Bandillo: The 5th round of Peace Talks to resume soon?

By RANDY FELIX P. MALAYAO
www.nordis.net

There is a great chance for the resumption of the stalled 5th round of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in August or September this year.

In a statement dated June 19, the Communist Party of the Philippines said it “anticipates the fifth round of peace negotiations to resume in around two or three months providing sufficient time for preparations to be undertaken by both parties.”

The Party acknowledges as well the GRP’s recommitment of its “adherence to all previously signed agreements including the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” a critical element in peace talks which enables NDFP negotiators and personnel to freely travel and participate in talks without threat of arrest or reprisal.

The Party also acknowledges the GRP chief negotiator’s declaration for the GRP not to undertake offensive operations against the New People’s Army.

“The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army,” Bello said in a statement, without specifying when such a suspension of government offensives would take effect and under what terms.

“It is a welcome development and is well appreciated by the revolutionary forces,” the CPP said.

Bello’s statement came following the reiteration of the NDFP that it supports the Philippine government’s fight against terrorist organizations in Marawi City and other parts of the country. 

Presently, GRP military, police and paramilitary forces in Mindanao remain on the offensive mode, carrying out reconnaisance, patrol and search and destroy operations against the NPA and the revolutionary masses.

According to the Mindanao-based commands of the NPA, AFP offensive operations against the NPA have heightened since the declaration of martial law and are currently ongoing in Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao City, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and still other Mindanao provinces.

Earlier, to encourage the continuation of peace talks, the NDFP Negotiating Panel has recommended to the CPP to order NPA units in Mindanao “to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against GRP forces.”

The NDFP said this will enable all forces “to concentrate against Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups and other fundamentalist extremists.”

But the CPP said their action on the NDFP recommendation “can be undertaken once conditions for it exist concretely.”

The CPP also reiterates the Filipino people’s demand for the Duterte regime to withdraw its February 2017 all out war policy order and immediately lift martial law in Mindanao.

On the Maasin incident

In the central town of Maasin, Iloilo, about 50 members of the New People’s Army stormed a police station and seized 12 rifles and pistols, two-way radios, laptop computers, jewelry, and a patrol car. 

NPA’s Coronacion Chiva Waling Waling Command claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that they waged the assault to punish Maasin policemen for their alleged involvement in extortion and for failing to stop the spread of illegal drugs and gambling.

Presidential spokesperson Abella called the attack “opportunistic.”

In a statement, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP peace panel chairperson said Abella’s statement was “baseless, unfair and unwarranted.” He said there was no ceasefire in place between the forces. 

“What is in place are recommendatory gestures of goodwill by both Parties to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against each other’s forces in Mindanao,” he said.

Despite the clashes between the government and the NPAs, Abella said there is no instruction from President Rodrigo Duterte to discontinue the peace negotiations.

JASIG list reconstituted

The updated/reconstituted Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) list was recently deposited in The Netherlands. The list, encrypted in USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash disks and a back up security drive (sd) and locked in a safety deposit box, contains photographs and real identities of NDF consultants who are still underground.

The list also include consultants who have already surfaced and are physically participating in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government (GRP) and the NDF. The JASIG-covered rebel consultants were issued letters of authority (LAs) by GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello, which they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

JASIG-protected persons are guaranteed free movement and freedom from arrest, surveillance, interrogation and similar actions in connection with their involvement or participation in the peace negotiations for the duration of the peace talks.

Immunities cover acts, statements, materials, information and data made during or resulting from the peace negotiations. # nordis.net

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