Philippines: Press reports and Wikileaks cast doubt on peace talks, Sison authority

NDF negotiators meet Norwegian envoy in bid to break impasse

05-Sep-11, 2011 | Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines – Communist rebel negotiators met a special Norwegian envoy on Monday in a fresh bid to reopen stalled peace talks to end a four-decade war with the government, aides said.

The chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front, Luis Jalandoni, met the envoy at the embassy in Manila but details of the talks were not disclosed, the rebels’ secretariat said.

Government negotiator Alexander Padilla told AFP he would meet the Norwegian envoy on Tuesday but he did not know if the rebel negotiators would be at the talks as well.

Norway, which has been brokering the on-and-off talks, sent the envoy, Ture Lundh, to Manila after negotiations stalled over the demand of the NDF that the government free 13 captured comrades it said are consultants of its peace negotiating panel.

The two sides hope to seal a peace accord by June 2012 but the new impasse has soured ties, with the government accusing the NDF of bad faith for kidnapping a town mayor and four jail guards recently.

Meanwhile, recent US embassy cables leaked by the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks revealed splits within the insurgent leadership, with self-exiled rebel founder Jose Maria Sison losing influence.

One cable, dated November 2009, quoted then-government peace negotiator Avelino Razon as warning that hardliners were taking “rigid” positions compared to Jalandoni and the Utrecht-based Sison.

Another cable, sent in February 2010, quoted a Norwegian peace broker as saying that Sison was no longer “calling the shots” for the NDF.

“It soon became clear … that the NDF leadership in the Philippines refused to abide by Sison’s commitment to formal talks,” the cable read.

The communists have been waging a Maoist campaign to seize power since 1969.

From a peak of over 25,000 in the 1980s, the military and other defense experts believe the guerrillas number less than 5,000 fighters.

Rebel attacks last year killed 187 government forces and dozens of civilians were caught in the crossfire, according to Brussels security think-tank the International Crisis Group.

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