Local peace talks with Reds urged

Councilor Jimmy Dureza told reporters Tuesday that dialogue should be pursued  by local governments even if the peace process between the government and the CPP-NPA had been abandoned.

Dureza said the efforts should be characterized by "confidence building measures" so that the guns could be silenced in the meantime.

Dureza, brother of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza, said it could be done even if the efforts do not really end up with "concrete things" in the formal peace talks.

He said sitting down and building peace through discussions could keep the peacefulness in areas where there are encounters between government forces and the rebels.

Dureza said the city government may use the city council's peace and order committee to start the talks. Dureza chairs the peace and order committee.

He said Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is the regional peace and order council chair in Southeastern Mindanao, reacted positively to the plan.   

Dureza said local initiatives for peace with the rebels could be used as a model for other local governments nationwide.

He said the rebels and local governments have the same concerns in the community. They can help discuss issues like the problem of ancestral domain among indigenous peoples, he said.

He said the rebels are also concerned with livelihood and environmental protection, which are also concerns of the local government. 

Dureza noted he has started to build mutual trust with the local rebel's leadership. But he denied being among the politicians who, the military said, cuddle the NPA’s Kumander Parago when he’s in the city.

Dureza, however, acknowledged that the initiatives would be difficult because while local governments aspire to have peace in their areas, the national government is spending billions to fund its anti insurgency drive.

Early this month the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched its sequel to Oplan Bantay Laya (Guarding Freedom) to defeat the communist rebels by 2010. 

He agreed there is a mismatch between the local initiatives for peace and the war policy. Government, he said, should address the problem of poverty in the countryside, instead of spending money to fund the war against the rebels.

Local peace talks with the NPA were also suggested shortly after EDSA in 1986 and rites were held in Laac, Davao del Norte in August 1986. But an ambush on an Army truck by the NPA did not prove conducive to the holding of local talks. NDF-Mindanao’s top members met with a regional political leader identified with President Arroyo on August 21, 1986 but the local or Mindanao-wide talks did not push through.

In the talks under the Arroyo administration, NDF negotiators withdrew from the talks in August 2004 in protest of the government's alleged failure to exert efforts to have the CPP-NPA and communist party founder and NDF political consultant, Jose Ma. Sison,  removed from the US' list of foreign terrorist organizations.

In July 2006, the NDF called for the continuation of formal negotiations with the government in the wake of the Armed Forces' renewed anti-insurgency campaign.

Malacañang wants the military and the police establishments to end insurgency in the critical areas throughout the country in two years and ordered the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to release P1 billion to the Armed Forces and the PNP to boost their capability in fighting the rebels.

Then NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the government's all-out war policy is not to answer to the insurgency problem "but in fact will lead to further economic ruin and further escalate human rights violations and will create more internally displaced persons consisting mostly of women, elderly and children." (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)