“The NDFP is willing to give time for the GRP to effect the release of detained NDFP consultants.” — Luis Jalandoni
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel said the NDFP would consider rescheduling the formal talks slated this August in Oslo, Norway if there would be no releases of detained NDFP consultants.
Speaking via Skype in a forum organized by Kapayapaan network, Aug. 6, Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDFP peace panel, said that despite several pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte and the commitments made by the then incoming GRP peace panel during the June informal talks in Oslo, not one of the 22 NDFP consultants and other individuals covered by the Joint Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) has been freed.
“The NDFP is willing to give time for the GRP to effect the release of detained NDFP consultants,” Jalandoni said during the forum.
Before Duterte assumed office, members of the incoming GRP panel went to Oslo and met with the NDFP peace panel. In their joint statement released June 16 (1 a.m., Manila time), both parties agreed to affirm all previously signed agreements and to work for an amnesty declaration for the release of all political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress, among others.
The GRP panel also pledged to recommend to Duterte the immediate release of all detained NDFP consultants and other Jasig-protected individuals to enable them to participate in the peace negotiations and the immediate release of other political prisoners based on humanitarian grounds.
The formal talks originally slated in July have been rescheduled to August as per GRP’s request. In a statement July 19, GRP panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello said the GRP would like to ensure that all technical details related to the resumption of formal talks are attended to and addressed by both parties, citing in particular the mechanics that would govern a nationwide ceasefire and the release of political prisoners.
Jalandoni said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP and the New People’s Army (NPA) are willing to issue a unilateral ceasefire declaration separately but simultaneously with the Duterte government on August 20.
Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address July 25. The NDFP welcomed it immediately and said they would reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire soon after receiving its full text.
Jalandoni said they received a copy of the suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) on July 26 and the suspension of offensive police operations (SOPO) on July 27. He said they have questions on the SOMO and SOPO.
“There was no clear statement regarding the offensive occupation of Lumad communities, schools and barangay halls,” the NDFP chief negotiator said.
Jalandoni added state forces would continue with law enforcement operations and legal offensives. “We take this to mean filing of trumped-up charges against activists,” he said.
Before the CPP, NPA and NDFP could reciprocate, Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire following reports of alleged ambush by the NPA in Davao del Sur.
In the June informal talks in Oslo, both parties agreed to discuss the mode of interim ceasefire.
Speaking at the same forum via Skype, Jose Maria Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said that his confidence on Duterte would rise if all political prisoners would be released. He added it would rise further “if a satisfactory agreement on socioeconomic reforms would be forged.”
Sison dismissed what he called as the “simple notion that everybody would be happy if the armed struggle would stop.” “It [armed struggle] is not the cause, it is the result of exploitation and oppression,” Sison said, adding “you cannot have peace talks where there is no armed struggle.”
Jalandoni said both parties remain optimistic that the formal talks on August 20 to August 27 would push through.
Rachel Pastores, one of the legal consultants of the NDFP, said that with the recent Supreme Court resolution, they expect the regional trial courts handling the cases of detained NDFP consultants to do away with the tedious legal process and hasten the proceedings.