“Discreet” 5th round of GRP-NDF talks canceled after Duterte junks peace negotiation

DAVAO CITY – The peace negotiation between government (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) again suffered a major setback with the cancellation of the discreet fifth round of talks on November 25 to 27 in Oslo, Norway.

On Thursday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Proclamation 360 ordering the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and the government peace negotiators to stop all peace talks with the communists for failing to show “sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged on acts of violence and hostilities, endangering the lives and properties of innocent people.”

Members of the New People’s Army of Northern Mindanao Guerilla Front 68 in formation during a ceremony in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag town in Bukidnon in this file photo taken last April 17, 2017 when the NPA released a police officer it earlier held captive. MIndaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

In a statement Friday, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison said the GRP and NDF peace panels have agreed on three common drafts during their unannounced meetings in the past months.

Sison said the peace talks were to be kept “discreet until there would be good news to announce at the end of the fifth or sixth round of formal talks.”

Sison, Duterte’s former professor in Political Thought, said both parties would have met last November 22 and 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands to do a “little polishing” of the agreed common drafts before the resumption of the fifth round of talks, which was cancelled in May 2017.

The common drafts included the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); coordinated unilateral ceasefires; and Part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, he said.

Sison said both parties were confident they could achieve a positive outcome in the closing session of the 5th round of formal talks and were looking forward to striking a deal during the supposed 6th round of talks in January 2018.

After this, he said, both panels would discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms in the 6th round and conclude it between March and May 2018 in time for the possible revision of the 1987 Constitution.

He questioned whether Duterte is “mentally fit” to handle the “complexities of the affairs of his state” after he terminated the talks Thursday citing the continuous attacks by the NPA, armed wing of the CPP.

All signed agreements, including the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, will be rendered ineffective after 30 days upon receipt of the formal notice of termination by the other party.

Sison criticized the President for using the recent NPA attacks as a “false basis” in his decision to back out from the peace talks and his threat to outlaw the legal fronts of the communists as terrorists.

Citing the CARHRIHL, Sison said Duterte should have submitted his complaints to the Joint Monitoring Committee through the government panel like the NDF did with alleged violations of the agreement committed by government forces under the all-out war policy, Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao.

He said the violations committed by the police and military are “far worse in scale and severity than those alleged by Duterte against the NPA” but that the communists did not threaten to terminate the peace talks.

He dismissed the President’s allegation that the NDF has been ignoring “the GRP proposal for a stand down agreement prior to the adoption and implementation of the coordinated unilateral ceasefire.”

“GRP officials in his Cabinet and the reactionary armed forces should consider whether he is mentally fit for his office or needs to be replaced in accordance with their 1987 Constitution,” he said.

In a press briefing on Friday, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla discussed why they supported the President in his decision to drop the talks with the communists.

Padilla said they recorded 353 crimes allegedly committed by the NPA in Eastern Mindanao and 16 in Central Mindanao from January 1 to November 6, including harassments in military camps and other areas, arson, ambush, kidnapping and robbery.

He said the rebels destroyed properties worth P2.18 billion so far this year, an increase from the P101.56 million for the entire 2016.

“They are destroying the economy and the number of violent incidents that they are doing is increasing,” he said.

Padilla added the NPA killed 64 military and police officers and members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, and 70 civilians, including four-month old Walysha Machorao, in the November 9 ambush against a police patrol car in Bukidnon.

The attacks wounded 127 military and police officers and 13 civilians wounded, and resulted in the disappearance of 28 civilians, he said.

“We will continue to do our mandate and perform and ensure the safety of our communities,” he said.

He said the martial law in Mindanao will continue to address the movement and presence of terrorist elements and criminals. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)