NDF threatens: Free jailed rebels or no peace talks
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government’s refusal to free jailed communist rebels has rendered the resumption of peace talks “impossible”, the National Democratic Front on Friday said.
Fidel Agcaoili, spokesman of the NDF panel, wondered how the government could “be trusted to comply with core agreements” when it “has no intention of complying with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).”
The communist rebels have set the release of “all or most” of its jailed communist rebels as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks.
The two sides announced Wednesday that they would meet next month for a fresh round of talks after mediation by Norway removed an obstacle in the negotiations.
The rebels refused to meet government negotiators in June, demanding that 13 of its consultants first be released from detention. The rebels claim their consultants — whose role is to provide them with advice in peace talks – are covered by immunity from prosecution and were arrested illegally.
Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said both sides agreed to take “positive steps” including efforts to free the detainees during a meeting Tuesday in Manila with Norwegian special envoy Ture Lundh.
Government negotiator Alex Padilla said officials were open to releasing the rebels but did not give any assurances. “We look forward to the talks, but there was no commitment to release or [make it] a condition,” Padilla added.
Agcaoili said the NDF has been “exhausting all diplomatic and political means” to ensure that the talks “push through on a principled basis.”
But he said the government’s “response has been to publicly declare that it has no intention of complying” with the safety and immunity from arrest accord by refusing to release “most of the 17 JASIG-protected individuals [as of February 2011] under its military custody.”
Agcaoili said the government “must show good faith” and comply with the agreements before formal talks could resume.
“The [NDF] will not agree to sit across the negotiating table with the [government] in any formal talks or meetings while the [government] refuses to comply with signed agreements and holds hostage the JASIG-protected individuals,” he said.
“How can the [government] be trusted to comply with core agreements or any other agreement when it willfully refuses to comply with the JASIG, an agreement that merely guarantees the safety and immunity of individuals [including those of the Manila government] involved in the peace negotiations?” he said.
The rebels have been fighting for a Marxist state since 1969, accusing successive Philippine administrations of subservience to US interests and failing to improve the lives of the poor.
Their numbers have dwindled to an estimated 4,000 fighters amid battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism. They are listed as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. With The Associated Press