Gov't cancels all planned peace talks with communist rebels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — All planned peace talks with the communist rebels have been canceled upon President Rodrigo Duterte's order, the government's peace advisers said Wednesday.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza cited the rash of violent incidents by the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-New Democratic Front) and the lack of willingness to negotiate as the reasons for canceling the talks.

"There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP/NPA/NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government's position becomes evident," Dureza's office said in a statement posted on their website.

It added, "President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace. However, the Communist Party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity."

The Department of Defense said it will continue to pursue operations against CPP's armed wing, the NPA.

"The President has had enough of the communist movement's penchant for double-talk and continued acts of atrocities against the Filipino people. We strongly suggest to the NPA to lay down their arms, surrender, return to society," it said in a statement.

Government clamps down on communists

Amid this development, authorities on Wednesday announced the arrest of two top NPA leaders in Pagadian City on November 18.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police arrested Rosario Delambaca Tabanao and Leonardo Jacotin. They are believed to be responsible for robbery, murder, and proliferation of illegal firearms and explosives in the western Mindanao area, the Army's First Infantry Division.

Two NPA camps in northern Luzon were also captured--one in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija on November 19, and in Besao, Mountain Province on November 20, the AFP Northern Luzon Command said. Gun holsters and personal belongings, including a t-shirt with the New People's Army logo.

Peace talks cannot continue if the NPA continues to attack civilians and government forces, Senator Bam Aquino said.

"Kung mag-uusap tayo, kailangan pareho nating isasantabi ang ating mga armas," Aquino said in a statement. (Translation: "If we are to talk, both sides need to lay down their arms.")

"Baka mas magandang postpone muna hanggang maayos ang ganyang klaseng local na altercations and then come again to the table na in good faith and with clean hands," he added.(Translation: "I think it's better (the peace talks) are postponed until local altercations can be resolved...")

Senator Gringo Honasan said the country will survive without peace talks with the communist rebels, as long as the government gives the Filipinos social justice and alleviate poverty, and the troops put the public's interest in mind.

"The nation will survive and win in the long run," he said in a statement.

Duterte on November 18 said he will consider the communist rebels as terrorists and criminals, after the death of a four-month-old baby and two other civilians in a November 9 ambush in Bukidnon.

The Philippine National Police on Wednesday said that any rebels apprehended would face stiffer penalties if the communists are soon recognized as terrorists.

Related: PNP: Communist rebels to meet stiffer penalties once categorized as terrorists

The CPP on November 3 rejected local peace talks and Duterte's offer of homes and jobs to rebels who surrender.