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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lawmakers unite behind peace talks

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Crossing party lines, House rejects VP Sara’s warning vs. dialog with Reds

Lawmakers crossed party lines on Tuesday to support President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s peace initiative a day after Vice President Sara Duterte warned him that resuming talks with the communists was like reaching “an agreement with the devil.”

“As the united voice of the House of Representatives, representing all political parties, we collectively express our unwavering support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s initiative for peace and national unity,” a joint statement released Tuesday said.

“President Marcos’s call for peace transcends political boundaries and speaks to the core of our shared values as Filipinos. It is a call for understanding, cooperation, and collective action towards a future where every citizen can live in harmony and prosperity,” the House leaders said.

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco, who released the statement, said it had the support of all parties, including those in the opposition and the Makabayan bloc.

Party leaders who support the statement include Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe, and Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats; Rizal Rep. Michael John Duavit,Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, and Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC); Las Piñas City Rep. Camille Villar, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, and Romblon Rep Eleandro Jesus Madrona of the Nacionalista Party (NP); Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno, and Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia of the National Unity Party (NUP); Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, Bicol Saro Partylist Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan, and Barangay Health & Wellness (BHW) party-list Rep. Angelica Natasha Co of the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI); and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco of the Partido Navoteño and a representative of other political parties in the House of Representatives.

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Earlier, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez led the filing of House Concurrent Resolutions (HCRs) 19, 20, 21, and 22, which sought to concur with the amnesty proclamations President Marcos issued earlier in favor of various rebel groups.

Amnesty Proclamations 403, 404, 405, and 406 cover members of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB), Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CP-NPA-NDF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), respectively.

Romualdez said the chamber inteds to adopt all four concurrent resolutions before the Christmas break.

“The timely adoption of these concurrent resolutions is attuned with the spirit of hope, peace, and joy that the Christmas season brings,” Romualdez said.

Deliberations on the concurrent resolutions began Tuesday in the House committee on justice.

“Recognizing the complexities and challenges of this peace process, we pledge our support and commitment to contribute constructively to these negotiations. We are united in the belief that through dialogue, empathy, and mutual respect, we can overcome historical divides and build a more inclusive and peaceful nation,” the political parties said in the joint statement.

“We urge all Filipinos from every corner of our archipelago to join us in this noble pursuit. It is only through our joint efforts that we can turn the aspirations of peace, unity, and progress into reality,” they said.

“In solidarity, we commend President Marcos for his visionary leadership. Together, as a united House of Representatives and as one nation, we look forward to a future marked by peace, unity, and prosperity for all Filipinos,” they concluded.

The statement was a clear rejection of Duterte’s opposition to the amnesty proclamations issued by the President and the decision to resume peace talks with the communists.

“History has proven the communists are not serious and are insincere in peace talks. They will use the peace negotiation to betray the government and dupe our people,” the Vice President said in a statement Monday.

“We appeal to your power to review these proclamations and agreements,” she added.

Her father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, terminated peace negotiations in 2017 and declared the NPA a terrorist organization.

“I support efforts to pursue peace because the fight against terrorists is deeply personal to me, as it is deeply personal to the families of countless Filipinos whose lives were forever upended because of the madness of terrorists. But granting amnesty is not the way to peace,” the Vice President said, publicly contradicting the President.

“Mr. President, we can negotiate for peace and reconciliation and pursue meaningful development efforts in the Philippines without capitulating to the enemies. We ask that you hear us out,” Duterte added.

The government and the CPP-NDF issued a joint communique last month in Oslo signaling the commitment of both parties to restart peace negotiations.

Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez said granting amnesty to former rebels is a crucial component of efforts to end the communist insurgency and urged a joint meeting of the House committees on justice and on national defense and security to support the President’s amnesty proclamation.

“The granting of amnesty is an integral part of the comprehensive peace process. It is a path towards normalization that would allow these former rebels not only to fully reintegrate themselves into mainstream society as peaceful, productive and law-abiding citizens, but more importantly, enable them to rebuild their lives and ensure a better future for themselves and their families,” he said.

Galvez, citing his own experience, said that both he and Presidential Assistant Wilben Mayor had benefited from an amnesty during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos in 1996.

“Having been granted amnesty during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos, we realized that armed struggle shall not, in any way, address the challenges confronting our nation. It is only by being part of the solution, and that is by being an advocate of peace, that has allowed us to help bring positive and meaningful change to our country,” he stated.

The joint committee on justice and national defense and security met on Tuesday to discuss the concurrent resolutions of Congress on the presidential proclamations granting amnesty to former members of four groups.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said he supported the joint statement issued by the government and the communist rebels on the resumption of peace talks.

“Right now, we believe that the joint statement is really moving towards lasting peace,” Brawner said in a CNN Philippines interview.

At the same time, he said he understood why the vice president opposed the peace initiatives.

“I cannot blame the Vice President for saying this. In fact, this opinion is shared by so many in our country, even soldiers,” Brawner said.

But he said the joint statement has no preconditions like a ceasefire or the release of political prisoners.

The AFP chief also noted that military operations against all rebels will continue.

Also on Tuesday, Senator JV Ejercito urged Duterte to talk to the President about her objections to peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

He said this would put a stop to speculation that there’s a rift between them.

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