Will Marcos burial protests affect talks with NDF?

MANILA, Philippines – A day after organizations associated with the National Democratic Front (NDF) organized a huge rally at the Luneta to protest the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the government's chief peace negotiator remained optimistic that the issue will not stall the peace process.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday, November 26, that the objective of the peace negotiations is far more important than the Marcos burial issue.

On Friday, November 25, protest leaders associated with the NDF called on the Duterte administration to end its alliance with the Marcoses. Before this, Luis Jalandoni, a senior adviser to the NDF peace panel, said that the burial would affect the talks.

Bello conceded that while the issue could affect the talks, it won't be "substantial."

He explained: "Kung meron mang epekto, hindi naman masyadong substantial. Ibig sabihin, hindi naman ito magiging dahilan para hindi isulong 'yung usapang pangkapayapaan. Oo, dahil may mas mahalaga kaming pag-uusapan doon sa peace talks kaysa itong paglilibing kay dating pangulong Marcos," Bello said.

(If there will be any effect, it would not be that substantial. This means, this will not be a reason to discontinue the peace talks – yes, because we have something more important to discuss at the peace talks than the burial of former president Marcos.)

Bello noted that Jalandoni did not even mention the concern to him, even when they were together at St Louis University in Baguio City on the day of the nationwide protests last Friday.

'No preconditions'

Bello reiterated that from the start, the two parties had agreed that the negotiations would be "without any preconditions." (READ: FAST FACTS: The CPP-NPA-NDF and the Oslo talks)

"Maliwanag naman po sa pag-uusap namin na ang pag-uusap namin ay hindi dapat hahadlangan ng any other…matter. Dapat isulong ang pag uusap dahil napakahalaga ang paguusapan namin tungkol sa mga dahilan kung bakit tayo nag-aaway. 'Yun sa tingin ko ang mas mahalaga at alam din nila na mas mahalaga," he said.

(It's clear in our discussions that our talks should not be hampered by any other…matter. The talks should continue because we will discuss important matters relating to why we are fighting each other. In my view, that is more important and they also know that it's more important [than the Marcos burial].)

He said that in the last round of talks, the two panels discussed the "heart and soul of the peace negotiations" – the social and economic reforms that seek to address the roots of the armed conflict.

The hero's burial for Marcos on November 18 was carried out in secrecy, revealed only to the public after it was accidentally discovered by reporters doing a routine coverage of supposed preparations for the event at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had urged President Rodrigo Duterte to "reverse" the burial, saying his decision to allow it "exhibited gross disrespect and insensitivity to the Filipino people's sufferings" during Martial Law.

"It was an act of great reversal of the historical judgement of the Filipino people against the US-Marcos dictatorship and a completion of the political resurrection of the Marcoses," the CPP said in a statement two days after the burial.

The burial sparked protests across the country. On Friday, November 25, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (Carmma), together with youth and student organizations, led the "Black Friday" protest to mark what it called the National Day of Rage and Unity in Luneta. (READ: IN PHOTOS: The signs of the times at Luneta rally)

On November 30, Bonifacio Day, the Coalition Against Marcos' Burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (CAMB-LNMB) will hold another protest rally. It will be held at the People Power Monument, which was erected to commemorate the EDSA People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos. – Rappler.com