BAYAN Bicol dismayed with GRP’s non-participation in 5th round of formal talks

By Reynard Magtoto

LEGAZPI CITY – BAYAN-Bicol was dismayed with GRP Negotiating Panel’s cancellation of the 5th round of the GRP-NDFP peacetalks as both panels are suppose to discuss the substantive agreement on social and economic reforms.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) decision not to participate in the 5th round of formal talks threatens to squander the goodwill and the gains that have already been achieved in the peace negotiations in the past nine months, especially in the crafting of a substantive agreement on social and economic reforms.

“The GRP Panel seem to be kowtowing the mindset of the fascis-militarists clique in the Duterte administration who are hell-bent on decapitating the revolutionary forces peace talks or no peacetalks,” BAYAN-Bicol said.

In a press conference, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said there are no clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to proceed with the formal talks have been achieved after two days of informal and backchannel negotiations.

“This is a temporary setback which has also happened in the past. This only means we need to work harder on the peace process,” Bello said.

GRP negotiators repeatedly said earlier they want CPP to rescind its order to the NPA of intensified operations against government troops in light of defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement the rebel guerrillas are among the targets of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration over all of the Mindanao region.

According to Dureza it would be a factor if the GRP would resume formal peace negotiations in case CPP complies to the demand.

“Contrary to the GRP allegations, the NPA operations cannot be attributed to the failure of the CPP-NPA-NDFP leadership to control their ground forces. Rather, they (CPP directives) are defensive and counter-offensive responses to the AFP provocative actions and offensive operations,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in a prepared statement said.

The NDFP said the GRP is obscuring the fact that its forces “has been waging an ‘all-out-war’ against the NPA, conducting offensive operations and aerial bombings of communities regardless of ‘collateral damage’ – all on the direct and standing orders of President Duterte.”

Agcaoili said the GRP should consider stopping its all-out-war policy first before issuing “vague demands” from the NDFP.

“Contrary to its declared purpose, the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao, with threats to extend this throughout the archipelago, is bound to further escalate the armed conflict, aggravate the human rights situation and exacerbate the suffering of the people. It bestows a veneer of legality to justify the escalation of warrantless arrests, searches and seizures as well as indefinite detention targeting entire civilian communities suspected of supporting rebel and other armed groups. It further emboldens the AFP, PNP and other state-sponsored armed groups to perpetrate extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, forced evacuation, filing of trumped-up charges, threats, intimidation and other human rights violations with impunity. The revolutionary movement is therefore completely justified in calling on the people and its forces to defend themselves against these intensifying attacks,” Agcaoili said.

He said that GRP completely glosses over the fact that undeclared martial law has long been existing in vast areas of the countryside. As of February 2017, at least 500 barangays in 146 towns in 43 provinces have been subjected to various kinds of offensive military operations.

No localized Peace Talks

According to Dureza, Duterte’s actions were decisive that entailed investment of valuable so- called political capital, but he kept the course steady in protecting the gains of the peace talks which have reached this unprecedented stage. However, one of the serious challenges that GRP wanted to address is the clamor now to pursue instead localized peace talks.

Agcaoili said that there’s no basis for the supposed clamor for localized peace talks given its inherent inability and historical failure to achieve overarching reforms.

“Localized peace talks have been used to fragment revolutionary groups and enable military intelligence and offensive operations,” Agcaoili said. “Especially under Martial Law, localized peace talks facilitates tight surveillance, including the use of drones with GPS, and motorcycle-riding death squads.”

According to Agcaoili, the marked progress in the talks in the past months has in fact heightened the people’s interest and confidence that the negotiations could lead to social and economic reforms that would improve their lives. President Duterte himself has gained political capital emanating from the people’s support for the peace talks.

Peace process to continue

The GRP said they are not terminating the entire peace process with the NDFP in their decision not to participate in the fifth round of talks.

The NDFP agreed and said they expect the GRP to respect previously-signed agreement such as Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law as well the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“We expect the GRP to respect the safety of our negotiators and consultants once they go home to the Philippines after this and as they go about their work as peace workers,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili also said they are willing to resume formal peace negotiations as soon as the GRP decides to go back to the negotiating table since the cancellation of the fifth round was “the GRP’s decision and responsibility.” (BaretangBikolnon.com)

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