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Wednesday, Jul. 05, 2006 at 3:13 PM
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MALACAÑANG remains committed to pursuing its all-out war against communist rebels even if exiled leaders of the communist-led National Democratic Front have asked Norway to convince President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo to return to the negotiating table.In a statement, the NDF said it had sent its top leadership to Oslo on Monday for four days of consultations with the Norwegian foreign ministry. Norway had facilitated the peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDF before negotiations were scuttled in 2004.
Gov’t sticks to war, rejects Reds’ peace bid
NDF works out revival of talks in Norway
By Christine Avendaño
Last updated 01:24am (Mla time) 07/05/2006
Published on Page A1 of the July 5, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
MALACAÑANG remains committed to pursuing its all-out war against communist rebels even if exiled leaders of the communist-led National Democratic Front have asked Norway to convince President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo to return to the negotiating table.
In a statement, the NDF said it had sent its top leadership to Oslo on Monday for four days of consultations with the Norwegian foreign ministry.
Norway had facilitated the peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDF before negotiations were scuttled in 2004.
The delegation is composed of NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, Fidel Agcaoili, Connie Ledesma, Julie de Lima and Asterio Palima.
Also present in the consultations are NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, lawyer Romeo Capulong, NDF’s senior legal adviser and NDF panel consultant Danilo Borjal.
“As far as we know the stance of government remains the same, which is no negotiations unless there is a ceasefire (on hostilities),” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye told reporters yesterday, when asked to comment on the NDF leaders’ consultations with the Norwegian foreign ministry.
Ms Arroyo declared last month an all-out war on communist rebels and set aside P1 billion for the military and police for the acquisition of hardware like helicopter gunships to crush the 38-year communist insurgency in two years in certain parts of Luzon.
As part of the all-out war, the government is preparing to file murder cases against Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), both in the Netherlands where he is based and in the Philippines.
“Consultations with the NDF are part of the ordinary contacts that Norway has with the parties. We had the same kind of talks with representatives from the (Philippine) government at the beginning of June,” Tore Hattrem, director general of the Section of Peace and Reconciliation at the Norwegian foreign ministry, told AFP.
Hattrem said there were no prospects for a quick restart of the peace talks on the Philippines, “but we are working with the aim that the talks can be resumed in a longer perspective.”
Bunye said no meaningful negotiations could start because the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the CPP, had launched attacks on government forces.
Besides, he did not think the CPP-NDF-NPA was sincere in returning to the peace table. “Let me say action speaks louder than words, and by their actions they don’t seem to be serious in pursuing real meaningful negotiations,” Bunye said.
Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor has said the government will just engage in peace negotiations with communist leaders at the grass-roots level.
The NDF called off negotiations with the government two years ago because of the terrorist tag on the CPP, NDF and NPA by the United States. The CPP and the 7,400-member NPA are also on the European Union’s list of terrorist groups, while the Netherlands-based NDF is not.
“The consultations shall deal with the possibility of resuming the formal talks while the Arroyo regime is still in power,” said Ruth de Leon, executive director of the NDF International information office.
Human rights violations
The delegation also wants Norway to convince the Philippine government to respect agreements between the government and the NDF concerning respect for civil rights, “in the face of rampant gross human rights violations in the Philippines.”
The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) monitors the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The JMC offices in Quezon City are funded by the Norwegian government and have been receiving complaints of violations of the CARHRIHL by both government and NDF forces since 2004.
However, members from both sides have yet to meet to discuss the human rights violations charges -- more than 800 of them -- because of the stalled formal talks.
At least 233 leftist activists have been killed since Ms Arroyo took power in 2001. The military and the police have denied allegations that they are conducting a “dirty war.”
De Leon said the Norwegian government and peace advocates the world over recognized the need for vigorous efforts for the resumption of peace negotiations amid the escalating human rights violations under the Arroyo administration’s all-out war policy.”
In a report, Hattrem had commented that the rise in political killings and human rights violations in the country was stalling the peace negotiations.
The NDF said the consultations in Oslo “shall also deal with how to keep active and productive the NDF negotiating panel and the NDF reciprocal working committee on social and economic reforms, and possibly working groups on political and constitutional reforms and on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.”
The NDF said it planned to continue to prepare drafts of agreements on social, economic and political reforms and to test them in working sessions and open forums with respected Filipino experts and certain government officials and the political opposition.
“Thus, a level of consensus shall be reached even before the resumption of the formal talks, and thus accelerating the progress of future negotiations,” it said.
On Monday, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez accused opposition Senator Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal of “treason” and warned she could be prosecuted after she held unauthorized talks with NDF leaders in the Netherlands.
Madrigal, an Arroyo critic, has insisted she has no political agenda and is only interested “in preventing further bloodshed.”
She issued a joint statement with the rebel leaders urging Ms Arroyo to halt the military offensive and to return to peace talks.
Stop terror acts
Asked what actions the communist rebels should take to show they were sincere in resuming peace talks, Bunye said the rebels should stop torching cell sites, ambushing certain people, and planting land mines.
He said the government would assess the situation should the communist rebels stop their terror acts.
“I think the stance of government is to pursue the armed elements of the communist group but at the same time we will pursue social development projects for the countryside where they have been recruiting their members,” Bunye said.
Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, is expected to hold a press conference today upon his return from Norway and Azerbaijan.
With reports from Norman Bordadora in Manila, Delfin Mallari Jr., PDI Southern Luzon Bureau, and Agence France-Presse
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