Peace spoilers won the day–Agcaoili

PEACE spoilers won the day, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief peace negotiator said of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP) “cancellation” of the formal peace talks and termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) today.

Fidel Agcaoili blamed “spoilers in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the neoliberal globalization members in the cabinet” for the collapse of their once promising peace talks with the Duterte government.

“They have managed to persuade the President (Rodrigo Duterte) to tow the line of the United States (US) or be dealt with,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoli said the NDFP has received by electronic mail the written notice of termination of the JASIG by the GRP through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.

“We intend to acknowledge it soon to enable the 30-day grace period to run before it becomes effective,” Agcaoili said.

The JASIG requires 30 days before its termination is deemed in effect.

Not the first time

Agcaoili also said it is not the first time that the NDFP, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) has been threatened with an all-out war.

Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Delfin Lorenzana also announced earlier today GRP’s all-out war against the NPA.

“This is not the first time that such a declaration has been made against the revolutionary movement. First was by (Ferdinand) Marcos, then Cory Aquino, Joseph Estrada, and many DND/Ministry of National Defense secretaries-ministers and AFP chiefs of staff since,” Agcaoili said.

“As before, we shall weather Lorenza’s declaration and gain strength. The revolutionary will persist and continue the struggle for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people until a just and lasting peace is achieved in the country,” he added.

Talks resumption possible

Agcaoili however did not dismiss the possibility of resumption of formal peace negotiations with the current Manila government.

“There are many ways of resuming the talks. The GRP knows these. There can be back-channelling talks to iron things out,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili however cautioned the GRP that it should no longer insist on a bilateral ceasefire declaration as a precondition to the resumption of formal negotiations.

“It’s really up to the GRP. But they should not come demanding ceasefire in exchange for the resumption,” Agcaoili said.

“They (GRP) should understand that we are not intimidated. They have promises to keep and we shall not withdraw from these,” he added.

Both parties agreed to an informal talk to negotiate on a possible bilateral ceasefire agreement in The Netherlands on February 22 and to a fourth round of formal negotiations in Norway starting April 2.

Cabinet members for peace

Meanwhile, three Leftist cabinet secretaries urged the GRP and the NDFP to proceed with the peace process despite the current “standstill.”

In a statement, Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Work and Community Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Masa said they believe the GRP should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP forward.

“As heads of national government agencies tasked to address poverty and improve the quality of life of the Filipino, we believe that the GRP should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP forward,” the officials said.

“The current agenda on the table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), is the most substantive agenda in the negotiations and is key to lasting peace and long-term poverty eradication,” the three explained.

The leftist secretaries said they will continue to engage within the Duterte cabinet and the rest of the administration towards the resumption of the talks and to strengthen the civilian voice in the peace process.

“The foremost concern of both parties in the peace negotiations is the interest of the Filipino people to address the roots of poverty and achieve a just and lasting peace,” they said.

“For it is the welfare of the poor Filipinos, in their millions, that is at the core of the peace negotiations. Let us give just and lasting peace a chance. Continue the GRP-NDF peace talks and pursue socio-economic and political reforms for the people,” Mariano, Taguiwalo and Masa said. (Raymund B. Villanueva)