By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has not forged any stand-down agreement with the communist rebel group but might consider it in the resumption of the peace talks, a Palace official said Monday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the remarks after criticizing the rebel group for its “irregular” release of the reported joint stand-down deal with the government.
“Wala pong stand-down agreement. Anyway, wala pa naman pong resumption of peace talks. I’m sure kung magkakaroon po ng resumption of peace talks, that will be considered [There is no stand-down agreement. Anyway, there is no resumption of peace talks yet. I’m sure if there will be a resumption of peace talks, that will be considered],” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
Before the government agrees to return to the negotiation table, Roque insisted that the President has asked the rebels to agree to ceasefire and stop its extortion activities.
“Mayroon pong mga demands din ang ating Presidente: Tigil pangongolekta ng revolutionary taxes; tigil talaga ang putukan, honest to goodness tigil ang putukan [The President has made demands including cessation of collection of revolutionary taxes and honest-to-goodness ceasefire],” he said.
The President earlier decided to defer the resumption of the peace talks set this month following a meeting with top military, police and other peace officials in Malacañang. Duterte reportedly wanted the government peace panel to conduct public consultations about the peace initiative first.
The communist rebel group denounced Duterte’s latest decision, citing the progress in the back channel negotiations including an alleged joint agreement to stop hostilities ahead of the resumption of the formal talks.
The stand-down agreement, reportedly signed by government and rebel peace panel chairs, was supposed to be released a week before the June 28 resumption of the talks in Norway.
Reacting to the release of the purported stand-down deal, Roque said
the rebel group should not have preempted the government in issuing statements about the peace process.
“No offense, but we find it somehow irregular that the NDF has taken upon itself the role of informing the public what has been or what has not been agreed upon,” he said.
“I think out of deference to the government, they should await government’s announcements and should not preempt government in making these announcements,” he added.
Roque also made clear that any agreement in the peace process would be reviewed by the President.
“It is always within the powers of the President to review what has or has not been agreed upon by his agents,” he said.
“He also has to determine if some of the provisions entered into by them – although I am not conceding that they have in fact entered into any specific provisions as of now, are pursuant to the authority granted to them by the President,” he added.