Communist leader Jose Maria Sison said, “goodwill measures” such as reciprocal ceasefire and release of political prisoners will create a “favorable atmosphere” for the resumption of stalled peace talks
after President Rodrigo Duterte had expressed a desire to go back to the negotiation table with the rebels.
In a statement Monday, Sison welcomed President Duterte’s instruction to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk with communist leader
s and his recognition of his limited time to achieve peace before his term ends in 2022.
It is timely, Sison said, for the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to “create the favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations by undertaking such goodwill measures as reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of political prisoners who are elderly and sickly on humanitarian grounds, especially those who shall participate in the peace negotiations.”
“I welcome President Duterte’s publicly expressed desire to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and his instruction to Secretary Bello to visit me and consult with me in Utrecht in this regard,” Sison added.
Duterte on Thursday said he had asked Bello, the government’s chief peace negotiator until last March, to go to the Netherlands to talk to Sison in a bid to craft a peace deal and put an end to the decades-long insurgency, calling it his “last card.”
“I am pleased that President Duterte has also acknowledged that he is running out of time and that he is determined to achieve peace before the end of his term,” Sison said.
He said the next steps that could be taken include reaffirming agreements forged since 1992 and to do away with what he called repressive measures and for the negotiating panel to return to the interim peace agreement.
Sison said peace negotiations can be resumed in a formal meeting to issue the declaration reaffirming the agreements that have been forged since 1992 and to set the agenda and schedule of talks to fulfill political, legal and security requirements.
He also said the government and NDFP negotiating panels can pursue further negotiations on the Interim Peace Agreement through unilateral ceasefires, general amnesty and release of all political prisoners and the sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development.
“All the remaining sections of the CASER can be negotiated, completed and mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP in a relatively short period of time. Thereafter, the Comprehensive agreements on political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces shall be negotiated, completed and mutually approved,” Sison said.
The President had earlier shut down the possibility of a resumption of peace talks through Proclamation No. 360 and told communist groups to just “talk to the next President.”
READ: Duterte: Reopen talks with Red
He cited the government’s preference for localized peace engagements.
Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo assured Sison that he would not be arrested
upon his return to the Philippines if the peace negotiations would be held here, as previously floated by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
READ: Court orders arrest of Joma, 37 other Reds
But Sison dismissed holding peace talks in the country.
The NDFP, legal wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, cannot agree to submit itself to the “control of the peace process by the regime and come under the control and surveillance of the military,” Sison told ANC in an interview.
Assistant Minority Leader France Castro on Monday backed the resumption of peace talks
but ruled out any preconditions as “traps for failure.”
“While we welcome the possibility for the resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GRP, we caution against peace saboteurs who have no interest to genuinely address the roots of armed conflict,” Castro, representative of ACT Teachers Party-list group, said.
Castro said the stalled peace negotiations had already resulted in agreements between the two parties which would allow a more neutral and less hostile environment when entering the peace negotiations. The resumed peace talks should start where they left off, she added.
Also on Monday, the Philippine National Police put all units on alert as the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines draws near.
The communist group has been known to launch attacks during the celebration of the CPP’s anniversary, Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a press conference.
The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, condemned the use of child soldiers in armed conflict, vowing to launch an investigation into reports that a minor allegedly used by the New People’s Army was reportedly killed in an encounter with government forces last week.
“The Commission strongly denounces the use of child soldiers in armed conflict. Nothing can justify this deplorable practice,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.
Authorities identified the minor as 16-year-old Litboy Talja Binongcasan, a Grade Six pupil in Sitio Sioan Elementary School in Barangay Malinao, Gingoog City.
“We send our deepest sympathy to the family of Litboy. CHR shall investigate this case to bring it to its just resolution,” De Guia said.
Citing the International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the CHR official said even non-state armed groups must respect the prohibition to recruit and use children in armed conflict and hostilities.
“We remind all armed groups that the use of child soldiers constitutes a war crime,” she said. With PNA