Philippine rebels optimistic ahead of Norway talks

Agence France-Presse

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Philippine rebels optimistic ahead of Norway talks
(UPDATED) 'In general the relationship between the revolutionary movement and Duterte is excellent,' says chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rebels waging a decades-old insurgency in the Philippines expressed high hopes for peace on Monday, August 15, before talks in Norway next week, with guerrilla leaders set to be freed within days.

Consultants of the National Democratic Front, the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, met with Duterte on Monday to discuss the coming Oslo talks.

“The President instructed the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID)
and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist the NDF consultants who
will be travelling to Oslo, Norway over the weekend for the formal talks
slated for Monday next weekAugust 22,” said GPH panel chair and Labor Secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello III in a press release.

Duterte had also said during the meeting that the recent verbal tussle between him and CPP founder Joma Sison should not come in the way of peace talks.

“The president said while he was hurt by the sharp exchanges between him
and CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison who is based in The Netherlands, he
gave assurances that he will walk the extra mile for peace,” Bello said.

Present at the meeting were GPH panel members Rene Sarmiento and Angela Librado-Trinidad, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and new GPH panel member Antonio Arellano, a retired chief regional state prosecutor in Region 11 and a former human rights lawyer.

Also in attendance were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea
and BID Commissioner Jaime Morante.

Representing the NDF were NDF consultants former Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Satur Ocampo, former NDF chief negotiator during the failed 1986 peace talks, and NDF lawyer Edre Olalia.

President Duterte, who won a landslide election victory in May, is seeking a political settlement to one of Asia’s longest insurgencies which has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1969.

Five previous presidents had failed in that objective, and the process appeared to sour on July 30 after Duterte cancelled a days-old unilateral ceasefire when a rebel ambush killed a government militia member and wounded 4 others.

“In general the relationship between the revolutionary movement and Duterte is excellent… glitches like these can be fixed through peaceful dialogue,” chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni told the Agence France-Presseby telephone.

Jalandoni, speaking from exile in the Netherlands, is to meet Philippine government officials in Oslo on August 22 for 5 days of talks, during which he said both sides are expected to agree to declare unilateral ceasefires.

Norway has offered to be an intermediary in the long-running peace efforts.

The rebels also want to discuss the crafting of a general amnesty proclamation by Duterte covering all 550 detained members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA).

The rebel army is believed to have fewer than 4,000 gunmen, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military.

But it retains support among the deeply poor in rural areas, and its forces regularly kill police or troops while extorting money from local businesses.

As a goodwill gesture, the new government has withdrawn its longstanding opposition to bail petitions filed in court by 18 detained top guerrilla leaders, including the alleged party chiefs Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma Tiamzon.

All 18 are expected to be freed from Manila prisons this week so they can fly to Oslo to help out in the negotiations as “consultants” to a Jalandoni-led alliance of leftist groups, the National Democratic Front.

Benigno Aquino, the president before Duterte, shelved peace talks in 2013 after rejecting the front’s demand that he free all imprisoned guerrillas.

With ceasefires in place, Jalandoni said the two parties could work on crafting reforms to address the roots of the conflict. –

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