPH and CPP/NPA/NDF, Sept. 28, 2016

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, OPAPP ACCOMPLISHMENT REPORT First Quarter 2018, June 21, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during the Meeting with the Filipino Community in Singapore, Dec. 16, 2016

Inquirer.net, Duterte fires last leftist in government, Oct. 3, 2018

CNN Philippines, Duterte relieved Congress rejected appointment of leftist Cabinet members, Sept. 27, 2018

ABS-CBN News, Duterte says relieved Congress rejected leftist leaders' Cabinet appointments, Sept. 26, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, TALK TO THE PEOPLE, June 7, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Enemies of the state muddling fight against coronavirus, says President Duterte – Presidential Communications Operations Office, June 23, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Media Interview with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Following his Visit to the 403rd Infantry Brigade – Presidential Communications Operations Office, July 6, 2017

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Duterte announces termination of peace talks with communists – Presidential Communications Operations Office, Nov. 24, 2017

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 374, series of 2017, Dec. 5, 2017

Philippine Revolution Web Central, PRWC » Welcome to Duterte's willingness to talk peace and let backchannel talks to lay the ground, March 6, 2020

Philippine Revolution Web Central, On Duterte’s demand to hold talks in Philippines, June 20, 2018

Philippine Revolution Web Central, PRWC » Duterte, Peace Talks and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, July 5, 2021

Jose Maria Sison official website, JMS Legal Case Files, Accessed July 21, 2021

Philippine Revolution Web Central, CPP rejects Duterte ‘localized peace talks’, July 13, 2018

Philippine Revolution Web Central, PRWC » AFP offensives and atrocities in Mindanao heighten since declaration of Martial Law, May 27, 2017

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 216, s. 2017,May 23, 2017

GMA News Online, CPP no longer supports Duterte’s war on drugs, Aug. 23, 2016

Rappler.com, CPP: Duterte's war on drugs 'anti-people, undemocratic', Aug. 3, 2016

ABS-CBN News, CPP: Duterte's drug war is 'anti-people, anti-democratic', Aug. 14, 2016

National Democractic Front, Response to President Duterte's call for anti-drug cooperation -- CPP July 2, 2016,

Anti-Terrorism Cuncil, CPP/NPA AND ISLAMIC STATE EAST ASIA AND ASSOCIATED GROUPS DESIGNATED AS TERRORIST GROUPS, December 2020

Anti-Terrorism Council, ATC organization, Accessed July 31, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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