National Anti Poverty Commission Lead Convenor Liza Maza. (Albert Alcain/Presidential Photo)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines —- National Anti-Poverty Commission Lead Convenor Liza Maza said she and two other Left-leaning Cabinet officials and government negotiators will be meeting President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20.

Maza said the Cabinet has not yet taken up the issue of the terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines during the recent Cabinet meeting.

She said Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza was supposed to give updates on the third round of talks in Rome, Italy. “But we were not able to go there anymore because there’s a lot (of items) in the agenda,” Maza told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

“The President told us that he will meet us, kaming mga ano, pursigido,” she said. The other cabinet officials in the meeting will include Social and Welfare Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and Dureza.

“We are meeting on the 20th,” Maza said.

Maza said Duterte’s interest to meet with them means: “He is intent on hearing our views, he is open to hearing us out.”

She said they hope the peace talks can be revived.

“It is important because we are already at the very important stage of the negotiations,” she said, citing that the third round of talks in which she took part as an adviser for the government is now tackling the more substantial agenda on the social and economic reforms.

“In the last round, I really saw how successful it was. Both sides were willing to hammer out things and come at a unity. It will be such a waste kung itatapon mo yung pinaghirapan ng both panels (It will be such a waste if you will throw what both panels have worked hard to achieve),” Maza said.

Meanwhile, Duterte who visited the wake of two slain soldiers in a clash with the New People’s Army in Calinan District here did not issue any statement about the peace talks.

Two soldiers were killed and 17 others were wounded after the NPAs set off a landmine at the boundary of Barangays Lamanan and Lacson in Calinan District here around 4pm Thursday.

The slain soldiers were Cpl. Michael D Yadao and Pvt. Virnel M Damondon.

After the successful round of talks in Rome, the turn of events bodes ill for the peace talks. The Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army on February 1 announced that it would terminate the talks effective on February 10 because of the non-release of political prisoners promised by the government and the encroachment of their bases by government soldiers.

But President Duterte responded by terminating the unilateral ceasefire of the government immediately on Feb. 3. Duterte followed this by terminating the peace talks on February 4. Duterte expressed his lamentation that three soldiers were killed in Bukidnon in a clash with the rebels.

Despite these, Maza, a former Representative from the militant Gabriela Women’s Party, said they still maintain their trust to the President. Maza was among the officials who were recommended by the National Democratic Front to Duterte after he won the elections.

She said they also have the president’s confidence.

“The President has said that he still has high confidence on the three of us because we are doing our work well, we are performing well,” she said.

She said their participation in the government ensures the voice of the civilians in governance. She said they are also willing to engage with other members of the Cabinet.

“It’s a struggle within and we will engage in that. Hindi pa namin igigiive up yung role nay un, kung saan nandyan din at malakas ang boses ng mga militarista, neoliberal, at mga dati (We will not give up this role when the voice of the militarist, neoliberal and the old are also strong),” she said.(

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