MANILA, MAY 5, 2013
(INQUIRER) By Michael Lim Ubac, Nikko Dizon - Malacañang shrugged. “It’s nothing new,” said Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Saturday when asked to comment on threats made by the communist rebels to intensify their attacks after the government announced that it would no longer pursue peace talks.

“They (communist rebels under the National Democratic Front) have not really ceased attacking the government since formal talks started more than 20 years ago, Lacierda said.

“You can characterize the position taken by the NDF in four words, and with due respect to the novel by Ian Fleming, ‘chatty chatty bang bang.’ We talk while violence continues,” said Lacierda in a radio interview on Saturday.

The presidential spokesperson was borrowing the phrase, albeit in modified form, from Fleming’s novel, “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.”

“So there’s nothing new with what they’re saying (about increased offensives),” said Lacierda. “The violence being perpetrated by the NPA has never stopped. So this is nothing new. The armed forces is always ready,” he added.

In an e-mail interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison said the government was “asking for intensified tactical offensives by the NPA” when it declared an end to the peace negotiations.

Sison said that as a result, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army, NDF and other revolutionary forces would strengthen their “strategic defensive posture.”

A report from Negros Occidental on Saturday said communist guerrillas raided the Philex Mining Corporation facility there, killing five soldiers and wounding two others in a clash. The rebels reportedly burned an employee barracks, mining equipment and a generator and seized six firearms from the soldiers.

Each side has blamed the other for the breakdown in the peace talks.

Government peace process adviser Teresita Deles had said that it was the NDF, the political arm of the CPP, which “killed” the talks because of its insistence on preconditions before the talks could resume.

Track to nowhere

Deles had lamented the lack of progress in the talks following consultations in Manila with Norwegian special envoy Ture Lundh. Norway is brokering the negotiations.

“We are not going back to the regular track which is going nowhere,” Deles had said.

Sison had responded by saying that it was Mr. Aquino who had killed the talks by allegedly allowing Deles to obstruct and practically kill the peace negotiations, “whether it is a special track or the regular track.”

Sison also derided the government’s “new approach” to the peace process, which he said involved “localized peace talks” designed to entice area-based NPA rebels to surrender.

He said this would lead to fake negotiations and bogus mass surrenders that would pave the way for public officials to pocket money from the government in the name of fake surrenderees.

Countering Sison, Lacierda said the government had already proven its sincerity when it came to the peace talks. “We’ve already signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the framework agreement,” he said.

Lacierda theorized that what the NDF meant by intensified operations was to continue extorting payments of permit-to-campaign fees from politicians campaigning in rebel-controlled territories.

“It’s election time. They are asking, extorting money from politicians,” said Lacierda. Earlier, the military said the NPA was making a killing collecting permit fees this election season.

Lacierda recalled that Sison had offered a “special track” to expedite the peace process, offering the immediate cessation of hostilities, only to retract it later.

“What happened, towards the end, they withdrew the (offer of) an immediate cessation of hostilities

—they don’t want a ceasefire anymore—which is an important component of the peace talks that the government also wants,” said Lacierda, adding that the rebel leaders also demanded a stop to the implementation of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and the antiinsurgency campaign.

“You know, CCT is meant to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. What the NDF wants is to perpetuate the intergenerational subservience to communism, which is unacceptable to us,” said Lacierda.

He also noted that over the last 20 years of protracted talks, only one meaningful document was signed in 1998—the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).

“Over 20 years of talking with them, only one agreement… was discussed (and signed), and after that, nothing,” he said.

Lacierda said the NDF had been notified of the government’s position to seek a “new approach.” He did not elaborate.

He also said the government chief negotiator, Alex Padilla, was not on the way out.

“Why should we replace him when he is not the problem?” said Lacierda.

Padilla, interviewed by the Inquirer, echoed Lacierda’s line about Sison: “There is nothing that he is offering but the same increased violence that we have, whether we have the peace talks or not. So, what else is new?”

Former peace panel negotiator Risa Hontiveros, however, urged the government to “never close the channels of communication.”

Hontiveros, former Akbayan party-list representative and now a senatorial candidate on the Team PNoy slate, said “it’s better that they (government and NDF) exchange barbs instead of bullets.”

Talking to reporters in Camarines Sur, Hontiveros said the government must be more insistent in pursuing the peace talks “because it has an obligation to do so and is the only entity capable of doing so.” With reports from Juan Escandor Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon; AP


Is Aquino to blame for scuttled peace talks? Print Email Published on 04 May 2013 Hits: 150 Written by Jhoanna Ballaran, Reporter

File photo taken on December 26, 2010 shows communist rebels standing in formation during the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines on the southern island of Mindanao. The Philippines said April 29, 2013 that peace talks with communist rebels had collapsed and a target of ending the decades-long insurgency by 2016 was impossible to achieve. AFP PHOTO


‘The violence continues, nothing has changed’

Now it’s water under the bridge. Again.

Since 1992, peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist rebels have resulted in a number of agreements and statements guided by international law. The off and on talks have been pursued and scuttled from the Ramos to the Arroyo administrations. Now, it’s the Aquino administration’s turn to try and end an insurgency that has lasted more than four decades and shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

Under President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP, also referred to as simply the NDF) is in the danger of bogging down as the government, following Government of the Philippines (GPH, formerly referred to as GRP for Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel chief negotiator Alexander Padilla’s statement over the week that the peace talks have failed.

“We are at an impasse now. Whether we talk or not, the same violence continues, nothing has changed. So why will we force ourselves to talk?” Padilla told the Agence France Presse.

The statement came a week after the encounter between the convoy of Ginoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona—wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guin­gona—and the New People’s Army (NPA). The incident left two people dead: Guingona’s aides, brothers Nestor and Tomas Velasco.

The NPA later apologized for the incident.

The unfortunate event has put a damper on the possibility of reconvening the peace talks and settling the long issue of the armed struggle in the countryside.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said last week that Norway has dropped its role as the third party facilitator last month when Ambassador Ture Lundh came to the Philippines.

“In our discussion with our Norwegian facilitator [Lundh] last month when he was here in Manila, we mutually established that the NDF killed the special track that they had themselves proposed and that we are not going back to the regular track which is going nowhere,” she said.

However, this was refuted by NDFP Chief Negotiator Luis Jalandoni, who said that the NDFP has not yet received any letter of termination from the GPH.

“I reiterate the NDFP position that the GPH has not given any written notice of termination of the peace talks to the NDFP, which is the proper addressee of such notice. This is stipulated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) of 1995,” he said in a statement.

“In an email letter to me in the afternoon of 30 April 2013, Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry stated: ‘Let me be absolutely clear in stating that the GPH has neither officially nor unofficially informed me of any termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP.’”

The communist rebels – whom the US government refers to as a terrorist organization —stressed that they are still open to formal peace talks despite the pronouncements of the GPH that the talks have already failed.

‘All previous agreements are binding’ Consultant to the NDFP Negotiating Panel Rey Casambre told The Manila Times that the previous agreements that the GPH and NDFP entered into should be binding and effective, even up to now, as it was an agreement with the government as the institution, not as an administration.

“Yes, because it is a negotiation between the NDF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” he said in an interview. “So whichever the administration is, it is bound by the agreement. Because the NDFP will not negotiate with the Aquino government alone then start all over again when [GPH] will change its administration.”

Casambre explained that prior to the resumption of a formal peace negotiation a joint statement would be released by both parties and that “previous agreements should be binding and effective.” But since 2011, when peace negotiations efforts resumed under Pres. Aquino, the GPH refused to issue such a statement.

Instead, Padilla called The Hague Joint Declaration as a document of “perpetual division.”

Casambre assailed Padilla’s statement and said that The Hague Joint Declaration is made possible by the negotiations and was even honored by the administrations prior the leadership of Pres. Aquino.

“If [The Hague Joint Declaration] was not created, then there will be no peace talks in the first place,” he said. “The NDF will not agree and enter into talks if there is no clear framework. It’s the document that made other agreements possible like Carhirl [Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law] and Jasig.”

In January 2011, the NDFP through Chief Political Consultant and CPP founder Jose Maria Sison proposed a special track (ST) to Pres. Aquino, offering a truce and alliance with the GPH to uphold national sovereignty, social justice and peace.

It laid down a six-point agenda, which includes the agreement to undertake 20 basic industrial projects.

“The ST is meant to supplement and advance the regular track (RT) which has as substantive agenda: human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces,” Jalandoni told The Manila Times in an email interview. “I think GPH Panel Chair Alexander Padilla misrepresents the ST as skipping or setting aside the RT.”

Not a precondition Jalandoni reiterated that the release of 13 NDFP consultants before the negotiations is not a precondition, rather an obligation of the GPH that it needs to comply with as per the Oslo Agreement signed on February 21, 2011.

“There are 13 NDFP consultants who remain detained, charged with common crimes, in violation of the Jasig,” he said. “In the Feb. 21, 2011 Oslo Agreement, the GPH Panel agreed to release all or most of these NDFP Consultants. We in the NDFP Negotiating Panel consider this an obligation of the GPH, not a precondition.”

Casambre also added that the activities of NDFP consultants are not separate from the NPA’s groundwork.

“What do they want? How can we involve the NPA in the negotiations? How can we make them follow [if we do not get them involved]?” he asked.

Will not work Early last week, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the government might initiate localized peace talks by holding a dialogue with the field units of the NPA—which means talking to the communist fighters in each guerilla zone, of which there are roughly around 110 to 120 in the country.

It is part of the “new approach” that the GPH proposes in the peace process, wherein various stakeholders in the communities affected by the armed conflict will be consulted by the government. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will play a huge role in the new approach.

Casambre emphasized that the scheme will not work. Besides the fact there will be no NPA unit that will be open to localized talks, the issues the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-NDF had been raising are of national scope like wages, agrarian reform and national industrialization. These are national policies that cannot be settled by local talks alone.

“In other words, the government, by saying that they will implement localized peace talks, they are not addressing the issue—they don’t want to face the issue on the national level.”

Granting the AFP a huge role in the new approach will also result in a conflict of interest, as they face allegations of human rights violations and abuses in the conflict-stricken areas.

For the last 44 years, the CPP-NPA-NDF has been waging a revolution against foreign intervention both political and economic; bureaucrat capitalism; and feudalism.

The protracted war being waged by the local communist movement is the longest Maoist rebellion in the world.

The NDF serves as the movement’s umbrella organization while the CPP acts as its political wing. The NPA is the armed wing of the movement.

The government says that various non-government organizations, party-lists, and even progressive church groups, as well as political leaders at the local levels, have formed links with the NDF.

Today’s extreme Left was formed in the 1960s, having spun off from the Hukbalahap which fought as a guerilla organization during World War II, and which subsequently took up arms against the government in the 1950s.

The late President Ramon Mag­saysay is credited with breaking the back of the Huks during his term as Defense secretary in the early ‘50s. At its peak, the original Philippine communist movement was seen to be taking control of the countryside and was at the gates of Manila.

Leaders of the original communist movement included the likes of Jesus Lava and Luis Taruc. In the ‘60s, UP college professor Jose Ma. Sison broke away from the remnants of the Huks and formed a new communist movement to battle the Marcos government. The NPA was formed by Bernabe ‘Commander Dante’ Buscayno, who made peace with the government during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino.


Report: 5 soldiers killed in clash with NPA guerrillas in Negros May 4, 2013 5:36pm

At least five soldiers were killed in an encounter with communist New People's Army rebels in Sipalay town in Negros Occidental province Saturday.

The rebels had raided the Philex Mining Corp. compound in Barangay Camindangan in Sipalay City Friday night, according to a report by state-run Philippines News Agency.

During the one-hour firefight at Sitio Omas in Barangay Camindangan at about 7:40 a.m., five soldiers were killed and two were wounded.

The NPA insurgents also took six rifles as they fled.

However, the PNA report said the names of the fatalities were withheld as the military is still notifying their relatives.

Investigation showed the NPA rebels raided the Philex compound at about 9 p.m. Friday and burned two employee bunkhouses.

They also set fire to a tractor with drilling machine, a generator set, a handheld radio, and some of the workers' personal belongings.

Soldiers from the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade pursued the rebels and engaged them in a firefight. — LBG, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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