THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has refused to acknowledge the written notice sent by the government on the termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a deal that keeps peace consultants from being arrested.
In a statement, NDFP negotiating peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said that the government had “no fair and just reason” to terminate the peace negotiations two weeks after the conclusion of the third round of formal talks in Rome, Italy.
Agcaoili cited the advances made during the negotiations, including discussions on human rights and reforms and an agreement to meet in the Netherlands on February 22 to 27 to hammer out a bilateral ceasefire.
“With the above progress in the talks, it is unreasonable for any Party to unilaterally terminate the peace negotiations without just cause and squander the gains so far achieved,” Agcoili said, as he pointed out a technical error in the notice of termination.
“We note that the letter of termination of the JASIG sent by [Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus] Dureza is improperly addressed,” he said.
“It should have been sent to the National Executive Committee of the NDFP through its Negotiating Panel, and not jointly in one letter to Prof. Sison as Chief Political Consultant and me as Chairperson of the Negotiating Panel,” he added.
Agcoili said the original copy of the letter should have been sent by mail to the NDFP Information Office in The Netherlands and received by the rebel panel.
“For all of the above reasons, the NDFP cannot acknowledge receipt of the 07 February 2017 email letter of Secretary Dureza. The NDFP cannot be a party to an unjust, unreasonable and improper termination of the JASIG. The GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) bears full responsibility for its unilateral decision,” he said.
In a separate statement, the Communist Party the Philippines (CPP) slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for
“arbitrarily terminating” the formal peace negotiations. It said the New People’s Army is “ever ready to face” the “all-out war” threatened by the government.
The CPP said Duterte had “gone berserk” and “wasted the achievements attained in peace talks over the past few months.” The group described the President as a “doublespeaking thug who only recognizes his own rules” and “a charlatan who does not know the true meaning of just and lasting peace.”
It accused Duterte of terminating the talks “when he could no longer use it to compel the CPP and NPA to a prolonged ceasefire that has left the people defenseless against [Armed Forces of the Philippines] military operations.” The group said the rebels’ announcement on February 1 that they were lifting their unilateral ceasefire “signals [that]the revolutionary forces will not accept pacification or surrender.”
Duterte lifted the government’s own ceasefire and ordered the talks scrapped shortly after the communist group announced the lifting of its unilateral ceasefire.
The President also ordered the arrest of NDFP consultants released on bail.
The two sides failed to reach an agreement on the communists’ demand to free about 400 rebel leaders, the same issue that jeopardized the peace talks during the previous administration.