What does NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s arrest imply for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations? Are localized peace talks really possible? Bulatlat interviewed Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, on these.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 30, September 2-8, 2007
As Luis Jalandoni – chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which has been engaged in on-and-off peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since 1986 – sees it, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s vision of peace is “the peace of the graveyard.”
Jalandoni expressed this view in an interview with Bulatlat a few days after the arrest of Jose Maria Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, for allegedly ordering murders from his base in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Sison’s arrest in Utrecht came just a few days after the Arroyo administration announced that it was planning to pursue localized peace talks with the revolutionaries.
Sison was “invited” by Utrecht police on Aug. 28, supposedly to talk to him about new information on a complaint he had filed back in 2001. He went to the police station with one of his lawyers, and was told to go to a room where he was supposed to be asked a few questions.
However, he was whisked off to the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen, The Hague, The Netherlands – where he is now detained – without the knowledge of the lawyer. What was supposed to be an invitation had turned out to be an arrest for allegedly ordering the killings of former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) leaders Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
“This is a Dutch criminal case, as ordering a murder even if it is committed abroad is a criminal offense under Dutch law,” said Wim de Bruin, spokesperson of the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s office.
Sison had denied the accusation that he was behind the killings of Kintanar and Tabara. The CPP-NPA’s leadership in the Philippines had owned up to both killings, saying the two were meted out punishment for their “crimes against the revolution.”
As Sison was being arrested, the office of the NDFP International Office in Utrecht and the houses of NDFP consultants and staff in The Netherlands were being raided. The computers at the NDFP International Office were all taken.
Arroyo hailed Sison’s arrest, saying it would push the peace process forward. “It’s a giant step for peace, a victory for justice and the rule of law,” she said in a statement issued by Malacañang hours after Sison’s arrest.
The NDFP, however, warned that Sison’s arrest – together with the raids in The Netherlands – are “bound to terminate the ongoing peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Arroyo government.”
Days before Sison’s arrest, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had announced that the Arroyo administration would soon jump-start peace talks with the CPP-NPA through its local commanders.
The idea of localized peace talks is actually not a new concoction. It had been attempted by Arroyo’s administration as early as during her continuation of deposed President Joseph Estrada’s term (2001-2004).
Before Gonzales’ announcement, Arroyo had instructed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to end the “communist insurgency,” the Moro armed struggle and “sheer terrorism” by 2010 – which is the year her term is supposed to end. “I have a specified timeline – three years – to end armed rebellion in the Philippines,” Arroyo said.
“It’s either get rid of them now, or get rid of them later,” she also said. “Whatever happens, they must be stopped.”
Sison – a former youth leader and university lecturer who is also known as the CPP’s founding chairman – is included in the U.S. Department of State’s list of “foreign terrorists.” The CPP-NPA is likewise listed as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
The Philippine government is the main U.S. ally in Southeast Asia. In 2001, the Arroyo government vowed all-out support for the Bush administration’s “borderless war on terror.”
The present Dutch government, meanwhile, is known as the one of the major U.S. allies in Europe – next only to the United Kingdom.
What does Sison’s arrest imply for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations? Are localized peace talks really possible?