By Ellson Quismorio
Talking peace is always a good sign of development.
Militant congressman gave this view Friday, just hours after President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would be sending Labor Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III to the Netherlands to explore the potential reopening of peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“This is a positive development and we are calling for the immediate resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) based on the initialed agreements last June 2017,” House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
Zarate’s fellow nominee, Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, underscored the importance of addressing the root cause of the communist rebellion during this possible return to the negotiating table.
“Dapat talagang bigyang pansin ang mga hinaing o mga isyu ng mamamayan, dinggin ang boses ng taong bayan at higit sa lahat ay ituloy ang peace talks para pag-usapan ang ugat ng labanan na nangyayari sa ating bansa,” she said in the same statement.
(It is just right pay attention to the grievances of the community, to listen to the voice of the people and most of all resume the peace talks in order to tackle the root cause of the conflict in the country.)
This same positive outlook was echoed by another Makabayan Bloc lawmaker in ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. France Castro.
“It’s good to return to the nego[tiation] table and talk just peace. Sana i-formalize ito ayon sa procedure. But a welcome move. Sana sincere (Hopefully they formalize it according to the procedure. But it’s a welcome move. Hopefully it’s sincere),” Castro said.
Bello was especially ordered to talk to CPP founder Jose Maria Sison to put the peace talks between the GRP and the Reds back on track. Sison has been on exile in Utrecht, the Netherlands for more than 30 years.
Aside from his post as Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) chief, Bello had also served as GRP peace panel chairman.
As for the new iteration of peace talks, Zarate said the process would be faster if the two parties resumed where they left off, with no preconditions imposed.
“The last document the two negotiating panels agreed [on] was the Stand-Down Agreement that binds the military, the police, and the New People’s Army (NPA) from hostilities as ‘goodwill and confidence-building measures’ for the previously agreed resumption of the fifth round of talks supposed to be held last June 2018,” he pointed out. The NPA is the military arm of the CPP.
Zarate said the same document further stated that “the Stand-Down shall be declared and announced simultaneously by both parties one week before the agreed date of resumption of the formal talks” and that the “Stand-Down shall be understood to mean temporary cessation of hostilities in which the contending armed units and personnel of the parties stay where they are (“as is where is”), take an active defense mode, and shall not commit any offensive action or operation against combatants and civilians.”
He pointed out that “the stalled fifth round of talks seeks to forge an Interim Peace Agreement which contains key provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), general amnesty of political prisoners, and coordinated unilateral ceasefire and would be a great stride for the negotiations.”
“As representatives of the people, members of the House of Representatives are duty bound to express the sentiments and interests of their constituents for the immediate resumption of the stalled peace talks and for the determined effort to find peaceful, just and lasting resolution to the armed conflict between GRP and NDFP,” Zarate said.