62 House Reps urge Duterte to resume peace talks with NDF

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 March) — Sixty-two members of different party-list groups and district representatives in the House of Representatives have signed a resolution urging President Rodrigo R. Duterte to resume peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte ordered the cancellation of the fifth round of talks in Norway in November last year and in early December issued a Proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) which the NDF is representing in the peace talks,  as “terrorist” organizations. Duterte, however, has not disbanded his peace panel.

House Resolution 1803 on March 22 urged Duterte to resume the peace talks with the communists and continue the discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), dubbed as the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political Reforms (CAPCR).

Members of the GPH and NDFP peace panels exchange pleasantries during the resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway on Monday (Aug. 22, 2016). File Photo courtesy of Edwin Espejo

Among the signatories of the House Resolution are 22 party-list reps, among them the Makabayan Bloc ofACT Teachers, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan, Akbayan, Coop-Natcco, YACAP, Senior Citizens, 1-Edukasyon, Sagip AKo Bicol, ABS, Kabayan, Manila Teachers, AMin, Agbiag, Agri.

Among the 40 district representatives who co-authored the resolution are Mindanawon Representatives Ruby Sahali of Tawi-tawi, currently chair of the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity; Maximo Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Zajid Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Bukidnon’s Manuel Zubiri and Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, Davao Oriental’s Joel Mayo Almario, Davao Occidental’s Lorna Bautista-Bandigan, and Agusan del Norte’s Leopoldo Bataoil and Lawrence Fortun.

The House has 292 members.

The resolution said they believe the resumption of the peace talks would “benefit the Filipino people most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreements on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for the economic hardships.”

They added that the government (GRP) and NDF must forge substantive agreements that will address the root causes of the nearly-five decade armed conflict.

Not necessary but …

In a statement Sunday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza welcomed Resolution 1803 and the representatives’ “interest in the continuation of the peace process.”

But Dureza added that “while such a Resolution is not necessary as the presence of an enabling environment will be the sole determining factor, the collective voice from Congress can very well contribute to that desired enabling environment that can be basis for the desired resumption of the peace talks.”

Duterte signed Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017, terminating the scheduled fifth rounds on November 25 to 27 in Oslo, Norway “for lack of sincerity,” following the November 9 ambush of a police patrol car in Bukidnon by members of the NPA, the communists’ armed wing, and killed four-month old Walysha Machorao.

The President subsequently issued Proclamation 374 designating the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA as terrorist organizations.

The government and NDF peace panels would have met in Utrecht, The Netherlands to polish the three previously agreed common drafts on November 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands before proceeding to the supposed fifth round of talks in Norway.

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 as the advance in January 2018; and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The resolution added that the lawmakers believe it is the cause for “just and lasting peace” that both parties must resume the peace talks.

It added under the Duterte administration, drafts of CAPCR were also crafted, the farthest point reached by both parties in the history of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations compared with the previous administrations.

A press release issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) on March 7 said Duterte will create a task force that will focus on addressing key concerns confronting the island-region’s indigenous peoples is set to be created.

“The President emphasized the need for greater convergence among national government line agencies on IP concerns,” Dureza said

He explained this body will be tasked to consolidate IP-related issues as well as development priorities, which will then be integrated into existing governance mechanisms. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)