Left ‘guardedly optimistic’ on Duterte

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is “guardedly optimistic” with its discussions with president-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

Back in Manila from his meeting with Duterte in Davao City early Tuesday morning, NDFP spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili said today they are negotiating with Duterte with open eyes.

“(We are still in the) getting-to-know phase.  But this is something new,” Agcaoili said.

In comparison, Agcaoili said the Benigno Aquino government’s negotiating panel is difficult to negotiate with.

“Right at the very start of the negotiations (with the Aquino government), we knew we were two (opposing) sides. The GPH (Government of the Philippines) panel even said The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) was a document of perpetual division,” Agcaoili said.

The 1992 joint agreement by the GPH and the NDFP laid the sequence of the negotiations with human rights, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and, finally, disposition of forces discussed in that order.

The first substantive agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), was signed in 1998.  The peace talks panel failed to sign any more agreement since.

Agcaoili said that their discussions with Duterte is “…a welcome situation.”

They are waiting for the mayor’s emissaries to arrive in Utrecht, The Netherlands where the NDFP International office is located, Agcaoili said.

“We need to prepare the groundwork for the resumption of the formal peace talks as we wait for the release of political prisoners,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP intends to include long-time consultant Allan Jazmines in its negotiating panel if released by the Duterte government.

Agcaoili revealed that Duterte told him he plans on issuing a general amnesty order for all political prisoners, numbering more than 500.

Silvestre Bello III, named by Duterte as the government lead negotiator with the NDFP, still has to confirm to Kodao if former GPH panel members Hernani Braganza and Efren Moncupa have accepted their nominations.

Earlier, Bello told Kodao that he also intends to invite Rene Sarmiento and Sedfrey Candelaria to his team.

“We are hopeful that changes would happen under the Duterte government.  Even if just the peace talks would return on track, it would already be substantial,” Agcaoili said.

He revealed that he is set to return to Davao before Duterte’s proclamation as winner of the 2016 elections for the presidency on June 20 to continue his talks with Duterte.  (Report and photo by Raymund B. Villanueva)