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Pandemic preventing GRP-NDFP back-channel talks

The spike in new Coronavirus-19 (Covid-19) cases in Europe late last year frustrated plans for back-channel talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said a planned trip by GRP emissaries to The Netherlands last December did not push through as many countries in Europe implemented extended lockdowns.

“What (labor secretary) Bebot [Silvestre Bello] said that he and (former Pangasinan Representative and GRP Negotiating Panel member) Nani (Hernani Braganza) planned to come over was true,” Sison said.

Sison confirmed that the planned back-channel talks are with the permission of GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and with the mediation of Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Idun Tvedt.

During the online Ninth Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace on Thursday Bello revealed that back-channel talks are ongoing between the parties.

Bello said that Duterte is again “very much inclined” to revive the negotiations he scuttled in June 2017.

The former GRP chief negotiator said he is confident formal negotiations can resume within Duterte’s last 16 months in office.

Interim NDFP chief negotiator Juliet de Lima for her part told the online forum that the planned back-channel talks would resume discussions on an interim peace agreement (IPA) that includes agreements on social and economic reforms.

IPA discussions shall also include possible coordinated unilateral ceasefire declarations as well as modes for their implementation, de Lima said.

From lows of 108,000 new daily cases last July, new Covid-19 cases spiked in Europe from November last year to January this year, peaking at upwards of two million new cases daily in mid-November.

European countries have since re-imposed strict lock downs and health protocols.

Sison said no new date has yet been set for Bello and Braganza’s possible trip.

Braganza also told Kodao that until vaccinated, it would be difficult for him and Bello to plan the trip.

Mahirap umalis na walang vaccination. Iba-iba rin ang rules hinggil sa quarantine,” he said. (It is ill-advised without being vaccinated. Rules regarding quarantines are also different.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP assigns Julie de Lima as interim peace panel chairperson

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has assigned Juliet de Lima as interim chairperson of its Negotiating Panel following the death of former chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili last month.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao that de Lima is the most senior and most available among the members of the Left’s peace panel.

Sison added that de Lima, his wife, is also the “most secure for relating to the third party facilitator with matters pertaining to the NDFP section of the Joint Secretariat and Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”

Established in June 2004, the Joint Secretariat is tasked, among others, to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has refused to hold offices in the Joint Secretariat’s Cubao, Quezon City headquarters for several years already, however.

Signed by both parties in March 1998, the CARHRIHL is the first of four substantive agenda on the peace talks based on The 1992 GRP-NDFP Hague Joint Declaration.

The three other substantive agenda are social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The Royal Norwegian Government has been the third party facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations since 2002.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel includes Coni Ledesma, Asterio Palima and Benito Tiamzon.

It has been engaged in on-off peace negotiations with the Philippine government since 1986 after the downfall of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

‘No rush to appoint replacements’

Sison also told Kodao in an online interview that there is no rush to appoint replacements to Agcaoili and NDFP Negotiating Panel Reciprocal Working Committee vice chairperson Randall Echanis who has brutally murdered last August 10.

Sison said that the lack of peace negotiations while Duterte is in power is temporary and will not last long.

“The National Council of the NDFP has enough time to complete the NDFP Negotiating Panel with the replacements of Ka Fidel and Ka Randy and revitalizing the working committees before peace negotiations will probably resume after (GRP President Rodrigo) Duterte is gone,” Sison said.

Duterte shall end his six-year term in June 2022.

“The broad united front against Duterte expects that his successor will opt for peace negotiations,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kabataang Makabayan film launches to a full house

HUNDREDS of viewers packed the University of the Philippines film institute as the film “Tibak: The Story of Kabataang Makabayan” was launched Monday.

Directed by veteran journalist Arlyn dela Cruz, the film looks back the founding of the revolutionary youth organization that started the national democratic revolution in the Philippines. # (Divine C. Miranda)

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