Paquibato blast imperils GPH-NDFP peace talks, says gov’t negotiator

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 September) – The recent grenade blast in a barangay here might affect the stalled peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a government peace panel member today said.

Ednar G. Dayanghirang, GPH panel member and chair of the reciprocal working committee on socio-economic reforms, said in a press conference at the Task Force Davao headquarters that even before the blast, incidents that had victimized civilians and blamed on the New People’s Army (NPA) had already endangered the talks.

The NPA’s Merardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao released Friday a statement dated September 6 admitting it was responsible for the September 1 grenade blast in Barangay Fatima in Paquibato District that injured 48 civilians during a circus.

Police said a grenade was lobbed at adjacent military detachment but it bounced off and exploded in the covered court where the circus was held.

Dayanghirang said the bombing affects the credibility of the other party because it has entered into an agreement with government that provides for the protection of noncombatants.

 

“It (the blast) affects the legitimacy of their movement and sincerity to respect the agreement,” he added.

 

The official was referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), which the two parties signed 20 years ago.

 

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the Merardo Arce Command, said the NPA “will take concrete measures to indemnify the victims, consistent with the principles of revolutionary justice and the policies governing the NPA and the revolutionary movement.”

 

In the press conference, 10th Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Ariel B. Bernando said the NPA’s admission of guilt, public apology and offer to indemnify the victims will never offset their physical, emotional and psychological devastation.

 

City police chief Ronald dela Rosa said the police will file multiple frustrated murder charges against suspects probably next week after wrapping up the investigation.

 

He said earlier that the police were still in the process of getting the artist’s sketch of two unidentified men who were seen in the area during the incident.

 

The first man lobbed the grenade while the other entered the detachment to snatch weapons but fled when he failed, Dela Rosa said.

 

Lawyer Alerto B. Sipaco Jr., director of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 11, said they will go to Paquibato on Monday to conduct interviews and documentation.

 

He admitted though that it would be difficult to get the side of the NPA.

 

Dayanghirang said the peace talks will resume either by end of this month or early October to discuss issues which were agreed by both parties last June 14-15 in a meeting facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government.

 

He said the GPH has demanded a ceasefire and for the NPA to stop using landmines and committing “atrocities” against civilians.

 

Military officials and other government authorities consider the NPA’s use of landmines a violation of International Humanitarian Law or the law of armed conflict. But the rebel group has always maintained that they are using command-detonated mines not anti-personnel mines which are banned under the Ottawa Treaty.

 

Satur Ocampo, in his September 1 column “Will GPH-NDFP peace talks resume?” posted on  philstar.com, said the participants in the Norway talk signed last June 15 a one-paragraph joint statement.

 

It states: “The Parties have agreed to continue meaningful discussions of concerns and issues raised by both sides on June 14 and 15, 2012 in Oslo, to pave the way for the resumption of the formal talks in the peace negotiations in order to resolve the armed conflict and attain a just and lasting peace.”

 

The NDFP panel raised six concerns and issues, “stressing that GPH compliance with these would open the way to resuming the formal negotiations on socio-economic reforms and convening the Joint Monitoring Committee,” Ocampo said.

 

Dayanghirang said among the NDFP’s demands are the release of their top commanders who are listed under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and reconstructing the list of NDFP consultants and staff. Ocampo mentioned the same items in his column.

 

Dayanghirang said after Carhrihl, the peace talks has moved on to the negotiation on socio-economic reforms.

 

As agreed during the Ramos administration, the agenda of the talks will also cover constitutional and political reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

 

But Dayanghirang said that the upcoming negotiation will not focus on the agenda but on the issue on the release of NDFP consultants.

 

During the resumption of talks in February last year, the two parties agreed to finish the negotiation on the remaining three items on the agenda within 18 months.

 

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging an armed struggle since 1969.

 

On-and-off peace talks between the GPH and NDFP started during the administration of the late President Corazon C. Aquino. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)

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