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Gov’t: NDF pre-conditions show ‘double talk’ on peace negotiations

September 10, 2009 1:00pm
The National Democratic Front (NDF) seemed to be laying down more “stumbling blocks" to prevent the resumption of its peace negotiations with the government, the presidential adviser on the peace process said Thursday.

Secretary Avelino Razon Jr. said in a statement that the latest statement from the communist group through Fidel Agcaoili, spokesperson of its negotiating panel, proved that the NDF was engaging the government in “double talk."

"[It is] saying something and doing another thing – and of professing to go back to the negotiating table, but persistently bringing forth immovable ‘stumbling blocks’ that prevent the resumption of the peace talks," Razon said.

In the NDF statement issued on Wednesday, Agcaoili threw the blame back to the government for allegedly "doing nothing in removing the impediments… [continuously issuing] press releases proclaiming the end of armed conflict [in Mindanao]."

Agcaoili stressed that these impediments could only be taken out if the government (GRP) would give in to the communist group’s three proposals before returning to the negotiation table.

But Razon did not welcome the proposals and said, "The NDF’s most recent three-point proposal for resuming the formal peace negotiations has set preconditions that serve as impediments for the reopening of the formal talks."

The three proposals of the NDF before talks are resumed include:

• Both panels should meet in Oslo within the last week of September to make a written agreement on complying with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig);

• Only after such an agreement is signed will the two panels agree on the exact date and agenda for the formal talks to be held in Oslo in November; and

• During the talks, the panels should reaffirm existing bilateral agreements and give priority to the negotiation of the social and economic reforms.

Razon said these impediments could lead to a delay in the peace talks until after a new administration has taken over. "While the GRP remains hopeful to resuming the talks, the window of opportunity is becoming narrower as we move closer to the 2010 elections," he added.

Release of NDF 'consultants'

Razon said Agcaoili’s statement is contrary to what had been agreed upon by both peace panels together with the Norwegian Third Party Facilitator in June 2009.

"Attempts to walk away from said agreements erode whatever has been painstakingly achieved by both panels in the past in order to bring them back to the negotiating table," said Razon.

Razon said seeking to reach an agreement solely on the Jasig issue showed the NDF’s "clear intentions … to release their people who are facing criminal charges in various courts."

Even if the NDF demanded that 14 of its members be "released" and be freed from charges to participate in the peace talks, the government only bestowed temporary freedom to four: Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Elizabeth Principe.

Razon said giving freedom to charged NDF members would only undermine judicial process in the country. He admitted that "much work" will be done between both panels’ legal teams just to ensure their release.

But Razon emphasized that releasing them temporarily would not equate to withdrawal of charges.

"For to demand the dismissal of their cases is to ask the GRP (RP government) to subvert its judicial system as well as the interests of the victims of such crimes," he said.

The OPAPP chief said the government has already established the modes for release of the four NDF consultants. He said Echanis and Principe were already released with passports last August. The two remaining NDF consultants continue to remain in hiding despite the revival of the JASIG.

The JASIG, designed to protect members of the negotiating panels from being arrested while talks are ongoing, was re-installed last July 17 to pave the way for the resumption of GRP-NDF peace talks. Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV
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