NDF consultant Satur Ocampo admits NPA using ceasefire to strengthen forces
A consultant of the communist rebels in its peace talks with the Philippine government admitted on Monday the New People's Army (NPA) had used the five-month ceasefire during the early part of the Duterte administration to strengthen their forces and expand their influence in the country.
National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo made the admission following the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that one of the eight reasons why his office would want to stop the peace negotiations with the leftist group founded by Jose Ma. Sison was because it used the unilateral truce during the latter part of 2016 until January 2017 to consolidate its forces and recover their lost ground and mass base.
Sison is the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and a senior consultant of the NDF.
"It's a basic duty of the NPA, like any organization, to expand and strengthen, whether there is war or none. That's given," Ocampo said.
He insisted that what the CPP-NPA-NDF did was not a violation of the truce.
"Organizing is not offensive. It is a duty. I said you're stupid if you're not going to expand while there's a lull (in the fighting)," Ocampo said in a forum in Manila.
But he added that during the ceasefire, the Armed Forces of the Philippines did the same as he recalled the order of then Eastern Mindanao Command chief Gen. Leonardo Guerrero in August 2016 to "take advantage" of the ceasefire to recover 256 barangays occupied by the NPA under the guise of peace and development program.
He said even the military was able to occupy many villages during that time.
Lorenzana has slammed Sison for his strategy, which was to "talk peace and then press for a ceasefire so that they can regain lost grounds."
"During peace talks, peace is the furthest thing from their minds. They have admitted that peace talks are basically in support of their armed struggle. It is never the principal objective. Their term 'just and lasting peace' is a situation when they have finally succeeded in their armed struggle, definitely not our idea of just and lasting peace," Lorenzana said over the weekend.
Sison earlier said there was no reason anymore to continue with the peace talks under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
He also said it would be better to join the movement to oust Duterte.
"Mr. Sison, you know that the peace talks is the only thing that is keeping you in the limelight. Without it you are irrelevant. You also know that the President can terminate the talks, and this is why you are desperately using reverse psychology and intimidation to save it," Lorenzana said.
"Mr. Sison, in response to your threats we will vigorously pursue our ongoing localized peace process instead. I am sure that once you are out of the picture, true peace will have a chance to become a reality and you will be consigned to the dustbin of history!" he added.
Meanwhile, in a press briefing in Maasin City, Southern Leyte on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque called Sison as "boastful" who thought that he was the "savior of the country."
He made the statement after Sison's remark about the move to oust Duterte.
"Joma Sison, wake up, dream on. You cannot oust a government while you're in Europe," he said.
Roque even challenged Sison to return to the country and see the condition here where many have already been uplifted from poverty.
"What I can say is stop talking, if you want to help our people, go home and join in creating a more comfortable nation for all and Filipino people," he added.
Sison fled to the Netherlands after the peace talks with the Philippine government failed in 1987. Celerina Monte/DMS