Sison seeks talks on Duterte conditions
By Inquirer Staff
Exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison on Thursday welcomed the possible reopening of peace negotiations, and urged the government and rebel negotiators to formally convene soon to thresh out disputes hampering the resumption of the talks.
President Duterte had directed his peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, to find ways to resume the talks, which the former halted last November because of continued attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
As his conditions for the resumption of the talks, Mr. Duterte wants a complete stop to NPA attacks and the collection of revolutionary taxes and for the rebels to drop their demand to be part of a coalition government.
These terms are “not subject to negotiation,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
By holding a formal meeting, the negotiating panels of the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) “can be confident of achieving substantial success,” said Sison, the CPP founding chair and the rebels’ political consultant in the talks.
“Without a formal meeting of the panels, there can only be an acrimonious public exchange of complaints and demands, which appear or sound like the preconditions prohibited by The Hague Joint Declaration,” Sison said in a statement.
He was referring to the 1992 agreement that reopened the talks under then President Fidel Ramos following the collapse of the negotiations under Ramos’ predecessor, Corazon Aquino.
That agreement provides, among other things, that “no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.”
Edre Olalia, a legal consultant to the NDFP, said that clause in The Hague declaration meant that there should be “no surrender or capitulation.”
Dureza said in a radio interview that the terms set by the President were not conditions, only moves to create an “enabling environment.”
Sison said the resumption of the Norwegian-brokered talks “is needed precisely to deal with substantive issues and complaints” by both sides.
He said before the talks were scrapped last year, there already was a draft agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefires that would have effectively been the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement, he added.
But Sison said it would be better for the resumption of the talks if Mr. Duterte did not make the bilateral ceasefire agreement a precondition.
“The NDFP is firm that bilateral ceasefire, which is protracted and indefinite, is unacceptable if it runs ahead of the amnesty and release of all the political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) and the signing of Caser (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms),” Sison said.
Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives urged the two sides to immediately resume the talks.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed “guarded optimism” about Mr. Duterte’s order to resume the talks.
“This is a very crucial opportunity and we hope both parties, as well as the third party facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, the peace consultants, cooperators and staff, can immediately buckle down to work and resume this tedious but necessary process,” Zarate said in a statement.
Mr. Duterte should “rein in his pro-US, militarist secretaries and officials who are openly blocking any progress in the peace negotiations” and stop the police and the military attacks on rural communities, he said.
“There is no other way but to talk peace,” said Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano. “Peace can not be achieved by military solution alone. The root causes must be addressed through peaceful, sincere and meaningful talks.”
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said both the government and the communists should tone down their rhetoric.
“I hope both sides reflect on the lessons of past failures, think of more confidence-building initiatives and propose to Congress measures that address the root cause of insurgency,” Baguilat said.
Last month, 61 congressmen, or one-fifth of the House members, passed a resolution urging Mr. Duterte to resume the talks and complete the agreements that would “lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.”
Mr. Duterte had promised to end the nearly 50-year Maoist rebellion, which has killed more than 40,000 people, by finding a political solution but he abandoned peace efforts in November complaining of repeated rebel attacks.
His administration later petitioned a court to declare the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations. It also sought to declare about 600 people, including about two dozen rebel consultants in the talks, terrorists.
Roque said the government may ask the court to put the petition on hold if the talks resumed.
If final peace agreements are signed, the petition could be withdrawn, he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., NIKKO DIZON, VINCE F. NONATO, LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, ALLAN NAWAL