President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to include Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to the government’s negotiating panel bodes well for the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.
Sison, NDFPs chief political consultant, said Malacañan’s announcement to include Medialdea to its next negotiating panel signifies that Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel.
“Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel and possibly indicates that his Executive Secretary will help him act faster on major issues in the peace negotiations,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.
Sison acknowledged that the executive secretary would be the highest-ranking government official ever to be a Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel member.
“The Executive Secretary is considered the little President or his alter ego. He signs presidential issuances under the line, by the authority of the President. Thus, he may be considered the highest-ranking government official ever to be a negotiating panel member,” he said.
He also pointed out that the President’s decision goes against the public pronouncements of “militarists” in Duterte’s own Cabinet.
“The appointment indicates that Duterte is concerned about asserting the principle of civilian supremacy in view of the militarist actuations and actions of his military minions who blatantly oppose his desire for the resumption of peace negotiations,” Sison said.
‘No one closer to Duterte’
Former government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III echoed Sison’s views, saying Medialdea’s appointment to the GRP panel is a significant gesture by Duterte in his bid to restart the negotiations he himself ordered terminated in 2017.
“You cannot get closer to an authority from the President than that,” Bello told a gathering of reporters Friday, December 27.
“The presence of his executive secretary shows the President’s commitment and resolve [to restart the talks],” Bello said.
Both the NDFP and the GRP expect to hold more backchannel meetings next month at about the time the parties’ reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement ends on January 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)