NOW that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are finishing the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), some “doves” in the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd are seriously pushing for the resumption of peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
A well-placed government source confided to The Manila Times on Wednesday that “informal” talks are ongoing between government agents and NDF representatives to explore the possibility of resuming the stalled peace negotiations between the two panels.
“There are hawks and doves in the administration. Some want to continue the peace talks with the Left while others don’t. However, if we can do that with the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], why not with the Left?” the source said.
He named one prominent politician, a former activist, who is now trying to broker peace with the communist group. The source, however, requested that the politician, a former mayor from Luzon, not be named so as not to jeopardize the outcome of the discussions.
“In fact, NDF panel member Fidel Agcaoili attended his [politician]birthday party recently,” he added, stressing that the “peace broker” is capable of doing the job.
The source noted that the recent turnover to Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd of four policemen previously held captive by the NPA was a “confidence-building gesture” on the part of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles said they are aware of “several” ongoing efforts to have the negotiations with the Left resumed. But she clarified that these talks are still “not official.”
“We know of several tracks of exploratory discussions now ongoing but nothing official. Once anything becomes official, we will certainly inform the public,” she told The Manila Times in a text message.
Like The Times’ source, Deles said they are cautious in dealing with the matter because too much public attention may erode exploratory negotiations.
Nevertheless, the Palace official said she is hopeful for the “exploratory” discussions to succeed.
“We are always hopeful and we welcome any initiative to reopen the talks,” she stressed.
Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted that while there are still no formal negotiations to speak of, there are indeed informal discussions.
“When you’re talking of exploratory talks, you’re talking of leading to formal [talks]. I’m not aware. But there have been informal discussions,” he said in a news briefing.
Lacierda confirmed that Roxas and Deles have mentioned the ongoing efforts in the past.
“Well, that’s what Secretary [Deles] and Secretary [Roxas] already mentioned previously,” Lacierda added.
He, however, explained that the informal discussions cannot even be described as “exploratory,” explaining that “when you speak of exploratory talks, it’s part and parcel of formal talks.”
“Certainly, the formal talks have not happened yet,” Lacierda pointed out.
Meanwhile, he said the arrest of retired general and former Bantay party-list Rep. Jovito Palparan was not aimed at “pleasing” the NDF.
“It’s inaccurate to say that the arrest [was]done to please the NDF. It was based on the [intelligence report]provided by the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines]. So I don’t think you can relate the arrest of Mr. Palparan as confidence-building measure. It happened. And we’re committed to arrest, apprehend anyone who evades the law,” Lacierda added.
After the arrest of Palparan, the government peace panel in talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF issued a statement expressing its elation over the fall of the former military commander.
“The government peace panel for the negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front welcomes the arrest of retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. today, International Humanitarian Law Day,” the statement said.
“The arrest is a triumph of law enforcement and the Philippine justice system. Although it has taken eight years to capture him, the apprehension of Palparan demonstrates the determination of the State to enforce the rule of law and negate any assertion that this administration tolerates impunity,” it added.
But Lacierda said the statement should not be taken to mean anything other than the panel welcoming the arrest of Palparan.
“I think you should not put more color to that. It’s just a statement of the [government]panel on that,” he added.