DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 August) – Ceasefire between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) is best discussed during the first round of formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway on August 20 to 27, NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni said, as he defended the New People’s Army (NPA) use of command-detonated landmines, claiming there is no ceasefire yet and it is not a violation of the Geneva Convention and the Ottawa Treaty.
Jalandoni said that when the detained NDF consultants protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) are released and get travel documents before August 20, “it would be better than not to resume formal peace talks on August 20-27, 2016 because it is during the formal talks that the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels can discuss the mode of ceasefire and how best to arrange this,” Jalandoni said in a statement e-mailed to media outlets at 10:31 p.m. on Sunday.
Reacting to Duterte’s early Sunday statement in Davo City that he would call off the talks if the NDF uses landmines again, Jalandoni said, “we wish to point out that the use of command-detonated land mines is not violative of the Geneva Convention and the Ottawa Treaty.”
He said NPA “can use these weapons in its military operations inasmuch as there is yet no ceasefire of any kind which is valid and effective between the NPA and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”
Jalandoni said the resumption of formal talks is necessary “to allow both negotiating panels to take up the mode of ceasefire, as stated in the Joint Statement signed in Oslo on June 15, 2016.”
He said they understand Duterte’s sentiments “in his official capacity and not at a personal level” because as commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “he has the duty to show official and personal concern for his troops and mourn their death as casualties of war.”
Duterte early Sunday said the NDF “can say goodbye to the peace talks” if he hears another landmine explosion.
“I am not pleading this time. That’s an ultimatum. If I hear another explosion killing people, not only soldiers … no talks, pasensya na” (I’m sorry), Duterte announced at around 1 a.m. Sunday at the covered court of the Naval Station Felix Apolinario (NSFA) or Camp Panacan, after talking to the families of four soldiers slain on August 5 in two separate clashes with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Monkayo and Maragusan towns in Compostela Valley province.
“I would insist you include the landmine issues, or else no (peace) talks at all. Then, we fight for another 45 years,” he warned.
The three soldiers slain in Monkayo town were ambushed by NPA guerrillas who used high-powered firearms and a landmine, the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said.
Better at the nego table
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the issue of landmines is better discussed during the formal resumption of the talks when the parties will tackle the declaration of a ceasefire.
“The use of command-detonated explosives (CODEX) is not specifically prohibited by international laws and conventions, especially if used against a combatant enemy force. What is clearly prohibited is its use against civilians. Even the independent Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) has advanced the same comment with regard the use of CODEX by the NPAs. Nonetheless, the negotiating panels of the GRP and NDFP can very well establish modalities and guidelines on this issue.”
The PBCL in a statement Sunday said they have been “trying to convince the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to unilaterally declare that they will not use landmines.”
“The command-detonated improvised landmines used by the NPA have the same effects as the globally banned anti-personnel landmines that violate international humanitarian law (IHL).”
The NPA owned up the August 5 ambush, in a statement issued by Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command.
He said the NPA “successfully ambushed a company of the 25th IB in Sitio Inuburan, Brgy. Rizal, killing 5 AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops, seizing two M203 grenade launchers, one M4 rifles, Harris radios, and several other military hardware.”
Only three soldiers, not five were killed in that ambush but 10 soldiers were also injured. A female guerrilla was also slain, her body recovered by the soldiers. Another soldier was killed in a clash with the NPA in Maragusan town afternoon of August 5 but another NPA guerrilla was also killed. In the outskirts of Valencia City on the same day, a soldier was also killed in yet another clash with the NPA.
While still President-elect, Duterte sent then incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and then incoming government panel chair Silvestre Bello III to Oslo, to meet with Jalandoni and NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison, Duterte’s professor in Political Thought at the Lyceum University in the 1960s.
In a Joint Statement, the parties agreed on a five-point agenda for what was supposed to be talks scheduled for July: 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 JASIG list; Amnesty Proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners, subject to concurrence by Congress; and mode of interim ceasefire.
They also agreed 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 negotiations;” and the “immediate release of prisoners/detainees based on humanitarian grounds.”
The Oslo talks will be the first round of formal peace negotiations under the Duterte administration. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)