DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Sept) – The New People’s Army (NPA) will remain but will have a new role after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni said.
Jalandoni told a peace forum at the Holy Cross of Davao College last Friday that “mananatili ang NPA” (the NPA will remain) to assist government in protecting farmers, communities, forests, and even in the implementation of land reform and industrialization.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and NPA, (pag) wala nang away – ano ngayon ang gagawin? Sabi namin, ang NPA hindi magsusurender ng arms, gagamitin pa din nila to defend yung mga communities at lahat itong organizations (When there is no longer a conflict between AFP and NPA, what are we going to do now? We told them that the NPA will not give up their firearms because they can use that to defend the communities and other organizations),” he said.
He added that NPA combatants can be hired as forest guards to prevent abuse of natural resources and prevent deforestation, help in the implementation of land reform, and assist in the industrialization efforts.
The NDF peace panel chair gave this reply when a reporter asked how he sees forming a coalition government with the Duterte administration.
“The coalition government – that will have to be taken up pagka-natapos na ang lahat ng agreement at meron nang isang Comprehensive Peace Agreement, at sasabihin wala nang gyera kasi comprehensive na (The coalition government – that will have to be taken up after the signing of all agreements and we would have the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that would put and end to the armed conflict),” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said no to a coalition government but assured it will be an “inclusive government.” Duterte also pointed to his appointment of Cabinet secretaries coming from the left even before the peace negotiations with the NDF could begin.
Government peace panel member Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad told a press briefing Monday last week that the two panels have been exchanging drafts on the bilateral ceasefire agreement before both panels return to the peace table on October 6 to 10 in Oslo, Norway.
She said it is necessary that both panels agree on a bilateral ceasefire agreement so that they can freely move around to hold consultations with the stakeholders on the remaining substantive agenda, most especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER), dubbed as the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.
CASER contains the most contentious issues on agrarian reform, national industrialization, and foreign policy.
Jalandoni said they are expected to come out with the bilateral ceasefire agreement next month.
In their Joint Statement issued at the end of the first round of formal peace talks in Oslo on August 26, the two parties, which had separately declared a unilateral ceasefire, agreed to continue it indefinitely while their ceasefire committees “reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral agreement within 60 days” or until October 25.
In the second round, Jalandoni said the two panels will discuss the CASER, Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR), and End of Hostilities-Disposition of Forces (EHDF).
In the first round of formal talks, the panels formed Reciprocal Working Groups (RWGs) and Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) whose members have been holding meetings in the Philippine to expedite the forging a Comprehensive Peace Agreement within a year.
Jalandoni added both parties agreed to revitalize the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
He said the JMC during the past Aquino administration was “not very functional.”
Jalandoni noted that there were people receiving complaints but the joint secretariat should be under the JMC. The government panel then said the JMC could not meet if the panels don’t meet.
He said JMC, composed of three members from the GRP and another three from the NDFP met at the Norwegian embassy in the country last week to discuss how they can have the JMC work efficiently. (Antonio L. Colina IV/ MindaNews)