MANILA, Philippines – The stealth burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani won't affect peace talks with the Left, said government chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
"I don't think this will affect the peace process because, in my mind and I think in their mind as well, the issue of burying the strongman is of little significance to the purpose of peace talks and that is to achieve just and lasting peace for our country," said Bello on Tuesday, November 22, during a Palace news briefing.
Communists were among the Marcos administration's primary targets, with countless instances of torture and abduction done in the name of quelling the Leftist rebellion.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) sent out a strongly-worded statement opposing the burial. Calling it a "historical wrong," the CPP urged President Rodrigo Duterte to "reverse" the burial or face "mounting protests and isolation."
But Bello called the Marcos burial an "extraneous" issue that should not be dealt with by the government panel and communist National Democratic Front (NDF) panel at the cost of the peace talks.
"It should not detract our negotiators from the fact that we have a more noble and significant mandate which is to bring peace to our country," he said.
About New People's Army (NPA) leader Benito Tiamzon's condemnation of the burial, Bello said this was an "emotional reaction" from someone hunted down during the Marcos years.
"There is still bitterness so when there was an incident like that (Marcos burial), he expressed his sentiments right away. But I'm sure Tiamzon and other NDF [members] know the position of the President. Otherwise, they would have called me," said Bello.
The peace talks aim to end the longest insurgency in Asia. Both panels have met twice for formal talks in Oslo, Norway.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.