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OPAPP’s Galvez: New peace panel to oversee localized talks

A new peace panel that President Rodrigo Duterte plans to create will oversee the localized talks aimed at ending the decades-old communist insurgency in the country, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said Monday.

Through the formulation of the new panel, Galvez said the government "will be directly engaging the people on the ground to address the fundamentals of the problem."

"The panel will oversee the localized peace engagements. It will act as the adviser for local peace dialogues through the establishment of protocols and other legal and systematic procedures," Galvez said.

"This includes the vital component of a security lens in this process, hence the need for former security officials to be part of the panel."

Duterte bared his plan to create a new panel on Saturday, weeks after he terminated the peace talks, including the appointments of government negotiators led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and told the rebels to just talk with the next administration.

The President said the new panel will be composed of three members from the military and two civilians.

Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison immediately rejected the idea, telling CNN Philippines in an interview on Sunday that they would not want to be "baited into accepting a war panel" or a panel that is dominated by the military whose main "purpose" is to seek the surrender of New People's Army members.

Galvez hit Sison's remark.

"As the President expressed his intention of peace, it is unfortunate that instead of reciprocating the government’s initiative to move the peace process forward, Joma Sison immediately rejected the idea. And this raises the question: Is Mr. Sison for genuine peace?" he said.

The Cabinet official cited for instance the alleged use by the rebels of previous peace agreements "not to pursue real peace but to meet their objective of overthrowing the legitimate government."  

Galvez said the creation of a new peace panel was in line with the "whole-of-nation approach" as embodied in Executive Order 70 issued by the President in December last year.

"Through the localized peace engagements, the government is creating the enabling environment for the peace process to progress and move forward," he added.

He said the new framework will provide practical, rational and objective principles of local peace engagements that will end the the rebels' "manipulation and deception against the government and the people."

"This paradigm shift is the result of historical facts and lessons derived from the previous talks," Galvez said. — Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News