Peace talks in the Philippines slated to begin soon

Below are 3 articles from the press in the Philippines on plans to start formal peace talks in early 2011 in Norway between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which includes the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Interview with Jose Maria Sison on GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 25, 2010

1. How do you see Alex Padilla and his team? Are they acceptable to the NDFP panel?

JMS: PNoy [President Benigno Aquino] has made an excellent choice of Alex Padilla as the chair of the GRP Negotiating Panel. Alex has an understanding of the Filipino people’s struggle for national independence and democracy. He was a human rights lawyer and was once with Bayan. I also know Pablito Sanidad personally. He is also an excellent choice by PNoy. He is known as a man of integrity, a human rights lawyer, a patriot and progressive. I do not know the three other GRP panelists personally.

PNoy as GRP principal has the prerogative of appointing his own panelists . His panel appears to be so composed as to encourage the belief that there will be serious peace negotiations towards mutually satisfactory agreements. Through NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni, the NDFP has already publicly welcomed and accepted the new GRP panel.

2. What should be a good starting point for the renewal of the talks?

JMS: The chairmen of the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels should start immediately to communicate with each other. It is possible that by the time you go to press they shall have started to communicate and try to arrange preliminary talks between teams of the panels as soon as possible in Oslo. The preliminary talks are intended to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks in January or February.

Likely topics for the preliminary talks include compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (particularly to enable NDFP consultants to attend negotiations), the release of political prisoners in the same manner that Ramos released both the military prisoners and political prisoners in 1992, the enhancement of the work of the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law [CARHRIHL] and the acceleration of negotiations on social and economic reforms.

3. What is it that the PNoy government should do to show it is sincere in talking peace with you? what can the NDF panel do on its part to show the same?

JMS: PNoy has begun to show serious interest in peace negotiations by composing his panel. The NDFP has responded promptly by welcoming and accepting the new GRP panel. By way of showing goodwill and building confidence, PNoy can release the 388 political prisoners. After all, he has already ordered the release of close to 400 military prisoners.

The NDFP does not have a comparable number of prisoners of war to release in exchange or in reciprocation. That is because the NPA has always released its prisoners as soon as possible and does not accumulate them. But the NDFP can assure the GRP with concrete proposals for the acceleration of the peace negotiations and for the implementation of CARHRIHL in order to lessen human rights violations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

4. I heard the NDFP panel is willing to send somebody to Malacanang to meet with PNoy before the start of the talks, is this true? who is going to meet the president?

JMS: Indeed, the NDFP is willing to send somebody to Malacanang to meet with PNoy. To show goodwill, no less than the NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni is prepared to visit Manila and pay a courtesy call to Pnoy. The visit can be made under the protection of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

5. What time frame are you looking at?

JMS: Luis Jalandoni and his wife Coni Ledesma are now on a speaking tour in New Zealand and Australia. They will be in Hongkong at the end of November. From there they can go to Manila on December 1 or 2 to have informal one-on-one talks with his counterpart Alex Padilla and possibly to make a courtesy call on Pnoy.

6. Will you still go by the old framework of negotiating through the four agenda?

JMS: The GRP and NDFP will continue to negotiate in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration as framework agreement and will tackle the three remaining subjects in the substantive agenda; namely, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities & disposition of forces. After the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms, fifty per cent of the peace process shall have been accomplished and shall push the further acceleration of negotiations on the two remaining subjects.


Church set to mediate in Philippine peace talks

October 25, 2010, –

The Catholic Church is willing to mediate in peace talks between the Philippine government and communist rebels, a bishop said over the weekend.

“The Church continues to support sincere peace efforts,” Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance told Church-run Radio Veritas, adding both parties should show enough “goodwill” to start the peace process.

Leftist activists called on Catholic bishops last week to support new peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a group of Church people from various Christian denominations, welcomed the government’s appointment of new peace negotiators.

President Benigno Aquino III assigned a five-man panel last week to jumpstart “time-bound” and “agenda-bound” peace negotiations with communist insurgents under the auspices of Norway before the end of the year.

The President designated Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla as chief government negotiator with known social reform advocates as panel members.

Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiquez Jr., head of the PEPP secretariat, said the announcement of the reconstituted peace panel is a “welcome development.”

He added that negotiations will “hopefully result in policies that seek equal distribution of the country’s wealth and the development of its natural resources.”

Meanwhile, Military Ordinariate Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak said the government and rebels should address peoples’ interest during the peace talks as well. “Listening to people can help meet their needs and fulfill their values,” Bishop Tumulak added.

Philippine communist rebels have been waging a 41-year insurgency against the government.


NDF to PNoy: Free peace consultant, 10/25/2010

MANILA, Philippines – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas on Monday urged President Benigno Aquino III to free detained NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento more than a year after his arrest.

In a press statement, NDFP Eastern Visayas spokesman Fr. Santiago Salas said Sarmiento should be allowed to participate in the planned peace talks between the government and the communist underground movement.

“Sarmiento has 40 years of experience of immersion and struggle with the peasant masses and other poor people of Eastern Visayas. He is aware of the people’s problems and can elucidate on the basic socio-economic reforms needed to uplift the region and the country. His representation for the region can clarify matters such as whether a $200 million US grant will really benefit Samar, and why there is a clamor over rising hunger, poverty and repression in Eastern Visayas,” Salas said.

Police and military operatives arrested Sarmiento at Starmall Complex in Alabang, Muntinlupa City on Feb. 24, 2009.

The military said Sarmiento, alias Edok/Ener, is the secretary of Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee. He is an original member of the Kabataang Makabayan chapter at University of the Eastern Philippines in Northern Samar and is described as a regular member of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Salas said Sarmiento’s release would be a confidence-building measure to show the Aquino government’s sincerity in restarting the talks. He said the Philippine government should show its compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and other agreements with the NDFP that lay the framework for peace negotiations.

The spokesman also criticized the Aquino government for saying it can do nothing to remove the CPP-NPA from the the United States’ and the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.

“The Aquino government should show political will and uphold national sovereignty in pursuing the peace talks. It is a bad sign of obsequiousness to foreign powers for the Aquino government to fail to strive for the removal of the CPP-NPA from the US and EU terrorist listings,” he said.

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