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Duterte dissolves GRP peace panel; NDFP not surprised

President Rodrigo Duterte dissolved the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel with the Left led by Department of Labor and Employment secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.

Along with Bello, panel members Hernani Braganza, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Atty. Rene Sarmiento and Atty. Antonio Arellano were terminated as of Monday, March 18.

In a statement, Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said their termination will pave the way for the creation of a new panel that will focus on the so-called localized peace engagements.

“The discontinuance of the services of the members of the GRP panel is in line with the termination of peace talks with the [National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)],” Galvez said.

Galvez added they will reconstitute the panel that will implement the government’s whole-of-nation approach.

He said that Duterte has also ordered the review of past agreements with the NDFP.

During the National Peace and Order Council meeting four days earlier in Davao City, Duterte announced he will reconstitute the panel.

“I will reconstitute the panel. This time, it will have a military and police component. And civilians, mga professor,” Duterte said last March 14.

Duterte has ordered the termination of the negotiations through Proclamation 360 in November 2017.

‘Anticipated move’

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said they have anticipated the GRP’s move as Duterte has no interest in the peace negotiations.

“He has always schemed to use the armed conflict as an excuse for carrying out martial law nationwide and for railroading charter change to a bogus kind of federalism in order to realize and impose fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people,” Sison said.

Sison said the Duterte regime has completely ignored the consistent NDFP policy of openness to peace negotiations “because of his obsession to establish a fascist dictatorship and his pipe dream of destroying the people’s revolutionary movement by military means.”

Sison added it is totally Duterte’s responsibility that he gives no choice to the people’s revolutionary movement but to single-mindedly wage and intensify all forms of struggle.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part said it is Duterte’s prerogative to choose his negotiators.

Agcaoili, however, expressed his wish that new GRP negotiators are committed to addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

“The GRP should be wise enough to choose those who are willing or committed to address the roots of the armed conflict in order to attain a just and lasting peace as Sec. Bello has shown in the long years that he has been a consultant, member and then chairperson of the GRP panel since 1994,” Agcaoli said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

International club honors NDFP’s Randy Malayao and Rey Casambre with peace awards

Rotary International honored two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants—one recently martyred, the other in jail—with peace awards in a ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center Wednesday, February 27.

Felix Randy Malayao, brutally shot to death while asleep inside a bus in Nueva Vizcaya last January 30, and Rey Claro Casambre, arrested while on his way home by police and military agents last December 7,  were given Ang Kapayapaan (Akap) Awards by the club’s International District 3830 based in Fort Bonifacio Global City.

The district’s Akap Awards is given to individuals and groups for their distinct contribution in advancing the cause of peace, the club said.

Rotary International’s Ang Kapayapaan Awards poster.

“This is specifically intended to pay tribute to the advocates of the resolution of the homegrown armed conflict on our soil,” Rotary Club District 3830 president Raul M. Francia said in a letter to Malayao’s family.

The awards is one of Rotary International’s many ways to inspire others to be of greater service to humanity and give modest share to the arduous task of bringing about sustainable peace, he added.  

As NDFP consultants, Malayao and Casambre were NDFP’s most active advocates, attending numerous peace forums in the Philippines and abroad.

Both attended formal peace negotiations in Europe since August 2016 as well as working group meetings in the Philippines.

Relatives of Randy Malayao receive the award in his behalf. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

The two awardees participated in the crafting of land reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements with the government peace panel.

But Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 in November 2017 terminating peace negotiations with the NDFP.

In a bid to restart negotiations, the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels jointly crafted a stand down agreement in June 2018 as well as guidelines and procedures of an interim peace agreement and a draft amnesty proclamation for hundreds of political prisoners.

Duterte again cancelled the negotiations after, however, forcing most other NDFP peace consultants to take safety precautions, preventing them from carrying duties related to the peace negotiations.

NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad were arrested by government forces in October and November 2018 respectively.

Another consultant, Rafael Baylosis was arrested in January 2018 but was released earlier this year after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him.

Only Malayao and Casambre remained available for numerous speaking engagements mostly organized by church groups and schools until the latter’s arrest and the former’s assassination.

Rey Casambre’s daughter and sister receive the award in his behalf. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Last week, Duterte again hinted he is open to restarting the peace negotiations.

Rotary’s other Akap awardees included Government of the Republic of the Philippines chief negotiator Silvestre H. Bello III, resigned Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Mohagher Igbal and former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP consultants to be released through JASIG–Bello

DETAINED National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants may still be released to join the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines (GRP) on August 20 in Oslo, Norway.

Chief GRP negotiator Silvestre Bello III said that they are working on the release of 22 NDFP negotiators through the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) despite the Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s request to allow 10 of them to post bail.

“GRP peace panel lawyers, the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice are working on another track, the JASIG, so I do not think the Supreme Court resolution will affect our effort,” Bello said.

The high tribunal said Tuesday that it does not have jurisdiction over some key members of the NDFP negotiating team as they are still facing criminal charges in trial courts around the country.

The ten are Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Alan Jazmines, Tirso Alcantara, Maria Concepcion Araneta, Alex Birondo, Reynante Gamara, Ma. Loida Magpatoc and Adelberto Silva.

Earlier, human rights group Karapatan said it is an obligation of the government to release the 22 NDFP peace consultants along with more than 500 other political prisoners under the JASIG as well as the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Relatives of the detainees have also asked the GRP why it is taking so long for them to release the political prisoners despite repeated pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has since altered his statements saying he will release political detainees in batches, starting with the NDFP consultants, then the sick and elderly, before issuing a general amnesty after the signing of a final peace agreement with the NDFP.

Bello said it is more realistic to expect a final peace agreement in nine to 12 months, double the length of time of the President’s initial timetable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP completes panel lineup

MANILA—The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has completed its peace panel in time for the anticipated resumption for formal talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) later this month, its chief negotiator in an interview said.

GRP negotiating panel chief and Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello said they have completed their negotiating team with the addition of two lawyers who will represent marginalized sectors.

“Now we have Atty. Angela Librado, who will represent the women sector,  and Atty. Noel Felongco who will represent the indigenous peoples,” Bello said.  Read more