By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10 January  2011

LUCENA CITY—The leadership of the communist insurgents is all set to face the representatives of the government for the new round of peace negotiation to end the more than four-decade-old rebellion in the country, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines declared Monday.

“At the moment, the GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] and NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] sides are determined to hold preliminary talks to pave the way for formal talks in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and other existing agreements,” Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an e-mail response to an interview sent Monday morning.

To prove their determination to talk peace, Sison momentarily brushed aside the criticisms hurled against him and the New People’s Army rebels. The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP, while the NDFP is the umbrella of communist groups in the country.

“I do not get distracted by comments, innuendoes, spins and suggestions to do away with the peace negotiations,” said the CPP founder who now lives in self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

He added: “The continuing coordinated propaganda and military attacks on the revolutionary forces and people might be calculated to interfere with the efforts to resume the formal talks next month. But so far the responsible leaders of the GRP and NDFP themselves have decided to carry forward the peace negotiations.”

The government and the NDFP are scheduled to resume formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway, in February. The peace negotiations will be preceded with informal meetings on January 14-19.

As a prelude to the negotiations, both sides observed a 19-day ceasefire that lasted January 3, which was marred by accusations of violations from both the military and the NPA rebels.

The coming peace talks also nearly suffered a snag after the communist leadership demanded the immediate release of captured NPA leader Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara before the start of the negotiation. But the government turned down the demand.

Alcantara, top NPA leader in Southern Tagalog, and comrade Apolonio Cuarto alias “Ka Polly” were captured by government forces in Lucena City last Tuesday.

Last week, chief government negotiator Alexander Padilla disclosed the government plan to propose to the communist negotiators during the informal meeting to observe a ceasefire whenever the two parties conduct peace negotiations.

Padilla maintained that less violence between the government forces and communist guerrillas would enhance confidence between the two panels.

Sison said they had been expecting Padilla’s truce proposal but that they are now warning him not to.

“If he does, that is his own lookout. But I think that he will not force his hand in order to angle for the pacification and capitulation of the NDFP and to replace substantive peace negotiations with prolonged ceasefire talks and the prospect of ceaseless preoccupation with claims and counterclaims of ceasefire violations,” Sison said.

He added: “I do not expect Alex to abandon the substantive peace negotiations in favor of ceasefire talks.”

“Any proposal to frontload the end of hostilities is regarded by the NDFP as a clear attempt to lay aside the need to negotiate first the social, economic and political reforms,” he said.

Sison maintained that “prolonged and indefinite ceasefire without first addressing the roots of the armed conflict through basic social, economic and political reforms to lay the ground for a just peace would amount to mere pacification and capitulation of the revolutionary forces and people.”

The Inquirer asked Sison what the communist insurgents can promise to the Filipino people in the renewed bid to end the rebellion in the negotiation table.

“I do not make promises to the people like those in power who take turns in oppressing and exploiting them,” he said.

“Those who merely doubt, denigrate or even demonize the revolutionary forces of the CPP, NPA and NDFP and the millions of Filipino people in the revolutionary mass movement obviously benefit from the unjust system of oppression and exploitation,” Sison said.

The peace talks between the government and the communist insurgents have been stalled since 2004, when the rebels protested the government’s alleged inaction in having them removed from a list of organizations the United States and the European Union consider terrorists.

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