Peace talks terms


I LIKE what I am see­ing so far with re­gards to gov­ern­ment’s will­ing­ness to re­open peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Na­tional Demo­cratic Front of the Philip­pines (NDFP). The ef­fort seems to be real, with the fo­cus be­ing on the co­or­di­nated uni­lat­eral cease­fire (CUC) pro­posal. What scut­tled the pre­vi­ous talks were claims of cease­fire vi­o­la­tions.

From what I un­der­stand from Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo’s state­ment upon his ar­rival in Davao af­ter his re­cent trip abroad, he wants to di­a­logue first with rebel lead­ers be­fore for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions could re­sume. He im­posed a twom­onth dead­line for the com­ple­tion of the di­a­logue wherein he would ex­press his de­mands to the NDFP and pre­sum­ably the rebels would be al­lowed to re­spond and to state their own de­mands.

The di­a­logue is meant to iron out some of the tricky is­sues that have led to the scut­tling of the talks in the past, no­tably the for­mu­la­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of a bi­lat­eral cease­fire. While the di­a­logue is on­go­ing, the CUC would be in place.

The pres­i­dent wants the talks would be held in the coun­try, which is an in­ter­est­ing pro­posal con­sid­er­ing how con­scious the rebels are with se­cu­rity. That is pre­cisely why they pre­ferred to have the talks held in a neu­tral coun­try. Be­sides, they have learned the lessons from the failed peace talks with the gov­ern­ment un­der then pres­i­dent Co­ra­zon Aquino in the lat­ter part of 1986 and early 1987.

That peace ne­go­ti­a­tion was lo­cal­ized, with talks held in prov­inces where or­ga­ni­za­tions of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines (CPP) and NDFP were strong.

The talks showed that even with a cease­fire in place, the two sides were ac­tu­ally do­ing some ma­neu­ver­ings away from the lime­light. Both wanted to gain po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary ad­van­tage from the process. The NDFP was mainly con­cerned with po­lit­i­cal gains while the gov­ern­ment was fo­cused on mil­i­tary gains. The talks al­lowed the mil­i­tary to har­vest tons of in­for­ma­tion be­cause of the sur­fac­ing of rebel lead­ers and sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tion con­ducted.

Some of the NDFP peace panel mem­bers and con­sul­tants are for­mer po­lit­i­cal de­tainees re­leased by the gov­ern­ment so they can join the talks. They can re­turn to the coun­try if they want to. Oth­ers, like Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines (CPP) found­ing chair­man Jose Ma. Si­son and Luis Ja­lan­doni have sought refuge in other coun­tries like the Nether­lands for years al­ready. Will they be will­ing to go home?

The ques­tion that would be in the minds of NDFP peace ne­go­tia­tors if the talks are held in the Philip­pines is what will hap­pen if the talks get scut­tled again? In the re­cent scut­tling, the mil­i­tary and the po­lice have at­tempted to re­ar­rest the rebel lead­ers who were re­leased be­cause of the talks. The rebels know that while the talks are on­go­ing, they would be put un­der sur­veil­lance, thus their vul­ner­a­bil­ity when talks are scut­tled.

I say the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions are en­ter­ing an­other in­ter­est­ing phase.

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