NDFP ready to sign joint ceasefire accord
ROME—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is not shutting its door on a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and is even willing to sign it anytime, the chief negotiator of the communist movement said.
But the revolutionary movement has specific requisites before they can agree on it, NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said.
Agcaoili denied speculations that the NDFP is aversive to a joint ceasefire agreement. On the contrary, he said “there are things that can be talked about.”
He said the fate of the bilateral ceasefire agreement would be based on the conditions on the ground in the coming days.
According to the NDFP emissary, what worries his camp is the reported cases of continuing military presence in many communities.
“With respect to the bilateral ceasefire, it is something that can be worked out provided the conditions for such a ceasefire are complied with. We have raised the questions of continuing militarization in the countryside, occupation of schools, daycare centers and even private residences,” Agcaoili said.
Government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III considers the NDFP’s statement reassuring as President Duterte is pushing for a joint ceasefire agreement to replace the 5-month-old unilateral ceasefire declarations.
“I was very encouraged because he (Agcaoili) merely underscored the need for a bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Bello said.
Bello explained that a bilateral ceasefire agreement would help set clear definitions and parameters for the temporary cessation of hostilities.
“Because if you do not have one you won’t know the violations,” he said.
Within the five-month period of the unilateral ceasefire declarations, both parties have accused each other of violating their own ceasefire orders.
At the beginning of the third round of talks, the NDFP submitted a list of 86 violations allegedly committed by state forces, while the government also submitted its own list of violations reportedly perpetrated by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.
On Saturday, both parties signed a supplemental agreement that would operationalize the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and process complaints of human rights violations.
“Hopefully, the JMC will expedite the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will address the alleged issues of government violations and provocative and prohibited acts of NPA rebels,” Bello said.
While the issue on the release of the remaining 392 political prisoners is still on the table, Agcaoili said this concern is separate from the discussions for a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Agcaoili said the demand for the release of political prisoners is not a precondition for a bilateral ceasefire agreement but is a matter of justice and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Meanwhile, Bello affirmed that President Duterte is committed to his earlier pronouncement to release prisoners but has appealed for understanding that certain legal and judicial processes must be observed.
Both parties are still engaging in both formal and backchannel discussions for the release of prisoners and bilateral ceasefire agreement.
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