Mayor Sara: Localized peace talks with reds ‘put on hold’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 April) – City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the localized peace talks with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) will be put on hold while talks between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are ongoing in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the presidential daughter, who earlier offered a “hand in peace” to the rebels, said that they would like “to wait and see how the efforts of the national government to end the insurgency problem will unfold.”

On February 20, Mayor Duterte offered to talk with the NPA combatants operating in the outskirts of the city, after the encounter between the military and rebel forces last February 16 in Paquibato and Calinan Districts that resulted in the death of two soldiers, two NPAs, and a civilian with 17 soldiers injured.

“I suggest you think about this offer seriously since this will benefit you, our fellow Dabawenyos, and our beloved city,” she said at that time.

Duterte apologized to the NPA for the delay in the “localized peace negotiations” with the rebels due to her pregnancy but thanked them for receiving her offer.

“At the same time, I would like to apologize to all the stakeholders, especially the people of Davao, for the delay in – what I believe is – our collective pursuit of peace because of my pregnancy,” she said.

Duterte said the peace offer is aligned with the efforts of the GRP and NDFP’s peace efforts to end almost half a century of armed struggle.

“The City Government of Davao remains aggressive in this worthwhile pursuit of a lasting peace, knowing very well that only after we are able to claim peace that we can achieve justice, transform our communities, and empower and liberate our people,” she said.

The mayor said that she supports the call of her father, President Rodrigo R. Duterte, to strike a joint declaration ceasefire as a primary condition to the peace process.

“We share the position that the NPA must end its taxation or extortion activities, must release all captured soldiers/cops, and must cease from claiming so-called revolutionary territories,” she said.

The GRP and the NDFP peace negotiating peace panels are now currently in The Netherlands for the fourth round of talks to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER) and the ceasefire agreement.

But Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, who is also chief political consultant of the NDFP, suggested CASER first before bilateral ceasefire, or sign both simultaneously.

Sison said that NDFP wants the signing of CASER “be a step ahead of the the joint ceasefire agreement, unless these agreements can be signed at the same time by the panels and then by the principals.”

Sison, college professor of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Political Thought, said it could be possible to forge an agreement on socio-economic reforms this year since the respective versions of the GRP and NDFP have common grounds.

“I have read and studied the drafts of the proposed agreements from the GRP and NDFP and I have also examined the comparative matrices. I observe that there are enough concurrences and similar positions as common ground for forging the agreements,” he said.

NDFP negotiating peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili agreed with Sison that CASER must come first, or be signed simultaneously with a joint ceasefire agreement.

“It is important to stress this as the issue of ceasefire should not be pursued as an end itself. Ceasefires, whether unilateral or bilateral, are just a means to an end. Its main purpose is to create conditions conducive to reaching agreements on basic reforms that are satisfactory to both sides,” he said.

Agcaoili said a reciprocal declarations of unilateral ceasefire can be agreed upon through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between GRP and NDFP that will be issued at the end of the fourth round of talks.

On March 10 to 11 backchannel talks in Utrecht, The Netherlands, GRP and NDFP agreed to reinstate the ceasefire after a month of impasse but Labor Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III, chair of the government’s peace panel, announced on March 31 that the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire was still “under study.”

“I don’t think they will declare if we will not declare because, in fairness, the chairman of the NDFP panel (Fidel Agcaoili) has been asking me that we should jointly declare a unilateral ceasefire. But if they feel that we are not prepared to declare one, then I don’t think they will proceed with the declaration of the unilateral ceasefire,” he said at that time.

Sison said the reciprocal working committees (RWCs) on CASER can also accelerate the unification of their respective drafts during formal talks and work meetings.

He said the version of CASER that will be agreed by both parties will serve as guide and framework of executive orders and legislations “to carry out genuine land reform, lay the foundation of national industrialization, ensure the protection of the environment and wise utilization of natural resources, uphold the people’s rights, improve the wage and living conditions, expand the social services and develop international economic relations within the context of an independent foreign policy.”

Sison said the parties can sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) within three months after the signing of agreement of socio-economic reforms since the reciprocal working groups (RWGs) have drafted their respective versions in advance.

On October 6 to 9, 2016 in Oslo, Norway, the GRP and NDFP panels agreed on the common draft frameworks and outlines of the three remaining agreements on CASER, Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR), and Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces during the second round of talks. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)