Despite barbs, peace talks must go on — HontiverosBy Juan Escandor Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
NAGA CITY – Despite the escalating word war between Malacañang and leaders of the local communist movement, Team PNoy senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros still wants the government to pursue peace talks and maintain open communication lines with the rebel group.
Hontiveros, a former Akbayan Partylist representative, said the government must be insistent on pursuing the peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the underground umbrella organization of communist organizations, which has been waging war with the government for more than 40 years.
Hontiveros said the government and the NDF must never close the channels of negotiations.
“It’s better that they (government and NDF) exchange barbs than bullets,” Hontiveros said in an interview on the sideline of President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to Camarines Sur on Friday.
She was herself a member of the government peace panel from 2001 to 2004 when Rafael Baylosis was on the NDF’s peace panel.
Hontiveros recalled sitting among hardened panelists of two contradicting ideologies in the peace-process talks.
“The government panel was negotiating on the terms of the reciprocal agreement on social and economic reforms after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Cahrihl),” she recalled.
Hontiveros said the experience gave her a sense of fulfillment, being a peace advocate drawing inspiration from peace activists like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the peace processes in other developing countries.
She described her experience as a member of the government’s peace panel negotiating with the NDF as a “mix of exhilaration and frustration.”
Hontiveros said that at that time both panels were seemingly “not strategically committed.”
She said the government’s counterinsurgency reflex then was still very strong and the NDF was not really as interested in the talks as in establishing a status of belligerency for the rebels.
At present, she said, her expectation as a citizen and ally of the President was that the government must be more insistent in pursuing peace talks because it has the obligation to do so and was the only entity capable of doing so.