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CPP-NDF to gov’t: Free consultants, political prisoners before peace talks

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Human rights groups pushed for the release of peace consultants and political prisoners as peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front are set to resume after being stalled for the past six years.

“There’s really a need to do that and I think it is a must for the BBM (Marcos) administration especially since they need people to talk to at the negotiating table,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in a press briefing yesterday.

“If there are no consultants, how can the technical working groups and committees work in order to discuss the rules?” she added.

Palabay said the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees should likewise be revived.

Karapatan counted 795 political prisoners as of Nov. 30, 2023, of which 17 are from the NDF, including Edilberto Silva, Vic Ladlad, Rey Casambre, and Loida Magpatoc.

Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares and executive vice-president Carlos Zarate welcomed the decision to revive the peace talks “with guarded optimism.”

“We hope that this resumption of the peace talks would continue until the causes of the armed conflict would finally be addressed to attain just and lasting peace for the country,” said Zarate.

“With the myriad of challenges being encountered by Filipinos today from the climate crisis, low wages, runaway inflation, education crisis, China’s incursion in our territory, the equally dangerous US militarist and interventionist policy, among others, we trust that this agreement of jumpstarting the stalled talks would eventually lead to its logical end – that is a political settlement for the betterment of our country,” he added.

Colmenares appealed to both the military and the police to support the peace process.

“The Filipino people want a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the conflict. Let’s give peace a chance. The Filipino people want a just and lasting peace, the Filipino people need a just and lasting peace,” he added.

For his part, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said the consensus to resume the suspended peace talks is a major stride toward progress.

“They disregarded their disparities for the betterment of our country,” Estrada said.

“They disregarded their disparities for the betterment of our country,” Estrada said.

“We will closely monitor the peace negotiations to ensure that any agreement reached reflects the principles of justice, inclusivity, and reconciliation, and upholds the interests of the Filipino people,” he added.

In their joint communique signed in Oslo on Nov. 23, the government and the CPP-NDF said they “agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.”

NDF chief negotiator Julieta De Lima-Sison said they will raise some “impediments” such as the release of peace consultants and political prisoners, as well as the terrorist designation of the Front.

“The timeline is still being discussed. Maybe next year,” she said. Connie Ledesma, an NDF consultant and the wife of Front chairman Luis Jalandoni, said they will also push for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The consensus to restart the talks came after President Marcos issued amnesty proclamations covering various rebel groups, including the CPP-NDF-New People’s Army.

The ongoing armed struggle, launched in 1969, grew out of the global communist movement, finding fertile soil in the country’s stark rich-poor divide.

At its peak in the 1980s, the group boasted about 26,000 fighters, a number the military says has now dwindled to a few thousand.

Since 1986, successive Philippine administrations have held peace talks with the communists through their Netherlands-based political arm, the NDF.

The 2016 election of President Rodrigo Duterte – a self-declared socialist – brought a burst of optimism for peace talks.

But the talks later devolved into threats and recrimination, with Duterte officially cutting them off in 2017, declaring the group a terrorist organization and accusing them of killing police and soldiers while negotiations were underway. With AFP

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