No rebuffed peace deal with communist rebels—GPH negotiator Padilla

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MANILA, Feb. 22 -- The government chief negotiator for the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) on Friday chided the chair of the NDF panel for telling half-truths to cover up for the Communist Party’s atrocities, and belied assertions that President Aquino rebuffed a peace deal between the government and the communist rebels

“He’s not telling the whole story,” said government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla, responding to NFP peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni’s claims that a signed peace pact was snubbed by the government in 2014. “There was no peace deal.”

“What Mr. Jalandoni is referring to was not an agreement. In December 2014, there were reports of peace talks resuming between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDF. We clarified then that what was happening was, a group of private individuals we consider ‘friends of the process’ was shuttling between the two parties to explore possible parameters for restarting the talks at the earliest possible time. It was this private group that initialed a proposed agreement subject to approval by the two Panels.”

The government chief negotiator confirmed that the “government was studying that proposal and was prepared to discuss it with the NDF Panel in January 2015” until the Mamasapano incident happened.

“In February 2015, the private group again went to Utrecht and returned with another proposal from the NDF to resume the talks, this time with a stronger demand for the release of hundreds of its leaders and followers in detention, the withdrawal or dismissal of cases against their detained alleged consultants, and other pre-conditions. With the NDF asserting even more than its usual demands, like many other initiatives undertaken in the past to explore the resumption of the talks, that one also did not pan out.” he said.

Padilla added, “The NDF’s usual strategy is to use the negotiations to get as many concessions as it can from government without giving anything in return. In spite of this, GPH continued to pursue all possibilities for the resumption of talks.”

“We tried two more times in 2015, based on proposals offered by our Norwegian facilitator to the parties, but to no avail. On the first one, the NDF said they needed more time to consult the ground while the RNG and the government waited. On the second one, the NDF expressed its reservation on the RNG’s facilitation process for generating goodwill measures that would benefit the people.“

Padilla recalled that in an interview in July 2015, Jalandoni reiterated the NDF’s demand saying, “The group’s return to the negotiating table still depended on the release of political prisoners and peace consultants…” and returned to the protracted and immoveable regular track.

Padilla challenged the NDF to go beyond its usual practice of making unreasonable demands then putting the blame on the government for the failure to resume talks.

“Instead of continuing to wage armed conflict against our democracy, the CPP/NPA/NDF must seek ways to deliver peace, especially to the communities on the ground that have been sorely affected by their armed struggle. (OPAPP)