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Braganza: CASER is treasonous? Wow!

A government negotiator took strong exceptions to allegations made by several cabinet members that talks on social and economic reforms with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may be likened to treason and surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

Hernani Braganza, veteran Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiator and former agrarian reform secretary, also denied that past government negotiating panels did not consult with the military during formal and informal negotiations.

“There are allegations that CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) [negotiations] was treasonous. Wow!” Braganza told hundreds of participants of the Assembly for Peace organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform at the Quezon City Sports Club last Friday, January 7.

Braganza denied that the military was never consulted in negotiations on social and economic reforms, adding there are several military officers in the GRP negotiating team in the four formal rounds and at least seven reciprocal working committees meetings held both in Europe and the Philippines.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez last week dismissed further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

“It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez said.

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez further alleged.

“That is not true. I made the rounds of military camps and I explained it [CASER] to them,” Braganza said, revealing further that a University of the Philippines team led by its former president Alfredo Pascual actually crafted the GRP draft of the CASER.

He also said many of the GRP’s line agencies were present in the negotiations.

Aside from Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also questioned further CASER discussions while defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. took turns opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP.

But Braganza revealed that CASER’s ultimate approval by the GRP does not end with its negotiators or even with President Duterte himself.

“Ultimately, this will be brought before Congress,” he said.

Arkibong Bayan photo

Braganza also belied Galvez’s accusations that peace agreements with the NDFP would result in a surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

“For the record and in fairness to the NDFP, after all that has been done to and said of them, they never asked for their own territory. Kahit isang paso.” Braganza said. (Not even a handful of soil.)

“In all the common documents (between the GRP and the NDFP), there is no mention of a coalition government. Hindi ko alam kung bakit paulit-ulit (sila),” he added. (I do not know why they keep on repeating this.) 

Braganza said the CASER is a way of addressing inequality, especially in the countryside where job creation and adding value to agricultural products are needed.

“I should know these. I was once mayor, congressman and agrarian reform secretary,” he said.

Braganza said the programs in the common GRP-NDFP draft of the CASER are all in the Philippine Constitution.

Braganza added he and labor secretary Silvestre Bello III were officially authorized by Malacañan Palace to talk to NDFP negotiators even after they were fired last year.

He challenged peace talks critics in the Duterte Cabinet to take their opposition to the process with Duterte himself.

“If you are after our seats on the (negotiating) panel, it is all yours. I did not apply for it. But do not malign our names,” Braganza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: Militarists making talks resumption impossible

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned recent statements made by the government’s top security officials, accusing them of trying to prevent the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

In a reaction to statements by presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., Sison said President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed his highest military officials to oppose the resumption of the talks.

“Despite the over-all nationwide success of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement which occurred from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020, the Duterte regime has issued public statements that continue to terminate and prevent peace negotiations and render impossible the resumption of these between the duly-authorized panels of the GRP and NDFP,” Sison said in a statement Saturday, January 11.

Sison said that Duterte’s highest military subordinates, including interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and new AFP chief of staff Filemon Santos Jr., made utterances that they oppose peace and prefer to wage all-out war against the Filipino people instead. 

“[T]hey would rather continue the militarization and fascisation of the government and society under Executive Order No. 70,” he said.

Sison said the officials, all retired and active military generals, believe that peace negotiations are not needed because they are already in the process of destroying the New People’s Army (NPA) before 2022. 

“They boast that they are open only to surrender negotiations in a Philippine venue under their control. They claim to be satisfied with the psywar (psychological warfare) campaign of fake surrenders, fake encounters and persona non grata declarations,” Sison said.

Anti-talks pronouncements

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez dismissed last Friday further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

In a news article published by his office, Galvez said the Filipino people do not need the Comprehensive Agreement on Social (and) Economic Reforms (CASER) and Interim Peace Agreement (IPC) that are the proposed bases for the resumption of formal negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Galvez described the CASER as an “irrelevant proposition and simply a copycat of the programs of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP) as outlined in the plagiarized content of Jose Maria Sison’s publication Philippine Society and Revolution.”

He said that adopting the CASER and the IPC could be likened to committing treason since the communists will implement these programs based on their constitution while the government needs to change its charter to apply the reforms.

“CASER is based on an obsolete framework and is no longer relevant since it is largely based on the pre-industrialization and pre-globalization era. It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” he said.

Galvez said the NDFP draft of the CASER has several questionable provisions, including financing national industrialization from confiscated and expropriated assets of “foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists.”

He said the language in which the provision has been framed may “cast a dark cloud over the nation’s economy” and could lead to “the weakening and eventual decline of the country’s economic standing in global markets.” 

He also said it is worrisome that the proposed CASER orders the demobilization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the establishment of a coalition government with the communist group by setting up “programs for the People’s Democratic Government.”

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez alleged.

Esperon Jr. for his part expressed opposition to the planned revival of peace talks with the NDFP last Tuesday, accusing the CASER of reflecting the NDFP’s “duplicitous character and self-interest.” 

Like Galvez, Esperon said the proposed CASER “do not directly reflect the best interest of the nation,” but that of the communist rebels.

“After presenting the objectionable provisions of their proposed CASER, would it be beneficial to the nation that we engage the (communists) in another round of peace talks?” Esperon asked, adding the government is instead pursuing local peace talks.

Last Christmas Day, Parlade also accused the communists of duplicity, particularly CPP founding chairperson Sison and members within the churches.

Parlade said Christmas and its Christian ideals are incompatible with the mindset of communists, accusing them of following the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin he said were members of a satanic cult.

‘What progress?’

Sison, however, challenged the generals’ claims of economic progress in the Philippines that make economic, social and political reforms through peace negotiations irrelevant.

“The Filipino people are supposed to be already living in an industrialized paradise without social injustices, massive unemployment, low incomes and rampant poverty. The Duterte regime is supposed to be solving all problems and rendering unnecessary peace negotiations,” Sison mocked.

By allowing the officials to openly defy efforts to resume peace negotiations, the Duterte regime is practically telling the Filipino people that peace negotiations are impossible until 2022, he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP names 5 Cabinet officials as worst peace talks foes

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) accused high-ranking government and military officials of opposing efforts to revive peace negotiations and launching actions that violated the recently concluded ceasefire agreement between the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Manila government.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison named Duterte’s national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, presidential adviser on the peace process chairperson Carlito Galvez and new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Felimon Santos of opposing efforts to revive the peace process.

“Either Duterte has been pretending to be for peace negotiations all along or he fails as commander-in-chief to put in line his military subordinates for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Sison said Duterte’s five subordinates made the following declarations to disobey the President’s public declarations on his desire to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP:

1. They can destroy the CPP and NPA before the end of the Duterte regime despite the failure of all previous regimes to destroy the people’s revolutionary movement and the repeated failure of the current Duterte regime to comply with its deadlines for destroying said movement.

2. They oppose peace negotiations in a neutral venue abroad but favor negotiations for the surrender of the CPP, the NPA and entire revolutionary movement in a Philippine venue under the control and manipulation of the regime and its armed minions.

3. They can stage fake localized peace talks despite the glaring fact that all organs of the CPP and commands of the NPA at all levels have publicly rejected and condemned such fakery.

4. They are happy with and enjoy the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation under the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats who are servile to the imperialist powers, their banks and monopoly firms.

5. They shun social, economic and political reforms to realize full independence, democracy, social justice and all-round development and they are most vehemently against genuine land reform and national industrialization.

“[T]he Filipino people should not be surprised if the GRP-NDFP will not be resumed in the twilight years of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that even before the end of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement last January 7, Duterte’s military and police subordinates “have been calling for war and blood and have been making offensive deployments against the Filipino people and revolutionary forces throughout the archipelago.”

The NDFP in Negros island, one of three rebel strongholds Duterte ordered to be flooded with military forces last year, reported “unabated military operations” during the two-week holiday truce.

Military movements

In a statement Wednesday, January 8, a day after the ceasefire agreement concluded, Ka Bayani Obrero, NDF-Negros spokesperson, said they received the following reports of AFP combat operations throughout the island from the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army (AGC-NPA):

1. December 24, 2019 – 1 military truck full of 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) troops descended on Brgy. Mansablay, Isabela, Negros Occidental; 

2. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Kuyawyaw, Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

3. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitios Oway-oway and Binataan, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

4. December 27, 2019 – 30 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tibobong, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

5. December 28, 2019 – 33 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tiyos, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

6. December 30, 2019 – Undetermined number of 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Saisi, Brgy. Tan-awan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

7. December 31, 2019 – 62nd IB soldiers also descended on Sitio Bayi, Sitio Cande-is and Sitio Ulitaw, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

8. December 31, 2019 – 20 soldiers of the 79th IB led by a certain Maj. Tupaz descended on Sitio Tanquinto and Hacienda Amparo, Brgy. Mabini, Escalante City, Negros Occidental; 

9. January 1-3, 2020 – 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Pisok, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

10. January 3, 2020 – 14 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Sitio Brodjen, Brgy. Malasibog, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, and;

11. January 6, 2020 – 40 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Brgy. Paitan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

The NDF-Negros also reported troop movements and operations by the 11th IB under the 302nd Brigade and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Brgy. Talalac in Sta. Catalina and other municipalities in the Third Congressional District of Negros Oriental.

 “[These] manifest the dubious sincerity of the Duterte regime regarding peace talks resumptions,” Obrero said.

Obrero said the AFP and the PNP implemented combat operations in peasant communities in the mountainous areas “to persistently spread terror, threats, and harm on the Negrosanons.” 

“This simply shows that Duterte has no control over his bloodthirsty and warmongering dogs in the military and police,” AGC-NPA spokesperson Ka Juanito Magbanua said.

Magbanua said all NPA guerrilla fronts in Negros successfully celebrated the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary last December 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: It’s Duterte regime that may not survive by 2022, not the NPA

The Rodrigo Duterte government should concentrate on surviving the next three years rather than be preoccupied in trying to wiping out the New People’s Army (NPA) by 2022, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Even with a reset deadline, government military and police forces will surely fail in destroying the revolutionary army, Sison in a statement said, adding it is Duterte who may already be out of office by 2022.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairperson explained the military and the police cannot accomplish in three years what they failed to accomplish in 50 years.

“The scheme will surely fail from day to day, week to week, month to month and from year to year as the NPA will intensify tactical offensives and mass work,” Sison said,

 Instead, Duterte himself will have difficulty surviving politically, he added.

“These are lameduck years for him, during which infighting among his followers will be debilitating and challenges will rise from within the ruling system as well as from the revolutionary forces,” Sison said.

Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters Tuesday the government hopes to wipe out the communist guerrillas in three years.

 ‘Pipe dream’

In the press briefing, Lorenzana admitted that defeating the communists could not be accomplished within the year, as earlier predicted by Duterte.

In September, President Duterte’s said the government would win the war against the NPA by the second quarter of 2019.

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff and now Presidential peace adviser Antonio Galvez in November echoed Duterte’s statement that the military will eliminate the NPA by next year.

Lorenzana, however, said the prediction is a tall order even with increased military operations nationwide.

“We cannot do it this year because it is a huge problem. If you will recall, this insurgency has been going on for the past 50 years already and we cannot end it in one year,” Lorenzana said.

“Maybe, our target now should be in the remaining three years of President Duterte’s term. We can probably accomplish that,” he added.

‘Wasted years’

Sison said Duterte should be blamed for wasting opportunities to sign peace agreements with the NDFP aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.

Duterte cancelled the peace talks with the NDFP in November 2017 and moved to have CPP and the NPA declared as “terrorist organizations.”

“Were the Duterte regime willing to engage sincerely and seriously in peace negotiations with the NDFP to address the roots of the armed conflict and make agreements on social, economic and political reforms, a just peace could be attained in less time than three years and at far less cost in contrast to the enemy’s futile military campaigns that are costly in terms of blood and public money,” Sison said.

“The problem with the Duterte regime is that it thinks peace negotiations are merely for the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and that the sincerity of the NDFP is merely the willingness to surrender to the unjust ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats like Duterte,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lorenzana, Año and Roque sounding death knell on talks—Agcaoili

Verbal attacks by government officials against Professor Jose Maria Sison is sounding like the death knell on the peace talks under the Rodrigo Duterte regime, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said that the orchestrated tirades against Sison by Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, acting Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque are purely lies and attacks by “peace spoilers.”

Lorenzana, Año and Roque have repeatedly blamed Sison for the impasse on the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines after the prospective fifth round of formal talks has been cancelled for the fifth time last month.

“Let us not be lulled or hoodwinked by Sison’s glib tongue about reforms. They will institute reforms all right, but along communist lines when they have finally won,” Lorenzana said in a recent statement.

“In fact, they don’t even have to win because their socialistic CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) , which they are trying to ram down our throats, will ensure that they will have a foothold in governance,” he added.

Año also accused Sison of being out of touch with what is happening in the Philippines while Roque in turn said the Communist Party of the Philippines founder is “arrogant”.

Agcaoili, however, said the GRP officials are falsely blaming the wrong person for the impasse, adding it is Duterte who should be blamed for the problems faced by the negotiations.

“Lorenzana, Año and Roque must have been in another planet when GRP President Duterte issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace talks. That proclamation has never been rescinded impliedly or otherwise,” Agcaoili said.

“In fact Duterte postponed the mutually agreed upon date for resumption of the formal talks on June 28-30, 2018, in Oslo, Norway, which would have been the occasion to remove the impediments put up by the GRP to move the peace negotiations forward,” he added.

‘Not even original’

Agcaoili also clarified it was the government that suggested a coalition government with the NDFP.

“For the record, the NDFP has never put forward any demand for a coalition government. This has been clarified several times by Prof. Jose Maria Sison to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, since October 2017,” he said.

Agcaoili said it was during the time of former President Benigno Aquino when former GRP chief negotiator Alex Padilla under orders by then Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles who raised the spectre of a coalition government.

Agcaoili added that it was also with the Aquino administration that the NDFP draft of CASER was originally described as “socialist”.

“So, an allegedly anti-Aquino regime has adopted the false narrative of its arch enemy to waylay the peace talks,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: ‘Lorenzinitis’ afflicts the peace process

The Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) lashed back at Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, saying the former general is the one defining the Rodrigo Duterte government’s policies on the peace talks.

Reacting to an article titled “The Public Should Know” attributed to Lorenzana, the CPP said the secretary defines the Duterte government’s so-called anti –peace policy “based on his one-track militarist mindset.”

“To Lorenzana and his ilk of fascists, including Duterte himself, the only solution to the civil war in the country is the military solution. This is the old 1930s dogma promoted by the US military [that] sees profit in every war it instigates and foments,” the CPP said in a statement.

CPP Information Bureau graphic describing Lorenzana’s so-called affliction.

The group said Lorenzana is a war promoter and consummate militarist who wants no non-military end to the civil war in the Philippines.

“He fears losing significance if the present civil war in the country is settled politically through peace negotiations. To him, the only solution is to recruit more and more soldiers to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in order to lay siege on thousands of barrios nationwide and sow terror among the people,” the CPP said.

A consistent critique of the peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Lorenzana again urged the Duterte administration to stop talking peace with the communists despite the President’s repeated clarification that he is only taking time off to review past agreements between the parties.

Lorenzana said negotiations on social and economic reforms are dangerous, blaming NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison for the agreements reached by the negotiating panels thus far.

“Let us not be lulled or hoodwinked by Sison’s glib tongue about reforms. They will institute reforms all right, but along communist lines when they have finally won,” Lorenzana wrote.

“In fact, they don’t even have to win because their socialistic CASER, which they are trying to ram down our throats, will ensure that they will have a foothold in governance,” he added.

Lorenzana threatened to pursue localized peace talks instead.

The New People’s Army has never agreed to negotiate with the government, however, repeatedly saying the NDFP Negotiating Panel is their only representative to the peace talks.

The CPP said the defense secretary’s wild and violent imagination as well as ”allergy to peace” are symptoms to an affliction called “lorenzanitis”.

“To the broad masses of workers and peasants, Duterte, Lorenzana and the AFP, are the real terrorists. Lorenzana, who once served as the military attache in Washington, is a big United States (US) military sales agent in the Philippine government,” the CPP said.

The CPP recalled that Lorenzana rejected the 5,000 assault rifles from China for the AFP and disposed it to the Philippine National Police instead.

“He is the zealous US sentry that ensures that the AFP will always remain as the key pillar of US hegemonism in the Philippines,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Only spoilers are happy with peace talks postponement—Bayan Muna

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed dismay in the delay of the resumption of formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Reacting to Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza’s announcement Thursday that the scheduled formal talks on June 28 is postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Zarate said the issue of public consultations can be addressed while the negotiations are ongoing.

“They should not be used as stumbling blocks or preconditions for the resumption of the negotiations,” Zarate said.

The progressive solon added the Filipino people have long supported the peace talks for a just and lasting peace.

“Indeed, addressing the root causes of the armed conflict like landlessness, oppression and exploitation, among others, will certainly get the continued support of the majority of Filipinos,” Zarate explained.

Meanwhile, defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted military and police authorities expressed concerns the New People’s Army will only use the resumption of the peace talks to strengthen their forces, media outfit Rappler reported.

Lorenzana confirmed this were among the issues GRP security forces raised when GRP negotiators briefed Duterte Wednesday, June 13, on the results of the four round of informal talks in The Netherlands.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) wholly support the President’s peace initiative. But they also raised the alarm that the peace process could be used by the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) to regroup and strengthen their mass base as they have done numerous times before,” Lorenzana told Rappler.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said this was among the matters raised by security officials during the meeting, Rappler said.

Zarate, however, said such delays will only give “peace spoilers and saboteurs” longer time to sabotage the peace process.

“Resume the talks now. It is only those who benefit and profit from the current inequitable and unjust system will not support the peace talks and will do all they can to sabotage it,” Zarate said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma says NDFP will follow stand down agreement if signed

Jose Maria Sison said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will follow the terms of their prospective stand down agreement with Government of the Republic of Philippines (GRP) should both parties push through with its declaration on June 14.

Sison was reacting to the Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the military doubts the Reds would abide by the agreement.

“The stand down agreement creates a favorable atmosphere for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations and the interim peace agreement to be signed in Oslo, hopefully on June 28,” Sison explained.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Friday that Lorenzana and Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno doubt communist guerrillas would respect any ceasefire ahead of the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the government.

The report quoted Lorenzana telling reporters during an Air Force forum at Camp Aguinaldo Thursday that it might only be the military that would follow a stand down agreement between the NDFP and the GRP.

“What does stand down mean anyway? We might stand down but they wouldn’t,” Lorenza said.

“Stand down means ‘cease operations.’ Stand down for them might mean there would be no attacks but we suspect they will continue their recruitment. They also have to stop that if there is a stand-down,” the Inquirer reported Lorenzana saying.

Lorenza said the rebels are actually intensifying their expansion of their areas.

In the past, however, NDFP negotiators have said their recruitment activities have nothing to do with the NPA’s military operations, which would be the subject of the prospective stand down agreement between the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels.

Peace saboteurs

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate hit Lorenzana and the military for issuing statements that “spoil and sabotage the peace negotiations.”

“Stop monkey-wrenching the GRP-NDFP peace talks,” Zarate told Lorenzana and the military.

Zarate said Lorenzana and the military have been launching attacks against the peace process in all fronts but fail to put forward a paradigm that would effectively address the root causes of the armed conflict.

“Their default solution to the problem is still the US-prescribed combination of psychological warfare and military counter-insurgency operations that they have been doing for decades and have been proven to be a failure and a waste of lives and resources,” Zarate said.

Zarate said he calls on all peace advocates to be watchful of spoilers and saboteurs as the negotiating panels push for the forging a comprehensive agreements on socio-economic and political reforms.

“It would be best for the DND and the AFP to concentrate on the defense of the Philippines from China and the US that are now increasing their military activities in our territories instead of trying to sabotage the peace talks that can pave the way for a just and lasting peace and uplift the lives of majority of Filipinos,” Zarate said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bello announces possible resumption of talks in August

Formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may resume on the second or third week of August, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said.

In a Malacañan press briefing today, Bello said he met Sunday night with NDFP counterpart Fidel Agcaoili that resulted in an “initial understanding” the cancelled fifth round of talks will probably be realized next month.

Bello said the possible resumption of the talks has the blessings of GRP President Rodrigo Duterte.

He added that the fifth round of talks would focus on socioeconomic reforms.

The parties’ reciprocal working committees on socioeconomic reforms were supposed to submit new agreements to the negotiating panels at the cancelled fifth round in The Netherlands last May.

Bello also revealed that both parties have agreed to hold an informal meeting on the third or last week of this month but have yet to decide if it would be held in Japan, Hong Kong or the Philippines.

“The parties will have an informal meeting so that come August, it (the agenda) would already be clear. And (the reciprocal working committee agreements) will only be for submission for the formal approval of the panels,” Bello said.

Interim unilateral ceasefire

Bello also said the informal talks this month and the fifth round of formal talks in August may also tackle the issue of an interim unilateral ceasefire in a bid to create a more conducive atmosphere during the talks.

“It’s possible. Yun nga ang sinabi ko that informal meeting by the end of July we will be discussing interim unilateral ceasefire separately signed by both parties,” Bello said.

Bello said there are still issues that need to be resolved before a ceasefire could be agreed upon, such as the question of having adjudicators in case of ceasefire violations.

“One of the issues there would be, ‘Who would be the referee?’ Kung halimbawang may violations, saan ka tatakbo?” Bello said.

“It could be a joint monitoring team of the ceasefire,” he added.

Bello said the interim unilateral ceasefire could be in effect until a bilateral ceasefire is agreed upon.

Lorenzana says no

Bello’s announcement, however, runs counter to national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s recommendation to the GRP panel not to resume formal peace negotiations with the NDFP just yet.

Lorenzana said he has recommended to the GRP panel to stop talking to the NDFP if they continue their attacks against government forces and alleged extortion activities, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) reported yesterday.

“I, for one, have already been talking with the GRP panel if it’s possible to stop talking for a while with the CPP as long as they can’t control the NPAs who conduct extortion activities, burning of private properties, and kidnappings,” the PDI report quoted Lorenzana saying.

In response to a question at the Malacañan press briefing today, however, Bello said NPA attacks are part of the armed conflict.

“The reality is that there is an existing armed conflict.  That is the reason why we are talking to end the armed conflict. So habang nag-uusap tayo, we expect some skirmishes once in a while,” Bello said.

The parties’ last unilateral ceasefire declarations from August of last year to February this year have been the longest truce in the history of the armed conflict between the GRP and the NDFP.

It unraveled, however, when GRP troops belonging to the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army attacked a NPA encampment in Makilala, North Cotabato last January while the third round of formal talks was ongoing in Rome, Italy.

Before the Makilala attack, the NDFP has already accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines of further militarizing indigenous peoples and peasant communities that contributed to the decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines to suspend its unilateral ceasefire declaration by early February.

Meanwhile, the NDFP have yet to comment on Bello’s announcement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP ‘preconditions’ and ‘creeping nationwide martial rule’ set back talks–CPP

NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) blamed the Rodrigo Duterte government for the cancellation of the fifth round of formal negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), saying the setback is Manila government’s sole responsibility.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP) decision not to participate in the fifth round of talks was brought about by its all-out war and martial law, the CPP in a statement said.

The group said the GRP demanded that the NPA silence its guns while “AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) cannons, bombs and heavy gunfire thunder against the people.”

The CPP said the GRP Negotiating Panel “imposed unnecessary, last-minute and unacceptable preconditions for talks to proceed.”

It added the GRP’s decision has effectively derailed and set back negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

The CPP said the GRP insisted that the NDFP sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement prior to the negotiations on any other substantive agreement and the CPP recall its declaration to the NPA to carry out more military offensives in the face of its own all-out war and imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Such demands have become increasingly counterproductive, the underground organization said.

Creeping nationwide martial rule

The group explained its order for more tactical offensives against GRP forces was merely a response to defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement the NPA may be a target of the GRP’s martial law imposition.

The CPP said it heard the retraction by Defense Secretary Lorenzana that martial law in Mindanao is not directed against the NPA but said it was “empty and self-contradicted by his consequent order for the military to go against the NPA for its ‘illegal activities’.”

The group said that even as Duterte’s martial law declaration covers only Mindanao, all GRP military units and police forces have gone on red or full alert in North Luzon, Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Bicol Region, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Negros and Panay.

“They have imposed their threatening armed presence in public places, parked tanks in government offices and roadsides. Checkpoints have been set up as well in Tacloban City on the utterly ridiculous reason of ‘solidarity with martial law in Mindanao,’” the CPP said.

“The Party joins the people in denouncing the creeping nationwide martial rule,” it added.

Norwegian government still supportive of the peace process

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Slattum, Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process said her government remains committed to their support of the peace negotiations.

“It is very unfortunate that this round of formal talks could not take place as scheduled. But it is important to remember that all peace processes go through difficult times,” Slattum told reporters after the cancellation announcements.

“What defines a successful peace process is not the absence of crises but the ability of the parties to overcome them and push through,” she said, adding she witnessed how the negotiating panels showed “great dedication and commitment to these peace negotiations.”

“It is important to specify that although this fifth round of formal talks will not take place, the peace talks have not been cancelled and the peace process remains intact. Norway is very hopeful that the parties will be able to return to the negotiating table very soon,” Slattum said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by Viory Schellekens)