By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY, Quezon – Sobriety and the willingness to talk could break the deadlock in the peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and communist insurgents, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison said Wednesday.
“If the GPH (Government of the Philippines) somehow shows sobriety and willingness to talk, the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) will not hesitate to open wide the door for peace negotiations between the duly authorized panels,” Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said in reply to an e-mail sent by the Inquirer on Wednesday asking him if the communist panel planned to invite government representatives to an informal meeting to settle the kinks that hinder the resumption of the peace negotiation.
Sison maintained it was the government, specifically pointing to Teresita Deles, head of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, who made the announcement on the termination of the peace negotiations last April.
“It should be the GPH side, especially at the level of President [Benigno] Aquino [III], who should send us an emissary who is mutually respected by the GPH and NDFP,” said Sison, who is now living in self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
He said President Aquino could send a “positive message to the NDFP” through Norwegian Special Envoy Ture Lundh. Norway has been mediating the on-and-off negotiations since 2001.
“Sooner than you expect, the NDFP panel might even be the one sending someone to Manila to ascertain what is the real sentiment of President Aquino,” he told this correspondent.
Sison noted that the NDFP panel “has no record of rejecting a mutually respected emissary.”
“The NDFP has also repeatedly declared that the peace negotiations are in principle going on if no side has given a formal notice of termination to the other side,” Sison asserted.
The NDFP is the political arm of the CPP. Its armed wing, the New People’s Army, has been waging sporadic war against the government for the past 44 years, considered as the world’s longest-running Maoist inspired rebellion.
When asked what the government should do to show its sincerity and what the NDFP has to give in return to the gesture, Sison said the “GPH should show willingness to comply with existing agreements.”
“If it does not, the NDFP sees no point in negotiating and making agreements with the GPH,” Sison added.
The NDFP and OPAPP websites show 18 agreements, joint statements and communiqués signed by both parties since the start of the peace negotiation in 1992 up to 2004, when the talks collapsed because both parties were adamant in pushing for their respective preconditions before for resuming the talks.
“The agreements determine the obligations of the negotiating parties. Compliance with agreements is what any side should do to please the other side,” Sison said.
On June 16, Luis Jalandoni, head of the NDFP panel, declared that if the government would continue to refuse to resume the peace talks, the communist insurgents would have no option but to wait for the end of Aquino’s term and continue to fan the flames of armed revolution nationwide.
On April 30, Deles announced a “new approach” to ending the communist rebellion by bringing the negotiations to the local level, especially among the communities most affected by the conflict.
The new approach, according to Deles, would not involve the government peace panel to pave the way for the “localized” peace talks, thus effectively terminating the negotiations with the NDFP.
A few days later, Malacañang firmly declared that a ceasefire agreement should be signed first before it agrees to a resumption of the peace talks.
The communist rejected the demand and cited the signed agreement that provides for no pre-conditions during the peace talks.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda also blamed the NDFP for having “killed” the negotiations with its preconditions and demands.
Last week, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP spokesman, accused Deles of sabotaging the peace talks. Malacañang defended Deles and accused the rebels of not showing good faith and sincerity at the negotiating table.
Jalandoni disputed the government claim that the negotiations had already reached a dead end.
He insisted that the peace talks had not been effectively terminated due to the lack of written notice of termination which should be sent by one of the parties as stipulated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by the two sides in 1995.
Communist leaders maintained that joint agreements forged in more than 20 years of negotiations should remain in effect and be respected by both sides.
The communist leaders also rejected the concept of localized peace talks, the government’s preferred method of negotiations, and claimed that the scheme also aims to split the revolutionary movement and deceive the people.
Negotiations between the communist rebels and the government have been stalled since 2004, giving rise to continued human rights violations, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan.
In the two years of the Aquino presidency, Karapatan said it has documented 137 victims of extrajudicial killings, including 14 victims of enforced disappearances, 72 of torture and 269 of illegal arrests, mostly attributed to state security forces.
A military report, meanwhile said nearly 400 people, majority of them civilians, have been killed in encounters between NPA and government troops and other alleged atrocities since 2011.
Meanwhile, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a non-government institution serving children and families who are victims of state violence in the Philippines, appealed to the Aquino administration to return to the negotiation table.
“CRC looks for sincerity and genuineness from the Aquino government to uphold just and lasting peace for the future of the Filipino children,” Jacquiline Ruiz, CRC executive director, said in a statement.
Ruiz expressed alarm over the growing number of human rights violations involving children.
She said last year CRC documented 12 cases of killing, four children used as guides in military operations, 10 children arrested, detained and tagged as members of the NPA and hundreds of children affected by the continuing attacks and encampment of the military in schools in remote areas.
In a recent report, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, expressed concern over the use of children as operatives, informants and messengers in conflict areas, recruited by terror groups, militant organizations and even state agents.
The UN official said some 26 children were recruited as soldiers, messengers and informants in conflict zones while dozens of other minors were slain and maimed in militant attacks and gunfights in the country last year.