‘Substantive issues’ can only be tackled in peace talks – Joma

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 05 April) – The resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front will enable both parties to thresh out substantive issues and deal with complaints and demands, Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison said.

In a statement Wednesday, Sison said that through the talks the two sides can achieve “substantial success” and present their conflicting positions and achieve solutions to problems on mutually acceptable grounds.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over the 24th Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañang Palace on April 4, 2018 where he directed the government peace panel to work on the resumption of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front “to give this another last chance.” Ace Morandante / Presidential Photo

“Without a formal meeting of the panels, there can only be an acrimonious public exchange of complaints and demands, which appear or sound like the preconditions prohibited by The Hague Joint Declaration,” he added.

Sison said the framework agreement requires that neither side shall impose preconditions that negate the character and purpose of peace negotiations.

“As a matter of course, the two panels shall reaffirm all the existing agreements by way of ending the previous termination of the peace negotiations. It logically follows that the two panels shall cooperate in doing away with the obstacles and hindrances to the agreements and to the entire peace process,” he said.

Both parties were supposed to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) during the fifth round of talks on November 25 to 27 last year.

But it was aborted when Duterte, reacting to a series of attacks by the New People’s Army, issued Presidential Proclamation 360 on November 23 terminating the talks “for lack of sincerity” on the part of the rebel group.

The President subsequently issued Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations.

NDF chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison. Photo courtesy of NDF International Information Office

Before the talks collapsed the two parties had already agreed on three common drafts on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, coordinated unilateral ceasefires, part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and part II National Industrialization and Economic Development.

Sison described agrarian reform and rural development, and national industrialization and economic development as the most important features of the CASER, dubbed the “heart and soul” of GRP-NDF peace negotiations.

He added both parties have drafted an agr­­eement on the coordinated ceasefires, a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement Wednesday that Duterte wanted to give the talks “another last chance” but that the NPA should stop “revolutionary taxation” and attacks on private companies.

On March 31 and April 1, suspected NPA rebels burned heavy equipment in Barangay Callawa in Buhangin District, Barangay Fatima in Paquibato District and in Calinan, all in Davao City. Damage was placed at P65 million.

Duterte also wanted both parties to sign a ceasefire agreement.

“President Duterte directed during the cabinet meeting today to work on the resumption of peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” Dureza said.

Pace talks between the GRP and NDF formally resumed on August 22 to 26, 2016 in Oslo Norway, after a five-year impasse. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)