Gov’t, NDF came close to sealing peace deal
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Communist rebels waging one of the longest insurgencies in the world and the Philippine government came close to sealing a peace agreement in December 2014, when the Aquino administration sent emissaries to The Netherlands to hold secret, backroom talks with leaders of the local communist movement.
Luis Jalandoni, head of the peace panel of the National Democratic Front (NDF) of the Philippines, said a draft peace agreement was signed on Dec. 8, 2014, by NDF leaders and a team of emissaries led by former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza.
According to Jalandoni, Braganza’s team went to The Netherlands in February, October and December 2014 for informal talks with the peace panel of the NDF, an umbrella organization of underground leftist groups supporting the communist insurgency in the countryside.
Jalandoni, a former priest, said the draft peace agreement was authenticated by Elisabeth Slattum, Royal Norwegian government special envoy.
The Norwegian government is brokering peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist insurgents.
The document, according to Jalandoni, proposes “truce and cooperation within the term of the Aquino government.”
He said Braganza’s group returned on Feb. 18, 2015, and both parties drafted a proposal for truce and cooperation that would be presented to the government.
But it was a bad time for the Aquino administration, which was facing its worst political crisis following the deaths of 44 police commandos in a covert counterterrorism operation that backfired in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.
“These efforts were rebuffed and set aside by [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] Secretary Teresita Deles and not acted on by [the government and] President Aquino. The Braganza team was disauthorized,” Jalandoni said.
He said the peace initiatives of Braganza’s group, the NDF negotiating panel and the Royal Norwegian government special envoy “[came] to naught.”
‘Check the facts’
Jalandoni disclosed the secret talks after presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda called the communist leaders liars, accusing them of being uninterested in resuming peace talks with the government.
“[Lacierda] should check the facts before pronouncing the false claim that ‘they (NDF) refused to come to the table,’” Jalandoni said in a statement on Thursday.
Lacierda spoke after six policemen were killed in an ambush by communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Baggao, Cagayan province, on Tuesday.
Lacierda said the NDF “refused to come to the table” and “made many conditions” for the resumption of peace talks.
Jalandoni said responsibility for the failure of the talks “lies squarely on Secretary Deles and President Aquino.”
Jose Maria Sison, exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said Mr. Aquino was no longer interested in the resumption of peace talks.
“Mr. Aquino does not care about the peace negotiation,” Sison said in an online interview.
He said Deles and former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista did not want to pursue peace talks with communist rebels because they were “convinced that the government could defeat the NPA and what they wanted to achieve was force the rebels to surrender.”
The NDF has been engaged in on-and-off negotiations with the government for the past 27 years. Formal peace negotiations have been stalled since February 2011.
The NDF has been demanding the release of detained communist leaders before the resumption of negotiations, saying the jailed rebels are covered by provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by rebel leaders and government officials in 1995.
The government, however, rejected the demand and kept the communist leaders in detention.
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