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Joma Sison says peace talks may resume next year

Jose Maria Sison and Teresita Deles

Jose Maria Sison and Teresita Deles INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

The on-and-off peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may start again as early as the second half of next month.

In a podcast posted on his website, Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said both parties might resume talks probably after Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines in January.

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Sison, who is in exile in the Netherlands, is also the chief political consultant of the NDFP, the political arm of the CPP that had been engaged in peace talks with the government for the past 27 years.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said on Friday that formal meetings had yet to happen for a possible resumption of the peace talks, but both parties were amenable to returning to the negotiating table to end more than four decades of communist insurgency.

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“I must state categorically that there have been no meetings between the GPH (government of the Philippines) and the NDF to discuss the possible resumption of talks. It is true, however, that friends of the process have been shuttling between the two parties to explore possible parameters for restarting talks at the earliest time possible,” Deles said in a statement released by Malacañang.

Sison remained pragmatic that the two parties would not be able to reach a final peace agreement within the Aquino administration, which will end in June 2016.

But at the very least, Sison told the Inquirer in a message that the two parties could reach agreements for social and economic reforms and a ceasefire.

“I think there is ample time to arrive at a Comprehensive Agreement of Social and Economic Reforms and a Truce and Cooperation Agreement on the basis of a general declaration of mutual intent,” Sison said.

“There is little time left to make all the agreements up to the final peace agreement, which is the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Deployment of Forces,” he added.

To the question if the NDFP wanted a final peace agreement with the Aquino administration like what the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did, Sison replied:

“The NDFP view is not like the MILF placing all hopes for a final peace agreement on the Aquino administration. At any rate, the two sides will still discuss how to accomplish more than what we can reasonably expect now.”

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Longest-running

The New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed wing, has been waging a Maoist-inspired war against the government for the past 45 years, considered one of the world’s longest-running communist rebellion.

The protracted war has claimed more than 40,000 lives, according to government figures. Despite a series of peace talks by successive presidents, peace remains elusive.

The peace negotiations have been stalled since 2004, with both parties adamant in pushing for their respective preconditions before the start of the negotiations.

The last breakdown of the talks occurred in February last year.

Positive feedback

Deles said “feedback has been positive” on the possible resumption of the talks, “but there remain matters to be clarified in order to ensure that, if ever we do resume talks, it will not go the same way of an early, major impasse that has happened too often in the past.”

“As we have repeatedly stated since the special negotiations track broke down in February, 2013, we want to resume talks on the basis of a doable and time-bound agenda,” Deles said.

“In keeping with the spirit and hope of the Christmas season, I would like to think that Mr. Sison’s very positive remarks indicate that common ground between the two parties may indeed be broadening toward the achievement of a just and durable peace that our people desire and deserve,” she said.

In its 46th founding anniversary statement on Dec. 26, the CPP said it did not expect a final agreement with the government during the term of President Aquino.

“There should be no illusion that the ongoing peace negotiations with the reactionary government will soon lead to comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political problems as bases for a just and lasting peace,” it said.

The NPA’s strength has dwindled to 4,000 fighters from a peak of more than 26,000 in the late 1980s, according to the military.

Goodwill gesture

In a goodwill gesture amid a Christmas ceasefire, the rebels on Friday released two soldiers held captive for four months in Bukidnon province, said military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

Rebel spokesperson Jorge Madlos said three more soldiers would be freed by January as a goodwill gesture.

But the NPA marked the anniversary of its founding on Friday with a call to intensify its guerilla campaign.

“(We) must seize and control the initiative by launching more frequent and sustained tactical offensives with occasional blows to the head of the enemy,” the NPA said in a statement.

Sincerity

The military declared a monthlong ceasefire with the NPA for the Christmas holidays and Pope Francis’s scheduled visit. The rebels said they would observe a shorter truce.

For negotiations between the government and communist rebels to succeed, the latter must prove their sincerity in seeking peace, according to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Trillanes, a former Navy officer, said he did not want the talks to be used as a tactical maneuver by the CPP.

For peace talks to succeed, it must be based on mutual trust, he said. “I don’t see that right now. The CPP-NPA-NDF should demonstrate more sincerity in their pursuit of peace. Otherwise, these talks would just be a tactical maneuver for them,” he said in a text message, when sought for his views on the prospect of the talks.

In Lucena City, the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), on Christmas Day, called on the NPA to abandon the armed struggle to solve the ills of society.

No winner

“It has been proven that nobody is a real winner in bloody armed conflicts. We are witness to the endless misery experienced by our own people, who are caught in the crossfire,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Solcom chief.

Last month, Visaya acknowledged that although the number of guerrillas in Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions continued to drop, the armed group remains a serious threat in southern Luzon.

He noted that civilians were killed in an attack staged by rebels in Paluan town in Occidental Mindoro province in November and in Pasacao town in Camarines Sur province in December

Visaya recalled that a woman was hit by NPA fire in Guinobatan town, Albay province, while attacking a military truck and that people were hurt in a grenade blast in Masbate province.

Suspected rebels also torched construction equipment in Paracale town, Camarines Norte province, on Dec. 22.

“We must reflect why we have allowed ourselves and our communities to endure 46 years of violence and senseless deaths among fellow Filipinos,” Visaya said. With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, AP and AFP

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TAGS: Aquino Administration, Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP, Jose Maria Sison, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, NDFP, Peace agreement, Peace Talks, Pope Francis, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Teresita Deles
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