THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) assured each other today of their mutual desire for peace in the country, even as scheduled formal negotiations have been cancelled.
In a statement, GRP peace adviser Jesus Dureza announced that President Rodrigo Duterte met with NDFP-nominated members of his cabinet in Malacañan Palace last night.
“The President reiterated his desire and passion (for) bringing about just, lasting, and inclusive peace in the land,” Dureza said.
Dureza said he met with the President, labor and employment secretary and GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III as well as agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano, social work and development secretary Judy Taguiwalo and anti-poverty commission lead convenor Liza Masa “until late last night.”
He said the meeting discussed directions and possible next steps in their peace engagements with the Left as well as the Bangsamoro, Cordillerans and others.
“He (Duterte) gave specific instructions on how to deal with the present situation, including possible next steps following the cancellation of peace talks and the unilateral ceasefire declarations,” Dureza said.
NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part said they are one with Duterte in wanting to lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace in the country.
In an interview, Agcaoili said peace can be achieved through the forging of agreements on basic social, economic and political reforms that would truly benefit the Filipino people.
Dureza’s statement, however, was silent about presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella’s remarks at a Palace briefing yesterday enumerating “four conditions” that would convince the GRP to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP.
Abella said the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army must stop collecting “revolutionary tax,” ambushing Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel, burning of property, and provocative and hostile actions.
Agcaoili, for his part, dismissed Abella’s remarks, saying the secretary’s list are not preconditions but are actually subject matters the GRP would like to discuss in the crafting of the bilateral ceasefire agreement.
“The NDFP, of course, has its own subject matters for discussion in crafting the bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Agcaoili said.
He mentioned the encroachment of the military and the police on communities, the illegal arrest and detention of legal activists and development workers, the extrajudicial killings of Lumad and peasant leaders, the continuing arrest and detention of Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees- protected persons, the release and amnesty of all political prisoners in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, among others.
“Sec. Abella is (also) uninformed or misinformed on the status of the negotiations on the draft agreement on social and economic reforms and the tentative draft agreement on political and constitutional reforms,” Agcaoili said.
“Otherwise he would not say what he stated,” he added.
The GRP and the NDFP are supposed to meet in The Netherlands starting tomorrow to discuss the government’s proposal for a bilateral ceasefire agreement as well as hold the fourth round of formal talks in Oslo, Norway in April. (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by OPAPP)