By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

Sison to Duterte: Continue the peace talks

Posted on February 11, 2017

NATIONAL Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria “Joma” Sison has urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte to continue the canceled peace talks.

Mr. Sison’s remarks came on the heels of the government’s cancelation of security guarantees for communists negotiators in the rounds of talks, thereby signaling further a return to conflict in the almost five decade-long communist insurgency.

“I propose to him [Mr. Duterte] to consult thoroughly with his negotiating panel and the peace advocates in his own Cabinet and others outside of his government, and encourage and allow back-channeling efforts to clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problems,” Mr. Sison said in a statement dated Feb. 9.

The NDF is the political umbrella organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA).

In the same statement, Mr. Sison cited the “achievements” of the third round of talks in Rome last month, including the “fair exchange of views and agreements” on efforts to comply with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the initial discussion of a bilateral cease-fire agreement.

He added that these achievements in the peace negotiations were “overshadowed” by Mr. Duterte’s “reactions” to events that led to the cancelation of talks.

Mr. Sison also qualified that Mr. Duterte’s announcements considering the united communist organization as a terrorist group and his termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) have “the effect of terminating the entire GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.”

“Even if the armed conflict between the armed forces of the two Parties has resumed, peace negotiations can and must continue precisely to continue with the forging of socioeconomic reforms and the bilateral ceasefire agreement and effecting the amnesty and release of all political prisoners within 2017,” Mr. Sison said.

“The CPP, NPA and NDFP remain committed to the peace process in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements. They wish to pursue with the GRP the bright prospects that started with the first round of formal talks in August 2016 and overcome the peace spoilers that run counter to the progress that has been achieved in the third round of formal talks,” he added.

The termination of the JASIG came after an angry Mr. Duterte called for the cancelation of the talks over the weekend, following reports of encounters on the ground even amid an ongoing cease-fire, which both parties junked at length.

Mr. Duterte has made ending the rebellion dating back to 1968 one of his top priorities as president. He launched the peace process soon after he took office in June last year and installed three leftists in his Cabinet.

At least 30,000 people have died in the course of the communist insurgency, according to the military.