Isko to resume peace talks if elected to Malacañang

Braganza: ‘Mayor Isko is sure to be for the resumption of the talks. He was part of it, front, back and center’

Manila Mayor Isko More is likely to resume formal negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) if elected in May, the presidential candidate’s representative told peace advocates in an online forum last Wednesday.

Moreno shall pursue a people-centric approach to the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP, his deputy political officer Hernani Braganza said.

“Mayor Isko is sure to be for the resumption of the talks. He was part of it, front, back and center,” Braganza said.

Moreno attended at least three formal rounds of the GRP-NDFP negotiations, twice in Oslo, Norway in 2016 and once in Rome, Italy in January 2017.

Braganza, himself a veteran government peace negotiator, was part of the GRP Negotiating Panels under the Gloria Arroyo and Rodrigo Duterte governments. He also participated in backchannel negotiations under other GRP administrations.

Braganza highlighted that the core of Moreno’s peace agenda is to provide Filipinos with more and participative democratic spaces as well as poverty alleviation.

He said that Moreno recognizes that poverty is the root cause of the armed conflict. “Mahirap pangaralan ang gutom na tao,” he added. (It is hard to reason with hungry stomachs.)

Braganza said he is optimistic that a Moreno GRP would focus on signing agreements on education, housing and employment with the NDFP.

He said that if elected, Moreno is likely to “fast-track” the negotiations and sign agreements within six months to allow his administration to focus implementing agreed-upon socio-economic reforms.

“Remember, each administration only has less than 2,200 days,” Braganza told the online forum Peace and the Presidentiables organized by the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace.

Ready to talk

Braganza affirmed that as long as the NDFP wants to negotiate with the Manila government, Moreno would always be ready to speak for them.

He added he believes Moreno would uphold the milestone documents previously signed by the GRP and the NDFP, including The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

He himself disagrees with a reformulation of the framework of the negotiations that the NDFP would not agree to, Braganza said: Terms of surrender na iyon kapag ipipilit mong baguhin ang framework ng usapan na hindi sumasang-ayon ang kabilang partido.” (Insisting on changing the framework of the negotiations on the other party is already imposing their terms of surrender.)

Braganza said he assumes Moreno would study proposed agreements initialled by the GRP and the NDFP in June 2018 that included a proposed Stand-Down Agreement, Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement and the Resumption of Talks, an Interim Peace Agreement, and an NDFP proposed draft on the Amnesty of jailed NDFP consultants and political prisoners.

“Kung ano ang prosesong maabutan ni mayor, pag-aaralan niya. Pwedeng gawin,” Braganza said. (The mayor [Moreno] would study things where the talks left off. That is possible.)

Braganza said the next president should be innovative in order to end the five decade-long civil war.

“You know, the best innovation is extinguishing what fuels insurgency. Prof. Joma Sison himself told me that the government does not even have to negotiate with the NDF,P as long as it does its job in developing the country, respecting human rights and serving the people,” Braganza said.

According to Braganza, Moreno would be amenable to a reassessment of the terrorist designation of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP but added that he believes that the mayor would push through the with the resumption of the talks even if the terrorist tags are upheld.

He added that that Moreno will likely retain the GRP’s anti-insurgency group National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict but clarified that its policies would be reviewed and its budget realigned to more social services, such as livelihood programs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)