NDF, not us, walked out of peace talks—Aquino
After the historic meeting of President Benigno Aquino III with Moro secessionist group chieftain Murad Ebrahim in 2011 to jump-start the peace process, the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) has expressed its willingness to engage in a similar kind of talk, with its founder Jose Ma. Sison as its representative.
But President Aquino told Inquirer editors and reporters on Tuesday that while he did hear about that proposal, it was never formally presented to him.
“Formally, I don’t think I ever received that (proposal)… But you phrased it correctly, that it was after the Murad meeting, sometime after that. But what was on the table had no significant change so we thought it was just propaganda,” Mr. Aquino said.
The President said his administration did not abandon the peace process with the NDF.
‘Envious’ of MILF
“They walked out. How do we proceed with the peace process if we go back to the long dragged out and no-compromising position?” Mr. Aquino said.
From a well-placed source, the Inquirer learned that the NDF felt “envious” of the Aquino-Murad meeting that its leaders sent word to emissaries soon after and thought of proposing a special track that would include a meeting between the President and Sison.
Sison’s team, in fact, timed a travel to Indonesia from Europe to coincide with President Aquino’s trip to another Southeast Asian country in case the Chief Executive agreed to the proposal to meet.
Mr. Aquino’s successor, Rodrigo Duterte, has been posturing to strike peace with the communist rebels, offering their compatriots Cabinet posts.
Duterte is also set to grant amnesty to all political prisoners in a bid to end the four-decade-old communist insurgency, the longest in Asia.
The peace talks between the Aquino administration and the communist rebels broke down in 2013.
Proposal for talks
Mr. Aquino recalled that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had a “proposal supposedly coming from Jose Maria Sison that talked about how to resolve this issue, such as employment for their fighters, something like five items and all of those proposals were very doable.”
“And the people we sent all came back and basically said he (Sison) looked very sincere that they wanted this to happen. I am quoting from my memory and how I understood it,” the President said.
But he recalled that “the line broke down” after Sison took back the proposal when the two parties clashed on the implementation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
The Jasig protects NDF consultants from arrests by the state. Earlier, the NDF saved in a diskette its list of consultants—with their real names, photographs and aliases
—which was kept in a vault but got corrupted over time.
The government declined the NDF’s proposal to reconstruct the list.
“They wanted to repopulate the list, but they were going to put in too many names. They used that as a pretext to walk out of the talks. I want to emphasize that we didn’t stop the talks, they stopped it,” Mr. Aquino said.