By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — A Catholic leader sees localized peace talks working and complimenting the peace efforts between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDFP), only if “taken in its proper context” as part of the national negotiations.
Kalookan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias S. Iñiguez, head of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform secretariat, expressed this view on Wednesday, August 28, during an interview with Nordis.
He said the government’s proposal for local peace engagement can positively serve the over-all peace efforts between the two parties if utilized as means to promote and discuss the overall agenda of the talks and the proposals of both parties to the wider public.
“They should now that it must be taken as part of the negotiations at the national level,” said the prelate in mixed Filipino and English, adding that, “the more are involved in the talks, the better.”
Primacy of top-level talks
However, the Catholic prelate underscored the primacy of top-level negotiations undertaken by the designated peace panels of the GRP and NDFP over the engagements at the local level.
“This [local talks] is considered part of the overall peace negotiations na dapat bigyan ng importansya at hindi dapat basta pabayaan na lang nila,” explained Iñiguez.
He proposed that both sides can tackle specific concerns in the local level and inform their respective panels on the result for their perusal. While those on the negotiating table can provide guidance to their local units on what matters to discuss.
NDFP consultant Randy Malayao said that revolutionary forces continue to engage local officials on local concerns that affect the people. He added however that there are bigger and key concerns on the current civil war that only the negotiating panels can address.
Malayao, member of the NDFP panel’s Technical Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms, explained that local talks can not resolve the issues fueling the armed conflict in the country like foreign domination, feudal exploitation, and bureaucrat-capitalism.
Iñiguez and Malayao were in the city for the launching of PEPP Cordillera spearheaded by the Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera. The organizers said they invited the GRP Panel through Secretary Silvestre Bello but they said they had prior schedules to attend to.
Optimistic for peace
Iñiguez expressed his dismay over President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the talks, calling it a “big setback” for the group’s advocacy and the entire peace efforts in the country.
Despite this, the bishop remains optimistic the peace talks will resume and move forward “for the good of everybody” and “come up with a favorable agreements.”
For the NDFP’s part, Malayao said they remain open to negotiate as long as the GRP shows sincerity by upholding all previous agreements and refrain from imposing preconditions.
“President Duterte has not disbanded or dissolve the GRP panel, so we take that as a sign that the resumption of talks is still possible,” he said.
The peace process was terminated last November 2017 after Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360, followed by Proclamation No. 347 the following month tagging the CPP and NPA as ‘terrorist organizations.’ # nordis.net