INCOMING presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza flew to Paris on Friday night with two other negotiators to meet with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chairman Jose Ma. Sison in Norway and begin preliminary discussions on resumption of stalled peace negotiations between the two camps.
Dureza, in a statement issued before his departure for Paris en route to Oslo, said he will be accompanied by incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd and former lawmaker Hernani Braganza in the meeting with Sison on June 14-15.
“I am flying tonight… for an informal meeting with [Sison] upon instructions from President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to work for the early resumption of the stalled peace negotiations… We look forward to a fruitful meeting under the auspices of the Norwegian government on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum,” he added.
Peace talks between the government of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the CPP-New Peoples’ Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) hit a snag when the group was listed among the world’s terrorist organizations.
Earlier, NDF peace panel head Fidel Agcaoili said they would seek abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, both with the United States, as preconditions for the talks to push through.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said they have “high hopes” for the preliminary talks between the NDF and the representatives of President-elect Duterte next week.
“We hope that headway can be made in relation to the release of political prisoners and the affirmation of previously signed agreements. These are necessary to fast-track the peace negotiations. We expect the meeting between the two panels to be productive,” Reyes added.
In a statement released also on Friday, the Bayan leader said that Filipinos want peace based on justice.
“We have long sought socio-economic reforms, as well as political reforms as ways to address the root causes of the armed conflict. We have a chance at achieving this under the new government. As we have said, Duterte can do more for peace with the NDF in his first 100 days than Noynoy did in his 6 years in office,” Reyes said, referring to outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd by his nickname.
“We also hope that the issue of the US terrorist listing will be decisively addressed by the Philippine government to prevent a foreign government from undermining the peace negotiations,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dureza belied published reports (not in The Manila Times) that he intends to conduct similar talks with rogue groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao.
“True, I had even directly negotiated with the ASG just recently to seek the release of my friend, John Ridsdel, whom they nevertheless beheaded as the families could not raise the demanded ransom amount. But negotiating with them in the context of what we are doing with the Bangsamoro and the CPP/NPA/NDF is definitely not the way forward,” he said.
Instead of bringing these groups to the negotiating table, the incoming peace adviser said they should be punished.
“They have to face the full force of the law for their terrorism and criminal acts,” he pointed out.