By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives urged President Rodrigo Duterte to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after members unanimously adopted House Resolution 2339 calling on the government to return to the negotiating table and complete the peace negotiations with the communist group.
Authors of HR 2339 include Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna); Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (LP, Ifugao); Leopoldo Bataoil (NP, Pangasinan); Bayani Fernando (PDP-Laban, MarikinaCity); Anthony Bravo (Coop-Natcco); Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Parylist); Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis); Emmanuel Billones (LP, Capiz); Eleonor Bulut-Begtang (LP, Apayao); Sabiniano Canama (Coop Natcco); Lorna Bautista-Bandigan (NUP, Davao Occidental) and Ruby Sahali (PDP-Laban, Tawi-tawi).
Sahali, chairperson of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said the legislative measure urges the Duterte government to complete the comprehensive agreements on social, economic, and political reforms that have been put on the backburner following the termination of peace talks.
Sahali lamented that the resolution was passed a few weeks after the resignation of Secretary Jesus Dureza as presidential adviser on the peace process.
Duterte has refused to give the go-signal for a return of the government peace panel to the negotiating table as he strongly doubted the NDFP’s sincerity in putting an end to its rebellion against government.
“We can start by maintaining effective communication exchanges that strike at the very root of these peace negotiations,” said Sahali.
It will be recalled that on February 20, 2018, Duterte conveyed the government’s willingness to resume the peace talks with the NDFP following a meeting in Davao City with Norwegian officials, including Idun Tvedt, special envoy on the GRP-NDFP peace process, which is being facilitated and hosted by the Royal Norwegian Government.
However, last month Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace talks with the NDFP. He also issued proclamation No. 374 declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorist organizations.
Moreover, the cancellation of the peace talks was announced just two days before the fifth round of formal talks scheduled on November 25 to 27, 2017 in Oslo, Norway when the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels were supposed to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the agreements on the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners and the coordinated unilateral ceasefires.
The resolution noted that compared to previous administrations, peace negotiations under the Duterte administration have reached remarkable and unparalleled headway after the four successful rounds of negotiations.
Aside from the CASER draft, the drafts Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) were being crafted. This was the farthest the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP have advanced since it began 25 years ago.