No travel permits yet for 6 NDFP consultants

The last round of informal talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) set next week is in danger of being postponed after six consultants have yet to be granted permits to travel to Europe.

Set to be the final informal round of negotiations to prepare for the resumption of formal talks at the end of the month, the meeting’s schedule may be affected after both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) have yet to file their comments on the petition for six senior NDFP consultants to travel.

NDFP panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultants Allan Jazmines, Adelberto Silva, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad have yet to be allowed by GRP courts to participate in the June 5 to 9 meeting in The Netherlands.

Baylosis is in jail following his arrest by military and police elements last February while the rest are under threat of arrest after GRP President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the peace negotiations last November.

The GRP agreed to the participation of the six consultants, however, at the conclusion of their last round for informal talks last May 9, NDFP Negotiating Panel legal adviser Edre Olalia said.

On May 22, the NDFP was informed of a GRP Manifestation confirming the holding of another round of informal talks scheduled for next week when the six consultants’ participation are expected.

The consultants, through their lawyer, filed motions to travel, lift or recall of warrants against them, or reinstate or grant them bail in court last May 23 and furnished the DOJ and the OSG copies of their motions.

In May 25, the court ordered the consultants’ lawyer to officially furnish the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and set a hearing on May 29.

On May 29, the court has reportedly ordered the DOJ and the OSG to file comments on the motions within another 10 days, virtually dashing chances of the consultants travelling in time for the next informal round of talks.

Earlier, NDFP said an interim peace agreement is the main agenda at the resumption of formal talks.

The agreement shall consist of a general amnesty proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners, a coordinated unilateral ceasefire, and approval of the agrarian reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development components of the prospective comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms, the NDFP said.

Tiamzon and Baylosis are cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces committee members while Jazmines, Silva and Echanis are social and economic reforms committee members of the NDFP negotiating panel. Ladlad, a long-time political consultant, is expected to assist in the crafting of the interim peace agreement.

“I think our clients, the NDFP Panel, will act accordingly if the participation of the six named consultants in the next ‘backchannel talks’ needed to fully tackle and finalize the documents preparatory to the eventual projected resumption of the formal talks cannot be assured or realized in good time,” Olalia told Kodao.

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and other members of the government panel have yet to answer Kodao’s requests for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)