DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 June) – After four years in limbo, formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will resume on the third week of July in Oslo, Norway under the Duterte administration.
“Done! We are signing joint statement in a while,” Jesus Dureza, returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said in a text message to MindaNews at 11:51 p.m. (5:51 p.m. in Norway) on June 15.
The agreement, contained in a two-page Joint Statement that Dureza said was signed at 6 p.m. in Norway (12 midnight in the Philippines) was reached at the end of the two-day informal talks (June 14 and 15) between President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s delegation and the NDF, held at the sidelines of the Oslo Forum.
The formal talks, the two parties agreed “shall be conducted in accordance with previously signed agreements.”
The parties agreed on a five-point agenda for the July talks: the affirmation of previously signed agreements; accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces; reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASISG) list; Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress; and mode of interim ceasefire.
The agreement also provides that the government panel under Duterte will recommend to the President the “immediate release of NDFP consultants and other JASIG-protected persons in accordance with the JASIG to enable them to participate in the peace negotiatons;” and the “immediate release of prisoners/detainees based on humanitarian grounds.”
NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni told DZMM on May 18 that there are currently 543 political prisoners, 88 of whom are sick and elderly. Out of the total, 18 are NDF peace consultants while three were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Joint Statement, a copy of which was posted by Dureza on his Facebook wall, was signed by him, incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello who is also returning as government peace panel chair and returning peace panel member Hernani Braganza; and for the NDFP, Jalandoni, peace panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili and Jose Ma. Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines and NDFP chief political consultant.
Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum, the Royal Norwegian Government’s Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process, signed as witness.
The parties said they signed the Joint Statement “for authentication purposes of what was discussed and approved in Oslo, Norway this 15th day of June 2016.”
In an earlier post from Oslo, Dureza said that by 11 p.m. on June 14 (5 a.m. June 15 in the Philippines), at the end of their first-day five-hour talks in Leysebu Hotel at the outskirts of Oslo, the two parties “agreed that since the government participants have not yet assumed office, the consensus points, if any, will be initialed for authentication purposes at the close of the informal talks and to be formalized soon after President-elect Duterte’s government has assumed office.”
The Duterte administration takes over on June 30, 2016 and will bow out of office on June 30, 2022.
Dureza described the talks as “smooth sailing in all points “ because Duterte “made it possible.’
“He provided the conducive atmosphere to make this happen,” Dureza said.
On May 16, exactly a week after Duterte won by a landslide, he announced his first appointees for the Cabinet and offered the Communist Party of the Philippines four departments to head “if they decide to join my government.” He offered the departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, Labor and Employment, and Social Wealfare and Development.
A week later, Agcaoili and NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad met with Duterte for three hours in a Davao City hotel to discuss details on the resumption of the peace talks. Agcaoili also submitted a list of nominees for possible Cabinet appointees.
A week later, Duterte, who describes himself as a “socialist” and the “first Left President of the Philippines,” met with Agcaoili, NDF panel member and spokesperson, and consultant Vicente Ladlad for three hours to discuss details on the resumption of the peace talks. Agcaoili also submitted a list of nominees for possible Cabinet appointees.
On June 2, Duterte presented to the press incoming members of his Cabinet, including former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano as Secretary of Agrarian Reform, University of the Philippines Professor Judy Taguiwalo as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, former Kilusang Mayo Uno Secretary-General Joel Maglungsod as Labor Undersecretary. He also promised to give the post of National Anti-Poverty Commission chair to the Left. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)