SOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN MINDANAO (MindaNews/26 July) – Communist rebels are still willing to continue the peace negotiations with the government even if President Benigno Aquino III failed to say something about it in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, a senior rebel leader said.
Jorge Madlos, National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson in Mindanao, told MindaNews on Tuesday inside their guerilla base that the peace talks with the government is an “on and off business.”
Along with his comrades, Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, monitored Aquino’s SONA using a projector screen attached to a laptop with TV tuner inside a makeshift tent.
The 64-year old rebel spokesperson blamed the government for non-compliance to some of the agreements that hampered the peace process.
Madlos noted that every administration “has about a year trying to prove that they are for the peaceful settlement” of the long-running communist rebellion in the country.
He said there were effort for peace talks during the first year of the Aquino administration, but it bogged down because the government failed to fulfill its promise to release senior NDF consultants from prison.
One of the preconditions of the NDF for the resumption of the peace talks has been the immediate release of 14 persons it claimed as its consultants who are protected by the JASIG.
“There are many commitments that the government has reneged. For example, the validation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and validation of all the other agreements in the past. These are the things that dragged the peaceful negotiation,” he said.
Madlos also accused the government of resorting to militarization to solve the communist insurgency.
The negotiating panels of the government and the NDF met in Oslo, Norway last month. It was their first meeting in more than a year since the peace negotiations bogged down.
“For the NPA (New People’s Army), CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NDF, we are very much willing to continue the peace talks. And we will exert all efforts so that the peace negotiations can prosper,” Madlos assured.
He also disclosed that the government has attempted to revive the idea of localizing the peace talks but it was rejected by the NDF because of an agreement that disallowed peace talks in the local level.
“For us it is not working. They are trying to introduce this as a matter of tactic to divide and rule,” Madlos said.
He added the government should not blame the communist movement for the derailed peace talks.
“In the first place, the guerillas, who are in a life and death struggle, are very interested towards a peaceful settlement,” he said.
Established in 1968, the CPP, though its armed wing, the NPA, has been the longest-running communist revolution in Asia. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)