Talks with Reds resume

Breakthrough leads to end of three-year impasse

NEGOTIATIONS to end the longest-running communist insurgency in the world will likely resume after the visit of Pope Francis in January, a breakthrough in the three-year impasse in talks that started 28 years ago, according to Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison.

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“We can expect the resumption of the formal talks of the government and [National Democratic Front] negotiating panels sometime in January,” Sison said in interview with Manila Standard, referring to the coalition organization of the national democratic movement in the country.

Sison founded the CCP in Alaminos, Pangasinan on Dec. 26, 1968 while its military wing, the New People’s Army was established the following year. Amid its victories during the Martial Law era, the NDF was formed in 1973.

Sison said special teams from the communists and the government have met several times in The Netherlands since September “to iron out kinks” in the resumption of the talks in Oslo, Norway that were stalled several times in the past because of various disputes.

“The consensus reached by the special teams concern the agenda and compliance with existing agreements,” Sison said, pointing to previous pacts, including the so-called 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“There shall be one more meeting of the special teams within the first half of January and then the resumption of formal talks of the panels shall be after the papal visit,” Sison added.

Sison announced the resumption of the talks after NPA spokesman Jorge Madlos said on Monday that they will release “prisoners of war” – four soldiers, three policemen, and two militiamen – will be released on the CPP’s 46th anniversary Dec. 26 as a gesture of goodwill.

“They will be released through their respective custodial units of the NPA,” Madlos said, adding that the prisoners will be released without conditions in the hope that it will lead to the resumption of the peace talks.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles earlier hinted that the public can expect a “surprise development” in the peace talks with the CPP-NDF in January.

“We are at what you’d call an impasse right now. But our goal has always been to revive the formal negotiations,” Deles said.

Deles disclosed many concerned stakeholders outside of the government and CPP negotiating panels have been doing back-channel talks.

Both the government and the NPA have issued extended unilateral ceasefire declarations for the holidays and until the visit of Pope Francis on Jan. 15 to 19.

The CPP also assured the public that there will be no threats against the pope from their end because they believe the papal visit will be an opportunity to draw attention to social problems in the Philippines.

The communist insurgency in the Philippines was born out of peasant revolts in various parts of the country in the 1930s and was officially named Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, whose leaders Crisanto Evangelista, Pedro Abad Santos and Jesus Lava were influenced by Stalinist Russia.

But the PKP waned with the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s until growing poverty and agrarian inequities led Sison and other peasant leaders, spurred by the victories of Maoist China, to revive the communist movement under its current name in 1968.

The CPP gained ground during the Martial Law years and reached its peak in the early 1980s, when its armed wing was estimated to number some 25,000.

“In the 1980s, most of the communist parties in Southeast Asia have been already defeated or disbanded but the CPP achieved remarkable military strength and political influence during this period,” former congressman Raymond Palatino said in an article on the left-leaning website

But abuses and human rights violations by communist leaders caused a substantial reduction in its mass support most especially in the provinces. The CPP has since apologized for what it described as “grave mistakes.”

“The CPP became the first Philippine political party to admit that it committed serious political errors in the 1980s,” Palatino said.

Talks to end the insurgency began in 1986 after leftists pushed Sison to come to a rapprochement with the administration of then President Corazon Aquino, but rightist elements threatened the Aquino administration with a series of coup attempts

“The rectification campaign lasted throughout the 1990s which the CPP credited for the resurgence of the local mass movement,” Palatino added.

|The Philippine government will be the first to dispute this,” he said, “but what is certain is that the CPP has remained a major political force in the country; and after 45 years, it continues to lead the world’s longest Maoist revolution.”

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