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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Peace talks should have no preconditions

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The Marcos administration took two giant steps toward restoring peace in the country through its proclamation of amnesty for various rebel groups and its agreement with the National Democratic Front to restart peace negotiations and reach a political settlement of the 55-year old Maoist insurgency.

But while the twin peace initiatives have been met with wide approval from Congress, Cabinet offices, the business sector, civil society and even foreign governments, no less than Vice President Sara Duterte called the proposed peace talks with the NDF “a pact with the devil.”

Some segments of the security sector are said to also take a dim view of the offer of amnesty particularly for current and former members of the New People’s Army or NPA even as AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner expressed full support for the Marcos administration’s bold policy initiative.

But while the misgivings may be well-founded and even understandable from one point of view—after all, we have a democratic system in place where contrary ideas may be freely articulated—the administration’s back-to-back peace initiatives face serious obstacles.

On one hand, the government, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), has declared the agreement on the peace talks is not a resumption nor a continuation of previous ones, but a “new beginning.”

Does this mean the previous agreements entered into by the two sides since 1987, particularly on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) are now considered null and void?

The NDF could well claim this constitutes a precondition for the restart of peace talks.

On the other hand, the NDF is not blameless as well for setting not one, not two but several demands, in fact, for the peace talks to take place.

It wants the release of all its ‘peace consultants,’ the repeal of its ‘terrorist designation’ by the government, the dismantling of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the release of some 800 political prisoners charged with rebellion and common crimes such as murder.

“These are critical and practical measures, without which it is doubtful peace negotiations can even proceed,” according to the Communist Party of the Philippines spokesman.

As things now stand, do you think the agreed-upon peace talks will start soon?

Or proceed at all?

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