Palace to issue EO on localized peace talks with Reds

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 July) – Malacañang will issue an executive order setting the guidelines for the localized peace talks that local government units may hold with New People’s Army (NPA) units operating in their respective areas, presidential spokesperson Harry S. Roque said.

Roque said during a Palace briefing on Thursday that the guiding framework for such response to the armed conflict was agreed during a cabinet meeting Wednesday but that he has no knowledge when it will be released.

Government will pursue local peace talks if the rebel leaders continue to ignore the conditions set by President Rodrigo Duterte such as the holding of negotiations in the country instead of in a foreign venue.

Duterte also told the rebels to stop collecting “revolutionary tax” and staging attacks, confine their fighters to their camps and junk their demand for a coalition government.

Roque said the guidelines state that the localized peace negotiation “is nationally orchestrated, centrally directed and locally supervised and implemented,” should not compromise the constitutional integrity and sovereignty, and shall cover the NPA, its organs of political power and Militia ng Bayan for a complete and genuine resolution of the local armed conflict.

It cites the constitutional mandate of the state to protect public safety, civilian welfare, critical infrastructure and private properties and rule of law and order at all times even if both parties agree to a ceasefire, he said.

Roque also mentioned “government goodwill, full amnesty package based on disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration to the mainstream of society.”

He said the substantive agenda will be based on the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan and Philippine Development Program 2040.

He said there would be four types of localized peace engagements such as the talks which would have a third party facilitator, community dialogue, local peace package and confidential dialogue.

A community dialogue includes informal open communication line and liaison network to facilitate peace package, social media exploitation, community pressure on the fighters to participate in the local peace process, he said.

He said local peace package means providing support without going through a peace negotiation while confidential dialogue targets combatants who wish to lie low without open documentation and without availing of the peace package program.

Last July 8, Department of Interior and Local Government OIC Secretary Eduardo Año said a working group was created to craft the guidelines for the localized peace talks if the national level negotiation with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) would not push through.

Año said they would now push this approach after the rebel leaders declared they would rather oust the President than talk peace.

“In light of the Left’s pronouncement that they would rather oust the President than talk peace, we have no choice but to push for localized peace talks because decisions and agreements will be more genuine and enforceable,”Año said.

Under the guidelines, he said, Regional Peace and Order Councils and Regional Development Councils would be the main platforms for peace initiatives.

He told the local officials not to concede any aspect of governance to the rebels.

The secretary said the localized peace talks would have more impact because it would be more participatory and responsive to the specific needs and situation of the people on the ground.

The Communist Party of the Philippines last month said Duterte cancelled the scheduled resumption of peace negotiations to allow the military to continue with its all-out offensive against the NPA.

“By calling off the scheduled peace negotiations with the NDFP, Duterte aims to give the AFP more time to complete its military campaign plan for 2018 of mounting bigger offensives under Oplan Kapayapaan in the hope of crippling the NPA and inducing the NDFP to negotiate a surrender,” said the CPP.

Last month, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced Duterte cancelled the talks scheduled on June 28-30 with the NDFP in Oslo, Norway because government wanted to hold consultations with stakeholders before forging agreements with the revolutionary group.

Dureza said getting the inputs of stakeholders will ensure that the agreements would have the people’s support.

But the CPP called Duterte’s reason for cancelling the talks “a thin veil that fails to conceal his real aims.”

It claimed that the president’s decision came “after being briefed on the status of Oplan Kapayapaan in a meeting with the top brass of the AFP and defense officials.”

“Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has publicly announced that the military wants 3-6 more months before Duterte resumes talks with the NDFP,” it said.

After the failed two-tier (national and local levels) peace talks with the Cory administration from late 1986 until early 1987, the CPP, citing lessons from it, had spurned the idea of holding local negotiations.

In a 1991 paper titled “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors,” the CPP said that the talks with the Aquino government showed that it wanted “the revolutionary forces to capitulate to its rule, its constitution and its armed forces; to split the revolutionary movement; and to surveil and attack the movement.”

The CPP said the framework for negotiating with government should observe the following framework:

1.) The strategic line is one of pursuing the national democratic line to attain a just and lasting peace.

2.) The NDF is a belligerent force in the civil war and not a mere insurgent force. It cannot negotiate with the reactionary government if not on an equal footing under international law.

3.) The legal and political frame is the set of mutually acceptable principles, the international norms, and the agreements that may be made.

4.) The substantive agenda includes the following: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law; social and economic reforms; constitutional, political, and electoral reforms; and the armed forces.

5.) There must be a reasonable timetable.

6.) The venue must be abroad for the mutual convenience and safety of the two sides.

7.) There must be a foreign state or interstate third Party acting in a certain capacity (intermediary, good offices or witness) to be agreed upon by the two sides.

8.) The domestic and foreign third party of non-governmental peace advocates can be consulted and be of help to the peace process.

The framework agreed upon by both sides during the Ramos administration adopted the items cited in number four as the points of negotiation. The government also agreed to hold the negotiations abroad and allow Norway to join the talks as third party facilitator. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)