By Raymund Villanueva, Kodao Productions
The “stand down” agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) shall start on June 21, one week before the resumption of formal talks in Oslo on June 28.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison confirmed to Kodao that the stand down ceasefire was agreed upon by the two parties in writing during their successful backchannel talks in The Netherlands last June 5 to 10.
Sison said the thrice-cancelled fifth round of formal talks shall push through on June 28 to 30, contrary to GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest statement that the negotiations would resume sometime in mid-July.
Kodao earlier learned from government sources that the backchannel talks pushed through last week on the strength of the GRP’s efforts to allow NDFP panel member Benito Tiamzon and other consultants to travel to Europe for the negotiations.
Vicente Ladlad, Randall Echanis, Edilberto Silva, Allan Jazmines and Rafael Baylosis, are also due to join the NDFP panel in Europe for the negotiations.
Baylosis was arrested last February on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and is jailed at Camp Bagong Diwa. He denied the charges, saying the so-called evidences were planted by the military and police.
Tiamzon, Ladlad, Echanis, Silva and Jazmines were also under threat of arrest when their bail bonds were cancelled and were named in a GRP petition proscribing the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations following Duterte’s third cancellation of the fifth round of talks last November.
NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part said he thinks Duterte has yet to be briefed by the GRP panel on the results of the informal talks last June 5 to 10.
“In fact, we were informed that the members of the GRP Panel who attended the informal talks have a scheduled meeting with him on Wednesday, June 13,” Agcaoili told Kodao.
“So he (Duterte) would know only tomorrow that the two sides have agreed to hold the resumption of formal talks on 28-30 June in Oslo and to make a joint announcement of a stand down of their forces a week before the resumption or on 21 June in Manila,” he said.
Agcaoili added it is clear to both parties and the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, that the announcement of the stand down depends on the date of the resumption and shall be effective for no longer than one week.
The NDFP earlier said a stand down ceasefire agreement means that both the NPA on their side and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police on the GRP side are to cease conducting offensive military operations to pave the way for the signing of an interim peace agreement.
The interim peace agreement is expected to be signed by the GRP and the NDFP during the fifth round of formal talks and shall consist of a coordinated unilateral ceasefire, general amnesty for more than 500 NDFP-listed political prisoners, and agrarian reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements.
Both parties have said the social and economic reform negotiations are the most important parts of the peace negotiations.