• Peace talks with ‘Reds’ dying – Bello

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    The peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (NDF/CPP/NPA) is dying and will not be rejuvenated, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said Sunday.

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    Bello, in a phone interview with The Manila Times, noted that while an official letter of termination has yet to be sent to the communist rebels to formally end the peace process, there is no turning back on President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to junk the peace talks.

    The President called off the peace negotiations on July 22, three days after the NPA attacked a convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in North Cotabato.

    The President slammed the CPP/NDF for ordering the NPA, its armed wing, to intensify its attacks on government forces in response to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao that the group said was “against the people.”

    Duterte also ordered the arrest of communist rebels, including NDF consultants released temporarily by the government to participate in the peace talks held in Norway.

    “We are yet to receive instructions from the President as to the need to have it formally terminated [with a letter of termination]. But the President’s position here is very clear: No talks with the NDF. There’s no formal termination, but it (peace process) is dying,” Bello said.

    He cited at least two actions on the part of the NDF that made the resumption of the peace negotiations impossible: the threat of the NDF to intensify operations against the government in protest of the five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao and the July 19 ambush of the PSG convoy.

    “You have to understand the position of the President. We just met [in the Netherlands for the peace talks]and yet there was the ambush of the PSG convoy. Before that, there’s also the threat to step up attacks against the government. Those are not providing conducive climate [for peace talks],” Bello pointed out.

    “I am in constant communication with the NDF, but the events that transpired make us question their sincerity,” he added.

    The Duterte administration initially released 19 NDF consultants as a show of good faith, but Solicitor General Jose Calida has already called for their re-arrest.

    Included in the list of NDF consultants are Satur Ocampo, Vicente Ladlad and Randall Echanis.

    The Makabayan bloc in Congress, composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis earlier warned that its alliance with the administration is at risk of breaking apart because the alliance is kept afloat by the peace process.

    Makabayan members are in the Duterte Cabinet – Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.

    Former Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza was named as the chairperson of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

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