Indian Catholic News

Communist rebels ready for talks with Philippine government

Congress, Christian leaders calls for renewed negotiations.

Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, meets with families of overseas Filipino workers in Manila on Wednesday

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an alliance of communist-led underground organizations, said it is ready to talk peace with the government to end more than four decades of war.

"The NDFP has undertaken initiatives to try and foster the resumption of peace talks," Luis Jalandoni, NDFP chairman, told on Wednesday.

Jalandoni, who lives in exile in the Netherlands, is in Manila this month for consultations on the prospect of the resumption of the peace process between the Philippine government and the NDFP.

He said the New People's Army (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has released several "prisoners of war" in recent months "as a goodwill gesture for the resumption of peace talks".

Peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP have been stalled since 2004 with both parties pushing for preconditions before the start of another round of formal talks.

In 2013, attempts to resume the talks failed after the rebels demanded the release of NDFP consultants in jail and more than 400 political prisoners around the country.

In 1999, the government and the National Democratic Front signed a deal on "respect for human rights and international humanitarian law," but failed to sign an agreement on socio-economic reforms.

"Our committees are ready and have already come up with a draft for submission to the government panel," Jalandoni said.

Last week, some members of Congress called on the government to pursue peace negotiations not only with Muslim rebels in Mindanao but also with the NDFP.

"We cannot have a partial peace in our country," said Representative Silvestre Bello, a former government peace negotiator.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the country, supported Bello's call and urged both the government and the NDFP to return to the negotiating table.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, chairman of the group, called for "principled negotiations to address the roots of the armed conflict and mutually respect the agreements already reached”.

Jalandoni welcomed the call, saying that the NDFP "would like to hear the outcry so strong around the country so that both panels will respond to the demands and appeals of the people".

"The attention of the government should not be concentrated on the peace talks [with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front]," the rebel leader said. "There should also be sufficient attention on the peace talks with the NDFP.”

"We too would want peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP to resume as soon as possible," Jalandoni said.

The military last week said the communist rebels should return to the negotiating table because its armed wing, the NPA, is already "marginalized and may become irrelevant in the coming years".

"There is no other way but to talk peace with the government,” said armed forces spokesman Brigadier-General Joselito Kakilala.

"Their strength continues to decrease. We have been capturing their leaders. They are losing mass base influence. We are seeing their eventual demise,” said Kakilala in a media briefing last week.

The Philippines military estimates the country's communist movement has only about 4,000 armed men under its command, compared to more than 26,000 at its peak 30 years ago.

Source: UCAN

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