Choosing ex-military chief to head gov’t peace panel an insult, says Joma Sison

By Frances Mangosing

MANILA, Philippines — In a turnaround, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) expressed dissent in the possible appointment of former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief retired General Emmanuel Bautista as head of the government peace panel.

Jose Maria Sison said appointing Bautista, who crafted the counterinsurgency Oplan Bayanihan, was an insult to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“It is the prerogative of President Benigno Aquino III to appoint any civilian as chair of the Government of the Philippines negotiating panel. And, technically, General Bautista, having retired, is a civilian,” Sison said in Filipino in an interview published on Monday at the Philippine Revolution Web Central, the official website of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“But it’s also true, as many have said, that it’s an insult to NDFP and the revolutionary movement if he will be chosen by Aquino as panel chair because he is the self-proclaimed brain of Oplan Bayanihan,” Sison said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP. Earlier, Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht, Netherlands, that “we have offered no objection because he has already retired from the military service.” Sison is also the chief political consultant of the NDFP.

“It’s all right that he’s a retired military officer if he’s like former General Fidel Ramos who understands peace negotiations,” Sison said in the more recent interview. “But reports have reached NDFP regarding his gross military mentality.”

“(Bautista) only wants to impose surrender as the NPA is supposedly losing. And if the NPA won’t submit, he will intensify Oplan Bayanihan. But Oplan Bayanihan is a failure, the NPA has grown stronger,” Sison said.

Sison said that if Aquino is serious with the peace negotiations, he could choose someone who is more qualified to head the peace panel.
Bautista was put forward as possible lead of the government panel in the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP. He crafted the Internal Peace Security Plan Bayanihan, the military’s anti-insurgency strategy that supposedly focuses on non-combat dimension in dealing with insurgents.
Bautista was named as military chief in January 2013 and retired in July 2014 after he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.