By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard Today
28 October 2010

The chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front, Luis Jalandoni, and his wife Ma. Consuelo Ledesma, will arrive in the country in December for informal talks with the government panel and a possible audience with President Benigno Aquino III.

Communist Party of the Philippines founder and NDF political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the meeting with Mr. Aquino, once it was approved, would likely take place on Dec. 1 or 2.

Sison said Jalandoni and Ledesma, who are now in New Zealand for a peace conference, would first meet with government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla.

“The NDF is willing to send somebody to Malacañang to meet with Aquino. To show goodwill, no less than the NDF negotiating panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni is prepared to visit Manila and pay a courtesy call to Aquino,” Sison said in an interview transcript posted on his Web site.

“The preliminary talks [with Padilla] are intended to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks in January or February,” Sison said.

Padilla confirmed the proposal of the NDF’s top brass for a meeting with the President, but said it might be premature at this point.

“They [NDF] want that and we are discussing it. I have already sent an e-mail to Jalandoni. There are concerns that it might not yet be appropriate at this time,” Padilla said in a phone interview.

“If it pushes through, that will be a breakthrough. But some have expressed reservations that it may be premature.”

Padilla declined to identify the people who raised concerns over the NDF’s proposal, or say whether they were members of the Cabinet security cluster.

A meeting with a President would be a first for the communist group since talks began in the late 1980s.

In New Zealand, Jalandoni, who has served as chief negotiator for the NDF since 1994, again expressed his objection to the US and European Union branding Filipino communist groups as terrorist organizations.

Sison said Jalandoni and Ledesma would go to Hong Kong by the end of November before proceeding to Manila.

The couple last visited the country in 2009 in anticipation of a possible revival of formal talks, which did not happen.