Government panel suspends peace talks with Reds

The Philippine Star
Government panel suspends peace talks with Reds

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced the decision of the government peace panel to suspend the 5th round of talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands yesterday. Beside him is government chief peace negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

MANILA, Philippines - Peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) were suspended anew yesterday due to the continuous attacks by rebel forces against government troops in the countryside.

Presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza said the government peace panel would not participate in the scheduled fifth round of peace talks unless the CPP ensures that it can stop its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), from launching offensives.

Two civilian auxiliary officers were wounded yesterday in an attack by suspected NPA guerrillas in Bukidnon.

The fifth round of talks was set from May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

This was the second time that the peace talks hit a snag. In February, President Duterte suspended the talks after the NPA violated the unilateral ceasefire and launched attacks which killed several soldiers and police officers.

NDF senior adviser Luis Jalandoni first told journalists that the government panel had cancelled the talks.

Jalandoni said the government cited the continuing NPA offensives for calling off the talks. “But they did not mention the concrete reality on the ground that requires the NPA to defend the people on the ground,” he said.

Dureza and government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III denied Jalandoni’s claims, saying the government will wait for the CPP-NDF to recall the NPA offensives before they would return to the peace table.

“We are not cancelling the peace talks. We are waiting for the recall of the NPA intensified attacks,” Dureza said.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella questioned the sincerity of the CPP-NDF in pursuing peace efforts.

The CPP-NDF earlier ordered the NPA to intensify attacks after President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao due to the Marawi siege.

Dureza said the government is willing to wait for another two days for the CPP-NDF to order their forces on the ground to stop the attacks.

Dureza cited what he described as the “defiant, blatant and serious challenge” hurled by the CPP-NDF at the government.

He said the communist rebels have failed to reciprocate the personal show of goodwill and trust extended by the President to their leaders.

“The government panel is now left without any other recourse but to announce, with due respect to our counterparts and to our facilitator, the Royal Norwegian government, that it will not proceed to participate in the scheduled fifth rounds of peace negotiations until there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail,” Dureza said in a statement sent from the Netherlands.

Dureza thanked the Royal Norwegian government for “steadfastly” and fully supporting the joint work for peace.

“I trust it will understand why the Philippine government arrived at the decision,” he said.

Saying the road to peace is not well paved, Dureza urged the CPP-NDF to “stay the course in this not-so-easy road to peace in our land.”

At the start of his statement, Dureza voiced optimism there would be developments in the peace negotiations. But he noted the “upscale of incidents of offensive attacks by the New People’s Army throughout the country.”

The government panel also cited the perception that the NPA has openly defied the President’s call for peace.

Dureza expressed concern over the admission of some CPP-NDF panel members that their leaders have no control over their forces on the ground.

“While we have gone this far and the Filipino people are rooting or supporting us, there are challenges that we must together address as we meet here today on the scheduled fifth round of peace negotiations,” Dureza said in his opening statement.

Jalandoni said despite the government’s ultimatum, the rebel attacks would continue.

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government ordered the police to be on alert following the suspension of the peace talks.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV expressed support for the decision of the administration to suspend the peace talks.

“The communists have been taking advantage of the talks by consolidating their ranks and attacking government troops,” Trillanes said. 

He urged the administration to remove key government officials who were former members of the communist movement.

“The administration must kick out secretaries Mariano and Taguiwalo since they have been using their positions to further the cause of the CPP-NPA,” Trillanes said, referring to Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. 

Mariano and Taguiwalo are yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.  – With Emmanuel Tupaz, Marvin Sy, AFP

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