peace talks

EXCLUSIVE: NDFP says it’s still open to peace talks under Marcos

Lian Buan

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EXCLUSIVE: NDFP says it’s still open to peace talks under Marcos

Ben Nabong

Among the conditions the Left will set, if ever, is for the Philippine government to take back the designation of their peace consultants as terrorists

UTRECHT, The Netherlands – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said on Tuesday, June 6, it was still open to the possibility of resuming peace negotiations under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but on certain conditions.

“If we see signs that the President is interested in peace negotiations, the NDF has always said that it is open to peace negotiations, but of course there will have to be some steps before the NDF enters into peace negotiations,” said NDFP negotiating panel interim chair Juliet de Lima, wife of the late Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The NDFP is the political wing of the CPP.

De Lima said among the conditions would be for the Philippine government to take back the designation of their peace consultants as terrorists under the contested anti-terror law, and the release of political prisoners.

“So far I have not read anything from the President of any interest in resuming the peace negotiations, so right now there’s really nothing,” De Lima told Rappler in an interview at the NDF office in Utrecht on Tuesday.

NATIONAL Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel interim chair Juliet de Lima (right) and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni sit down with Rappler for an interview at the NDF office in Utrecht, The Netherlands, on June 6, 2023. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

The Marcos government has given no sign of interest in resuming peace talks. In March, army chief Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner Jr. said, “Our President has ordered an end to the CPP-NPA – finish them off.” 

Marcos’ new defense secretary, Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. told the ABS-CBN News Channel Wednesday, June 7, in Manila that he had “always been against” entering into peace talks.

“Well, Marcos is a Marcos, and he’s probably like his father who would depend on the military, who would be still puppet to the US,” said De Lima.

Teodoro was the defense secretary under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who launched an intense counter-insurgency campaign against the Left. One of Arroyo’s top military commanders, Jovito Palparan Jr., is serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prison over the disappearance of student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. 

Luis Jalandoni, NDFP’s senior adviser who is also exiled in the Netherlands, has been designated as a terrorist under the new law passed by former president Rodrigo Duterte during the pandemic. 

The law has been mostly upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court, with a narrow window of opportunity for future legal challenges when actual cases arise.

Jalandoni said that, for his part, there are no legal steps yet to challenge his designation, or the constitutionality of the law’s clause that allows the executive anti-terror council to designate anybody as a terrorist without having to present proof before a court.

“There are attempts and campaigns by organizations here in The Netherlands, but also in the USA, Canada, and other countries. They have taken up the campaign, and their main argument is that it goes against the possibilities of resuming the peace talks,” said Jalandoni.

Duterte ended peace talks with the communists in 2019 after a promising start when he became president in 2016. Since then, Duterte created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which launched intense campaigns that included red-tagging of activists and journalists. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.