NOORDWIJK AAN ZEE, The Netherlands — The fifth round of talks between the Philippine government and communists was put on hold on the day that it was supposed to open here Saturday, May 27. Both peace panels said it will be deliberating further on the formal resumption of the talks today.
Malacañang issued a statement that the government is cancelling the talks ahead of a formal joint statement issued by the two parties at around 1:30 pm (7:30 pm Philippine time).
Spokesperson Ernesto Abella’s statement fortified an earlier statement issued by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza that they are proposing to suspend the peace talks because the communists are escalating armed offensives in response to the Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Both camps, however, expressed hope that the issue of the talks will be resolved.
At around 4pm (10pm PHT) the National Democratic Front of the Philippines issued a statement that it is ready to resume talks “when the other side is willing to do so.”
Government of the Republic of the Philippines peace panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III said they were not aware that the Palace issued a statement as no personal communication reached them.
“If there’s any development on the talks, it should come from the panel. So just be patient,” Bello said.
The Parties meet in a panel to panel discussion around 6pm (12am, Sunday PHT) to discuss the fate of the talks. It went on break after a few minutes.
The media was told by sources from both Parties that the panels will meet again at around 8pm, however, the GRP has requested to the facilitators of the Royal Norwegian Government facilitators to resume sessions 9am Sunday (3pm PHT).
Ceasefire, Martial Law
Unresolved issues prior to the start of the talks came to a boil at the supposed opening of the formal negotiations for the 5th round between the GRP and the NDFP.
The GRP insists on cessation of hostilities, taking issue for the escalated tactical offensives by the New People’s Army since the 4th round of peace talks and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ order to counter Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao by waging armed offensives.
The NDFP, through Senior Adviser Luis Jalandoni, promptly informed the media that the government is “breaking off” the talks and is pushing for a ceasefire.
However, Jalandoni said the Philippine government did not consider the reality on the ground and did not mention the state’s violations to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“Bini-break off nila ngayon yung talks, yung sa aming side willing kami to continue, talk and fight (They are breaking off the talks. On our side we are willing to continue, talk and fight),” he said.
“They bring up all these violations, ang gusto lang nila ay mag-ceasefire agreement at tsaka ihinto ang pag-defend ng NPA sa masa (They only want a ceasefire agreement and for the NPA to stop defending the people),” he said.
In response to Jalandoni’s interview, the GRP called for a press conference where Dureza read a statement announcing that the government will “not proceed to participate in the scheduled fifth round of peace negotiations until such time as there are clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail.”
At around 11 am here Dureza cited the government’s perceived “serious challenges” on the talks including the: offensive attacks of the NPAs in the country, question of sincerity of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the peace talks, clamor to pursue localized peace talks, public admissions of some panel members of the communists that they have no control over their forces on the ground.
Dureza said the latest problem was the statement of the CPP ordering the revolutionary forces to intensify attacks amid Martial Law declaration in Mindanao.
Fidel Agcaoili, in a press interview, said the AFP has included the NPA in Mindanao as among the targets of Martial Law, thus prompting the CPP to issue an order.
“You know if you read the declaration of Martial Law there’s no mention there of the NPA but then it was (Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana) who said that the NPA is part of the target. Now he’s retracting that. But in retracting it he said if the members of the NPA are engaged in “extortion” which means taxation and “kidnapping” which is capturing soldier of the Armed Forces, then they will become targets,” Agcaoili said.
But he said that they already recommended for the CPP to reconsider it to push through with the fifth round of talks.
“We have already recommended out of goodwill and in making sure that the fifth round of talks will continue,” Agcaoili said.
NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison on May 26 issued a statement saying that the NDFP panel is recommending to the National Executive Committee of the NDFP and the Central Committee of the CPP to “reconsider the order to the NPA to intensify tactical offensives” in response to the previous statement of Lorenzana that the NPA is a target of martial law.
He said that the terrorist act by the Maute group should not impede the fifth round of talks and should instead be an “incentive” for the government and NDFP to agree to fight groups that are terrorists.
“We in the NDFP are together with the GRP in opposing and fighting the ISIS-affiliated and CIA-supported groupslike the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf,” Sison said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Lorenzana said “members of the CPP-NPA who will engage in criminal and illegal acts such as kidnapping, extortion, murder, and the destruction of property will be dealt with or without martial law.”
Lorenzana said: “Gusto ko lang liwanagin ang mensahe ko sa CPP-NPA. Huwag na kayong makigulo pa sa nangyayari ngayon sa Mindanao (I want to make my message clear to the CPP-NPA. Do not add to the chaos happening in Mindanao). Do not force the government’s hand. Immediately stop all illegal activities and abide by the true spirit of the peace process. This is the only way we can move forward.”
But Agcaoili said calling off the offensive should not be a precondition for the peace talks to continue.
“If they make it a precondition then we might also have to decide,” he said.
He said they are willing to have a “certain amount of ceasefire” but discussing reforms should continue as these are the reasons why there is armed conflict.
“We have to be negotiating based on sincerity, transparency. We have always been upfront. We want reforms before we can talk about ceasefire,” Agcaoili said.(davaotoday.com)