Rebels’ safety pass expires

Government urges they turn themselves in as sign of good faith or be hunted down

THE safety and immunity guarantees extended to five jailed communist leaders no longer stands with the government poised to ask a Manila regional trial court to revoke their release order following President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to postpone the resumption of formal peace talks in Oslo.

The five communist leaders–Communist Party of the Philippines chairman Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad–were earlier allowed to travel abroad to participate in the negotiations as consultants of the National Democratic Front.

“Since the peace talks were deferred upon orders of the President, the basis for the court order [for their release] no longer exists and the prosecution will consequently move for the revocation of said orders,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Manila Standard.

“The NDF consultants should thus present themselves to the courts for proper disposition as a sign of good faith,” Guevarra added.

A well-placed source earlier revealed that Tiamzon and Baylosis, in particular, appeared to have already gone underground.

In a separate interview, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Tiamzon and his colleagues must turn themselves immediately “as a gesture of good faith and for them to continue to enjoy safety and immunity guarantees in the future” when the peace negotiations resume.

Philippine National Police chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde, for his part, said it will be “problematic” if the communist leaders refuse to present themselves before the Manila court.

“If they do that, not only the PNP but the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well are ready to hunt them down again,” Albayalde said.

President Duterte announced his decision to scrap the resumption of formal negotiations with the CPP-NDF during Wednesday evening’s Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference in Malacañang.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the postponement will allow the government to engage a “bigger peace table” to include the public and other sectors in government.

But CPP founding chairman and NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison rejected Dureza’s official explanation as “bullshit.”

From left - right: Tiamzon, Baylosis, Echavis, Silva, and Ladlad
“The resetting of the planned peace talks is exactly for the purpose of protecting the gains achieved in the backchannel talks prior to formal resumption of peace negotiations. History teaches of many peace deals that suffered setbacks due to the lack of public support and this is precisely why we have decided to engage the public and have consultations with various sectors to protect those gains,” Dureza said in a statement released on Friday.

“Getting public support and goodwill even while still in the course of peace negotiations is truly indispensable. Suddenly springing finished peace agreements upon a public who have been kept in the dark during the negotiations can certainly undermine those efforts,” Dureza added.

A well-placed source who was privy to the command conference said Duterte reached the decision to “reset” the peace talks following Sison’s several pronouncements on the timetable of the negotiations.

“The President reviewed the recent statements of Joma because it was Joma who was announcing that there will be a week-long ‘stand down order’ between the NDF and the government that will begin on June 21 and that the formal peace talks will resume on June 28. Is he the spokesman of the government?” the source said.

Sison, however, insisted that the June 21 and June 28 dates that he announced in the media were contained in written agreements signed by government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili on June 9 and 10.

A member of the leftist Makabayan bloc in the House raised suspicions that “saboteurs” were interfering in the peace talks between the government and the NDF.

“I think that the issues raised by Secretary Dureza can be addressed at the same time that the peace talks are ongoing. They should not be used as stumbling blocks or preconditions for the resumption of the negotiations,” Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said.

“The longer it takes for the talks to restart, the peace spoilers and saboteurs would also have a longer time to sabotage the process,” Zarate said.

Zarate, a Mindanaoan, said the Filipino people have long been hungry for peace.

“The Filipino people have long supported the peace talks for a just and lasting peace. Indeed, addressing the root causes of the armed conflict like landlessness, oppression, and exploitation, among others, will certainly get the continued support of the majority of Filipinos,” Zarate said.

“Resume the talks now. It is only those who benefit and profit from the current inequitable and unjust system will not support the peace talks and will do all they can to sabotage it,” he added. With Maricel V. Cruz

Topics: communist leaders , President Rodrigo Duterte , Oslo , peace talks , Communist Party of the Philippines
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