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Anti-insurgency drive won’t stop with Duterte-NDFP talks – Año

/ 05:32 AM November 13, 2018

A possible meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and negotiators of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will not necessarily put a stop to the administration’s anti-insurgency campaign, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

The President earlier said he was considering a proposal to meet with NDFP negotiators Fidel Agcaoili and Luis Jalandoni.

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The proposal, welcomed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday, came five months after the President scrapped the resumption of peace talks with the communist insurgents last June.

“Talking does not mean you would come to an agreement. Maybe the President just wants to know why they want to talk to him. But it doesn’t mean the President will commit to anything,” Año told reporters at the Senate.

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In fact, the President would continue to be involved in efforts to go after communist insurgents, he said.

“Right now, the President has canceled already the formal peace talks, and in fact, the President will be leading the national task force to end the armed local communist conflict,” he said.

Año noted that the President had set conditions for the revival of the peace negotiations.

Agcaoili and Jalandoni are set to fly to Manila this month as part of their work as members of the NDFP component in the joint monitoring committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).

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Carhrihl requires the parties to uphold and protect human rights as they work to resolve the armed conflict.

Agcaoili and Jalandoni’s proposed meeting with the President came after police arrested NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad for illegal possession of firearms.

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In a text message to reporters, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it was up to the President to speak with the NDFP consultants.

“He has the prerogative to talk to them if he wants to,” Lorenzana said.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said the military establishment had always supported peace initiatives with the insurgents.

“While your AFP is always prepared for war, we are also prepared for peace,” he said.

But if there is an arrest warrants for Agcaoili, Jalandoni and Jalandoni’s spouse, Coni Ledesma, “they will be arrested by our law enforcement agencies,” Detoyato said.

Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison expressed hope that peace talks would resume after the President’s meeting with the NDFP consultants.

Agcaoili also looked forward to the possible reopening of peace talks.

“[We’re] hopeful, but it’s still touch and go. Let’s see. There’s nothing wrong with trying, right,” Agcaoili said in a separate online interview. —With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade and Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

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TAGS: Eduardo Año, Fidel Agcaoili, Luis Jalandoni, NDFP, Philippine peace talks, Rodrigo Duterte
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