GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/1 September) – The communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) on Wednesday said it has tapped Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as resource person in the ongoing peace talks with the Philippine government even as its chief negotiator said more local government officials should be directly involved in the peace process as observers or member of the government peace panel.
“They (local government officials) knew the situation on the ground,” said NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni
Jalandoni was in Davao City Wednesday for a consultation with peace advocates and an update on the peace negotiations.
He likewise met with the families of the jail officials who were captured by New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas during an August roadblock in nearby Bukidnon province.
Duterte has maintained cordial relations with the communist rebel forces, often meeting with top regional commanders of the NPA, the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The former Davao City mayor has also figured in many negotiations involving the release of police and military personnel and officials captured by the rebel forces.
He has repeatedly said that the government cannot win over the communist rebellion with military operations alone.
Duterte reportedly accepted the NDF offer, one that he has repeatedly spurned from previous government administration.
The colorful Duterte has been accused of allegedly backing a shadowy vigilante group that assassinates suspected drug dealers and other criminals.
“This is something new that could be given chance,” Jalandoni said of the possibility of including local government officials in the peace process.
He made the suggestion after three vice governors from Mindanao urged both the NDF and the Philippine government to forge a formal ceasefire while the peace talks are being conducted.
The vice governors of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Surigao del Sur attended the forum while the governors of Cotabato and Davao Province sent their representatives.
Jalandoni earlier rejected a prolonged ceasefire with the government without a substantive agreement.
“There will be no ceasefire during the talks unless President Aquino will seriously consider the NDF offer,” Jalandoni said in referring to the “truce and alliance” proposal it gave an emissary of the President in Netherlands more than a month ago.
The proposal is a 10-point agenda for cooperation and negotiations first submitted by the NDF in 2005.
Jalandoni said the Aquino government has yet to respond to their offer. (Edwin G. Espejo / MindaNews contributor)