131 lawmakers call for resumption of peace talks
MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers across party lines are calling for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
House lawmakers on Thursday, December 19, filed House Resolution No. 636 seeking the “immediate resumption of peace negotiations” between the government and the NDFP.
Among the 131 lawmakers who signed were House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna representative Carlos Zarate, Deputy Speakers Boyet Gonzales, Elray Villafuerte, Evie Escudero, Johnny Pimentel, Minority Leader Benny Abante, and Deputy Minority Leader Kit Belmonte.
Zarate earlier said the "resolution is a strong message of support from the members of the House in pursuing the peace process as a way of ending the root causes of the more than 5-decade armed rebellion.”
He warned, however, of attempts from so-called saboteurs who would want to derail the push to start the peace talks anew. He said these people derailed the peace talks even when there were indications that the peace panels wanted to see the negotiations through.
“President Duterte should not listen to these peace spoilers, reject their hawkish overtures, and immediately resume the peace talks,” Zarate said.
The progressive lawmaker added, “It is good that more and more people like our fellow solons are seeing the need for genuine peace as paramount and they are not swayed by the lies of these militarists, in and out of government.”
How are peace talks under Duterte? Duterte, earlier in his term, was warm toward the communist movement, even inviting some of its leaders to Malacañang and appointing them to his Cabinet. Peace talks were initiated with the NDFP in Oslo, Norway, and had a couple of false starts.
Duterte then accused the New People’s Army, the communist movement’s armed wing, of double-crossing the government by going about armed activities despite the ongoing peace negotiations. Duterte formally termitated the peace talks in November 2017, after the killing of a 4-month-old child in a gun attack on a police car in Bukidnon.
But in December 2018, Duterte ordered the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to hold “localized peace talks” between local government units and individual NPA fronts.
The government has been enticing NPA guerrillas to defect and return to civilian life, as the police and military ratchet up their pursuit of rebel strongholds. Security forces have broadened their crackdown to include progressive groups that they accuse of acting as legal fronts for the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
A year later, on December 5, Duterte announced he would send labor secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk to communist leader Jose Maria Sison in the Netherlands about the possibility of reviving peace negotiations.
Duterte said the government would pursue another round of peace talks with insurgents on the condition that they would be done in the Philippines. Sison said he had qualms about the government's offer, and insisted on staying away from the Philippines, where he would be under Duterte's power and could be killed.
Holding peace negotiations in neutral territory is standard practice among peace processes in history. In the case of the Philippines, government negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Font in the mid 1970s were held in Libya, while recent talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were hosted by Malaysia.
There was an attempt to hold peace talks with the NDFP in Vietnam during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, but it did not materialize. – Rappler.com