UP to assist in Duterte's talks with communist rebels

MANILA, Philippines – The University of the Philippines (UP) committed to support President Rodrigo Duterte's peace initiatives with communist rebels, offering to make available its academic personnel and resources to help the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to complete a political settlement with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

UP president Alfredo Pascual and presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza on Friday, September 30, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) during the closing ceremony of the 2016 National Peace Consciousness Month at the Quezon Memorial Circle.  

UP Vice President Prospero de Vera Jr was also appointed adviser to the government panel negotiating with the NDF, the political arm of the CPP and the New People's Army.

"This is another historic and unprecedented event in the history of peace process in the Philippines. Now, the best minds of the country's premier university are on board to help end the decades-old armed conflict," Dureza said. 

The Philippine government and the NDF resumed talks in Oslo, Norway in August, which succeeded in putting in place unilateral ceasefires between the military and the NDF armed wing New People's Army. This followed the releases of jailed NDF political consultants tagged by the military as NPA leaders. (READ: PH and NDF resume talks, silence guns)

They will return to Oslo October 6-10 for the 2nd round of talks that will begin discussions on the most contentious issue in the peace process – socio-economic reforms – and seek an agreement on a bilateral ceasefire.

Government panel member Hernani Braganza, supervising chairman of the committee that will discuss the comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms (CASER) – said De Vera will play an active role in the talks with the NDF as member of the 5-person committee led by human rights lawyer Efren Moncupa. 

"Our experts from UP and the academe are expected to help the government panel craft a comprehensive agreement that aims to reduce economic, social and political inequalities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good," said Braganza.

The government panel sought the assistance of UP, considered the country's bastion of activism and the alma mater of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, along with the Party's many top leaders.

"We are tapping the best and the brightest in the academe and other sectors of Philippine society to help us forge a final peace agreement that will be mutually acceptable to government and the communist guerrillas," said NDF chief negotiatior Silvestre Bello III.

The MOU provides for the following:

The government seeks to complete peace talks with the NDF within a year. Duterte, a self-declared "first Left president", hosted the communist rebels to a dinner in Malacañang last week. – Rappler.com