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Don't abuse immunity from arrest, Reds warned

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday warned communist rebel leaders against abusing the immunity from arrest granted to them and violating the law during the duration of the talks between them and the government.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who also chairs the Anti-Terrorism Council, also hit the communist rebels for accusing the government of insincerity, saying the Arroyo administration has been “bending over backwards” to accommodate the demands of the Netherlands-based National Democratic Front (NDF).

The NDF is the umbrella organization of all mainstream leftist and communist groups in the country, including the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Key talks in Norway later this month to end the 40-year communist insurgency were thrown into doubt yesterday, with the rebels’ top negotiator, Netherlands-based Luis Jalandoni, blaming the government’s failure to release jailed guerrilla leaders.

“It is now doubtful whether the meetings scheduled for Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 in Oslo would be held,” Jalandoni said.

Ermita issued the warning to rebel leaders as he reacted to intelligence reports that the CPP-NPA-NDF agreed to resume formal talks to allow them to campaign for a communist senatorial candidate.

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He said such reports are “highly probable” and the government has taken them into account in resuming the peace talks.

Ermita said the government has agreed to no longer push its condition for a ceasefire during the talks and lift the suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) to allow the stalled talks to resume.

He said the authorities will not allow the communist leaders listed in the JASIG to abuse their immunity from arrest when going around the country. He said some of those listed are NPA commanders. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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