THE government’s chief negotiator with the communist rebels on Friday chided the chairman of the National Democratic Front panel for telling “half-truths” and denied that President Benigno Aquino III had rebuffed a peace deal between the two sides.
“He’s not telling the whole story,” said government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla, in response to NDF peace panel chairman Luis Jalandoni’s claims that a signed peace pact was snubbed by the government in 2014.
“There was no peace deal,” Padilla said. “What Mr. Jalandoni is referring to was not an agreement.”
Padilla said in December 2014, there were reports of peace talks resuming between the government and the NDF.
“We clarified then that what was happening was, a group of private individuals we consider ‘friends of the process’ was shuttling between the two parties to explore possible parameters for restarting the talks at the earliest possible time. It was this private group that initialed a proposed agreement subject to approval by the two panels,” he said.
The government chief negotiator confirmed that the “government was studying that proposal and was prepared to discuss it with the NDF panel in January 2015” until the Mamasapano massacre.
Padilla said in February 2015, the private group again went to Utrecht and returned with another proposal from the NDF to resume the talks, this time with a stronger demand for the release of hundreds of its leaders and followers in detention, the withdrawal or dismissal of cases against their detained alleged consultants, and other pre-conditions.
With the NDF asserting even more than its usual demands, the initiative did not pan out, he said.
“The NDF’s usual strategy is to use the negotiations to get as many concessions as it can from government without giving anything in return. In spite of this, [the government] continued to pursue all possibilities for the resumption of talks, Padilla added.
“We tried two more times in 2015, based on proposals offered by our Norwegian facilitator to the parties, but to no avail. On the first one, the NDF said they needed more time to consult the ground while the RNG [Royal Norwegian Government] and the government waited. On the second one, the NDF expressed its reservation on the RNG’s facilitation process for generating goodwill measures that would benefit the people,” he said.
Padilla recalled that in an interview in July 2015, Jalandoni reiterated the NDF’s demand. “The group’s return to the negotiating table still depended on the release of political prisoners and peace consultants… and returned to the protracted and immoveable regular track,” he said.
Padilla challenged the NDF to go beyond its usual practice of making unreasonable demands then putting the blame on the government for the failure to resume talks.
“It is high time for the CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the NDF) to change its tactic of making impossible demands and blaming the government for the failure to resume peace talks. They have used this tired old rhetoric to cover up for their continuing violence on the ground and their strategy to use the peace process to get as many concessions as they can from government without giving anything in return,” the chief negotiator said.
“Instead of continuing to wage armed conflict against our democracy, the CPP/NPA/NDF must seek ways to deliver peace, especially to the communities on the ground that have been sorely affected by their armed struggle,” Padilla said.
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