REDS REJECT GOVT PEACE DRAFT

Manila, Jan. 28, 2003 (Malaya) - The Communist Party of the Philippines has rejected a draft of a final peace agreement being proposed by government, calling it a "declaration of surrender."

CPP spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal, in an interview Sunday over radio station dzBB, said a peace agreement should be a product of negotiations.

"Huwag na nilang ipagpatuloy, huwag ipursigi ang sinasabi nilang final peace agreement na yan," he said of the draft prepared by a Cabinet oversight committee on internal security and which has been approved by President Arroyo.

"Ang kailangan, mag-usap at hindi yung sila lamang ang gagawa ng agreement ng hindi kami kausap," he added.

Malacaņang said the rejection showed that the communist movement is not sincere in pursuing peace.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said government has gone through a lot in coming out with the draft final agreement which the leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF have not even read.

"This just shows that they are not really after peace and the President and the GRP has shown willingness to discuss peace at anytime. We have gone through great lengths of formulating a comprehensive peace agreement and it's really up to the other side to respond," he said.

The 29-page draft agreement, finalized on January 17, has yet to be submitted to the communist panel.

But as in the past, talks will bog down on the issue of granting the NPA belligerence status, implying that the NPA and the government are co-equal and co-sovereign. The government would never allow this.

Rosal said they are still willing to return to the negotiating table and only awaiting word from government on when talks would resume.

But he said government should respect at least 10 agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, before they return to the talks.

He also said the government should take steps to remove Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, from the terrorist list of the United States and the European Union.

Sison, in a statement, said the proposed agreement "is nothing more a demand for the surrender of the principles and weapons of the NPA."

"As long as the civil war is unresolved, the armed forces of both sides will continue to launch offensives and counteroffensives. Will Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo therefore keep on suspending the peace negotiations after every tactical offensive of the NPA and touting herself as an anti-terrorist? And does she think that the NDFP will allow her to gain propaganda mileage by demonizing the revolutionary forces and leaders and blaming them for her own suspension of the peace negotiations?"

Silvestre Bello III, chief negotiator in talks with the CPP-National Democratic Front, recommended the declaration of a cease-fire as part of confidence-building measures.

Bunye said the draft aims to fast-track negotiations and prevent the two panels from being stuck by conflicting views on a given agenda, like in the past.

The draft involves the four agenda items of the peace talks - human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

On human rights and international humanitarian law, the draft agreement states that the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF reaffirm their adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) to address the armed conflict.

The CARHRIHL was completed during the Ramos administration but has not been implemented. It would be appended to the peace agreement.

The issue on socio-economic reforms was divided into basic principles; national economy and patrimony, industrialization and development; agrarian reform and rural development; environmental protection and sustainable development; and social justice and development.

Both parties are supposed to agree on a regular review of economic policies, harnessing full protection of the people, particularly workers, peasants, indigenous people and other basic sectors whose rights and welfare should also be protected.

On national economy and patrimony, industrialization and development, both parties will recognize the need for a "more self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos" and the need for sustainable growth with equity through political stability, the dismantling of monopolies and cartels, leveling the playing field of enterprise, and reducing corruption and inefficiency in society.

The political and constitutional reforms include reducing or eradicating opportunities for corruption, reforming the budget process, increasing public oversight and meritocracy in the civil service, enhancing sanctions against corruption, developing a partnership with the private sector and civil society, supporting judicial reforms, streamlining the prosecution process, and updating salary standards.

The other reforms include reviewing the security policy towards the eventual takeover by the PNP of the AFP's function of fighting insurgency and the AFP's concentration on external defense, strengthening penalties against policemen, soldiers, and other government officials involved in criminal activities.

The proposed electoral reforms include allowing Filipinos living and working abroad to vote, amending the partylist law, enacting the anti-dynasty and anti-turncoatism laws, strengthening the role of political workable multi-party system, reforming campaign financing, and promoting public ethics in the conduct of elections.

Government also committed to review the Constitution towards identifying "infirmities," researching on forms and models of government to ascertain options suitable to Philippine culture and psyche, and prepare stakeholders in the constitutional reform process for a democratic, transparent, and participatory debate.

The chapter on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces specifically stated that the CPP-NPA-NDF's acceptance of the accord "does not mean surrender but their voluntary act of reconciliation, with their honor and dignity intact."

Upon the effectivity of the peace agreement, members of the CPP-NPA-NDF will be granted "absolute and unconditional amnesty, except those who have committed non-political offenses and those not covered by an amnesty proclamation." No rebel could be arrested, except those with pending cases and arrest warrants for offenses not covered by amnesty.


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