While the NDFP said it is open to resuming peace talks with the government, it noted that the Aquino government’s pronouncements, and its actions reveal a seeming lack of interest in pursuing the talks.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Amid mounting calls for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the NDFP said it is open to resuming the talks with the GPH.
In his message to the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace, Sept. 2, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDFP panel, said, “The NDFP is open to continuing the peace negotiations with the Aquino government, despite the latter’s declarations to the media that it is terminating the peace talks with the NDFP.”
Jalandoni referred to the statement of GPH panel chairman Alexander Padilla in April announcing the collapse of both the regular and special tracks and said the government will be taking a new approach to pursue peace. The regular track refers to the formal peace talks, which have bogged down since February 2011. The special track, meanwhile, refers to a proposal for alliance and truce.
Both the GPH and NDFP were invited by the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace to send their representatives to respond to the call of peace advocates. A day before the Peace Caravan, the GPH sent word it could not attend but expressed support for the activity.
In his message, Jalandoni said that Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP negotiating panel vice chairman and spokesman, has been in the Philippines since early July “to ascertain the real intent of GPH President Aquino with regards the peace negotiations with the NDFP.”
In an earlier interview with Bulatlat.com, Agcaoili, when asked about the prospects of resumption of peace talks, said “It appears dim because the Aquino regime does not seem to be interested in negotiating with the NDFP.”
Agcaoili said Aquino’s not mentioning of peace talks with the NDFP in his state of the nation address (SONA) last July reveals his attitude toward the peace talks. “While he spoke lengthily about the GPH-MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] peace talks, he did not say anything about the GPH-NDFP peace talks.”
Agcaoili added that the statements from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp), GPH panel chairman Alexander Padilla and Presidential spokespersons do not seem promising, too.
“First, they called the Hague Joint Declaration as a document of perpetual division,” Agcaoili said, referring to the agreement signed in September 1992 by both parties setting the framework for the peace talks between the two parties. “Then, they declared the Jasig as inoperative,” he said, referring to the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. “And they terminated the talks.”
“They don’t even acknowledge that there have been previous agreements,” Agcaoili said. “In any negotiations involving two parties with opposing views, word of honor is important. If this is absent, how can you have trust? How can you have confidence that something would happen?”
Satur Ocampo, former NDFP panel member during the Corazon Aquino administration, noted the same observation. “What is the peace policy of Aquino? We have not heard from him. He should have the political will to pursue the peace talks with the NDFP,” Ocampo said during a program held at Plaza Miranda Sept. 2.
Ocampo said Aquino seems to be losing sight of the importance of the peace talks with the NDFP. Ocampo said that while the GPH-MILF talks is important, peace talks with the NDFP is also important and even more far-reaching. While the MILF covers Mindanao, the NDFP said it has organs of political power all over the country and the New People’s Army (NPA) is present in majority of the provinces.
Ocampo challenged Aquino to instruct its GPH panel to resume peace talks with the NDFP. “The ball is in his hands,” Ocampo said. “He must show political will.”
Ocampo said the military hierarchy is sabotaging the peace talks by consistently opposing the release of political prisoners, including the Jasig-protected NDFP consultants. There are 13 NDFP consultants in various detention facilities all over the country.
Aquino, on war footing?
Agcaoili noted that the Aquino administration is more interested in beefing up its Armed Forces of the Philippines, building its weaponry with the purchase of more attack helicopters, among others. He also noted the GPH’s negotiations with the United States government for increased presence of American troops.
All of these, Agcaoili noted, would be used against the armed insurgency.
In a forum organized by the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the “militarist approach has been proven a failure in resolving the armed conflict.”
Ilagan and fellow GWP Rep. Emmi de Jesus filed, in early August, House Resolution No. 162 expressing the sense of the House of Representatives urging President Benigno Aquino III to pursue the policy direction of achieving a just and lasting peace. The resolution calls for the resumption of peace talks with the NDFP and the institution of confidence-building measures conducive to the resumption of peace talks.
For the NDFP, Agcaoili said, “We are willing to talk to a government that is willing to talk peace.”