MANILA, Philippines – The National Democratic Front (NDF) representing communist rebels in talks with the government rejected on Thursday, February 9, the “improper” cancellation of peace negotiations and lifting of immunity for prisoners-turned-consultants.
The NDF insisted there is “no fair and just reason” for the government to scrap the talks on the heels of a successful 3rd round of talks held in Rome. (READ: PH, NDF make significant headway in talks despite clashes)
“The NDF cannot acknowledge receipt of the 07 February 2017 email letter of Secretary [Jesus] Dureza. The NDF cannot be a party to an unjust, unreasonable and improper termination of the JASIG. The GRP [government] bears full responsibility for its unilateral decision,” said NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in a statement posted on the NDF website.
President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the talks after the communist New People’s Army (NPA) withdrew from a 5-month-old ceasefire. Duterte rejected the position of the communists that talks should continue even as fighting resumes on the ground.
The government subsequently sent notice to cancel an agreement giving some rebels immunity from arrest – the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
But some remain hopeful that the talks will be revived because Duterte is scheduled to meet next week with government peace panel head Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Leftist members of his Cabinet.
Agcaoili detailed what he said is the proper way of terminating JASIG and the peace negotiations:
- He said Dureza should have sent the notice by mail or courier – not email – to the NDF Information Office in the Netherlands to be formally received by the NDF negotiating panel.
- Dureza should have addressed his notice of termination to the National Executive Committee of the NDF through its negotiating panel. Dureza’s email was sent to Agcaoili and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder and NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison.
The NDF also maintained that its consultants may only be arrested 30 days after the formal notice.
Agcaoili earlier indicated in a message to reporters that the NDF intended to acknowledge the government’s notice of termination. Agcaoili said “Dureza’s notice will do in effectively terminating the peace negotiations” even as he found the government notice “odd” because “it only terminates the JASIG and not the peace negotiations but has the same effect.”
The official NDF statement on Thursday echoes a Facebook post of Sison.
“There is no fair and just reason for the GRP to terminate the peace negotiations less than two weeks after the two negotiating panels had successfully concluded their 3rd round of talks in Rome, Italy,” Agcaoili said in the statement.
“The recommendation of the GRP negotiating panel to proceed with the talks as scheduled should have been heeded instead of the lies and warmongering of the peace spoilers,” he added.
In Rome, the peace panels submitted drafts on key reform proposals, signed side agreements to resolve contentious issues, and scheduled informal meetings to fast-track the completion of a peace deal.
The government panel thought it was able to avert the threat of the NPA withdrawing its ceasefire when they agreed to discuss a more stable bilateral ceasefire later this month.
Dureza slammed the supposed disconnect between the communist peace panel and its forces on the ground. – Rappler.com
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