GPH, NDFP mull rescheduling talks

THE RESUMPTION of formal peace negotiations between the Rodrigo Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may be rescheduled to later dates.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the formal Oslo talks originally scheduled on the third week of this month may be adjusted to either July 27 to August 2 or the 15th to the 17th of next month to give time to the Government of the Philippines (GPH) to effect the releases of political prisoners.

In an interview, Sison said the NDFP is prepared to engage the GPH in peace negotiations on the assumption that previous signed statements are affirmed and 109 political prisoners are released ahead of more than 400 others.

Twenty two of the 109 detainees are NDFP consultants and staff to the peace process while the remaining 87 are “sickly, elderly, overly long-term and women political prisoners.”

President Duterte, however, said in his speech at the Philippine Air Force anniversary celebration last July 5 he is only willing to give NDFP consultants and alleged Communist Party of the Philippines top leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, among others, safe conduct passes to participate in the talks.

Here is Kodao Productions’ interview with NDFP’s Sison:

1.  How sure is the NDFP that Pres. Duterte would fulfill his earlier promises that he will release a) all political prisoners, or b) just the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) holders and the sick, elderly, long-held detainees first?

Jose Maria Sison: Despite any apparently self-contradictory impromptu statements from President Duterte himself, the NDFP is prepared to engage in peace negotiations with the GPH on the assumption that the previous agreements shall be affirmed and that 22 JASIG-protected political prisoners and the 87 sickly, elderly, overly long-term and women political prisoners will be released ahead of more than 400 political prisoners who shall be released by general amnesty in connection with an interim ceasefire. In the course of the peace negotiations, the GPH position under the Duterte government will unfold and the NDFP will respond accordingly. The pace and outcome of the negotiations will be determined by the willingness of the negotiating parties to satisfy the demand of the people for full independence, democracy, social justice and all-round development. Any presumption that the NDFP can be bamboozled into submission is false. It has long experience in waging armed and other forms of struggle.

2.  Will the NDFP still be willing to resume the formal talks in two weeks’ time if Pres. Duterte will only issue a safe conduct pass for Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon? Why/Why not?

JMS: The NDFP has already informed the GPH side that the resumption of formal talks may be either from July 27 to August 2 or from August 15 to 22, depending on the success of the GPH at effecting the release of the 22 JASIG-protected political prisoners as well as that of most of the 87 political prisoners who are sickly, elderly, overly long in prison and women. The NDFP is willing to give the GPH ample time to effect the releases.

(Note:  The July 27-August 2 date is actually a proposal from the newly-constituted GPH Negotiating Panel, Sison told Kodao.)

3.  What can you say about President Duterte’s statement at the PAF anniversary celebrations, particularly the following: “”Good that we are talking to the Communist Party of the Philippines. It’s doing well and we hope to have a firm agreement by the end of the year if Sison would come home. I am ready to give him a safe conduct pass. And ‘yung Tiamzon spouses pati si Jalandoni. I am not ready to release everybody. Only after the success of the talks, if there’s one coming our way bago ko sila i-release, now we can grant amnesty but they have to lay down their arms.”

JMS: In his speech before the Philippine Air Force generals, President Duterte did not find it necessary to explain the release of current political prisoners by general amnesty in connection with the interim ceasefire agreement. Quite a number of people who do not seriously study the substantive agenda of the GPH-NDFP gloss over the fact that the last item is the making of a Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces. This agreement will involve amnesty of the leaders, commanders and combatants of both conflicting parties. The interim ceasefire is a preparation for the final ceasefire at the end of the entire peace negotiations.

4.  What should peace advocates and the Filipino people do to support the resumption of the formal talks later this month?

JMS: The Filipino people and the patriotic and progressive forces should persevere in calling for the release of all the political prisoners and for the resumption of the peace negotiations.  #

(Raymund B. Villanueva)