DILG’s Ano: “We have no choice but to push for localized peace talks”  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 08 July) — The OIC Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Sunday said they will push for localized peace talks with communist rebels if the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) would not resume following the pronouncement of NDF leaders that they would rather oust President Rodrigo Duterte than talk peace.

“We have no choice but to push for localized peace talks because decisions and agreements will be more genuine and enforceable,”  OIC-Secretary Eduardo Año said in a press release issued by the DILG on Sunday.

Año said 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.

He added that a localized approach would address the concerns of some members of Congress that communist leaders especially those in exile abroad do not necessarily represent the demands and concerns of the rebels in the country.

Año was apparently referring to the Utrecht-based leaders including Jose Ma. Sison, chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Duterte’s professor in political thought in college.

But Año reminded local government officials not to concede any aspect of governance to the communist rebels if they decide to pursue the localized peace process. He said this new approach was “pronounced by Malacañang and backed by the Department of National Defense.

He said a working group has been tasked to craft the guidelines in the conduct of the peace talks and the local government units (LGUs) can start the negotiation process with the local rebels operating in their respective areas once finalized, he said.

He said the Regional Peace and Order Councils (RPOCs) and Regional Development Councils (RDCs) would be the main platforms for peace initiatives to be immediately undertaken.

Año added they are not giving up on peace.

“Only sincere peace talks – whether national or on the local level – can produce real and lasting peace,” Año he said.

The DILG press release was emailed to the media at 7:59 p.m.,  two hours and 30 minutes after the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) emailed a two-paragraph statement of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza that they have not closed the doors to peace and efforts to pursue peace through negotiations are still possible.

Dureza said President Duterte was only making an assumption when he said during the Malayan Colleges Mindanao  that he would no longer pursue the talks after Sison allegedly said Duterte would be removed from office soon.

Duterte said: “Sabi naman ni Sison (Sison said), I will not last three years. Kaya ang sabi ko kay Sison ngayon, ‘ayaw ko na makipag-usap sa inyo kasi sabi ninyo three years na lang pala ako dito. So wala na akong time makipag-usap sa inyo ” (That’s why, I told Sison, ‘I do not want to talk to you because you said I would only last for three years. So, I do not have the time to talk to you).”

He said he gave himself and Sison a “small window” of 60 days “and after that, if nothing happens, then I tell you: prepare for war. Because this rebellion of the Communist Party will go on.”

MindaNews asked Dureza about the DILG’s proposed localized talks. He said: “kanya-kanya proposal. Hulat ta unsa final through PRRD (Let’s wait for the final through President Rodrigo Roa Duterte)

In his press statement, Dureza reiterated the doors are still wide open for both sides to work on. “When that precise time comes, we at OPAPP will again seek the President’s guidance as we proceed to do our mandated task to bring just and sustainable peace in the land — a dream of every Filipino, and that of President Duterte.”

Año added the existing agreements that were signed by the government with National Democratic of the Philippines, including the draft proposals for Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), Interim Peace Agreement (IPA), and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF) would be reviewed to evaluate their relevance and significance while the talks are ongoing.

Although it was not mentioned, the discussion on Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) is also part of the GRP-NDFP peace talks that would have come next after both panels agree on CASER.

The resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks last June 28 in Oslo, Norway was cancelled for the third time after Dureza announced on June 14 that Duterte wanted to postpone it in order to engage the public before working out agreements with communist leaders.

Dureza added the President asked for three months to review the 1992 Joint Hague Agreement Declaration, 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The conditions set by the President for the resumption of the peace talks include the venue must be in the country;no collection of revolutionary tax; no hostilities; NPA fighters to be confined to their camps; and no coalition government. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)