Although he has yet to be inaugurated as the 16th President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte has already met with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). His presumptive peace negotiators also met with the leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) last June 15 in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP by July this year.
The meeting with the NDFP has been described as cordial and open, and that with the MNLF and the MILF as one “among brothers.” Although part of the agenda in the Duterte meeting with the MILF was the incoming administration’s commitment to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has been in limbo since 2015 because of the Mamasapano incident and the refusal of Congress to act on it, the meeting with the biggest groups that have been involved in the Mindanao conflict was also meant to resolve such other issues as the MNLF’s resistance to the BBL and the tension between it and the MILF.
It may still be weeks before his inauguration as the 16th president of the Philippines, but President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has already generated enough controversy to occupy the country for the rest of the year through (1) his declaration that he would pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and release all political prisoners as a confidence-building measure; (2) his subsequent meeting — described as “cordial” by observers — with NDFP emissaries; and (3) his alloting four Cabinet posts to individuals from, or nominated by, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
During the campaign for the presidency, Duterte also declared that he was a “socialist” and that if elected he would be the first “leftist” president of the Philippines. Days before election day, he also presided over the release of several policemen who had been captured by the New People’s Army (NPA), while later engaging in a friendly long-distance conversation with his former professor, CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison.
It had never been clear until recently what the Arroyo administration’s policy was on the armed, ideologically driven groups that have been fighting the government. Now that it’s becoming clear, however, one wonders if it’s grounded on sound bases and not just on bluster and wishful thinking.
Toward the MILF Mrs. Arroyo had been ambivalent in both word and deed during the first few months of her presidency. About the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, she initially said nary a word as to what her government’s policy would be.