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Lift terror tag, we talk' --NDF

by AJLPP-USA Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2007 at 4:37 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Communist rebels are willing to resume peace talks, but only if the government initiates the dropping of the terror tag on the revolutionary movement, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Ma. Sison said yesterday. Sison said they would only return to the negotiating table when the government moves to have the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) stricken off the lists of foreign terrorist organizations drawn up by the United States and the European Union. Sison said the government must also show it is sincere about stopping the military from carrying out extrajudicial killings, while also indemnifying victims of human rights violations.

Lift terror tag, we talk'-NDF

By Katherine Adraneda

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Manila--- Communist rebels are willing to resume peace talks, but only if the government initiates the dropping of the terror tag on the revolutionary movement, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Ma. Sison said yesterday.

Sison said they would only return to the negotiating table when the government moves to have the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) stricken off the lists of foreign terrorist organizations drawn up by the United States and the European Union.

Sison said the government must also show it is sincere about stopping the military from carrying out extrajudicial killings, while also indemnifying victims of human rights violations.

“Until now, the government (GRP) has not made any serious response to the just and reasonable demands of the CPP and its political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF),” Sison said in a statement from the Netherlands, where he is in self-exile.

Sison said there can never be a ceasefire during the peace negotiations unless all issues are addressed by the government.

“If the GRP wants to have a ceasefire during the peace negotiations, it must come to terms with the NDF on the basis of the 10-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace proposed by the NDF,” Sison said in a separate statement.

“The GRP) must (also) agree with the NDF on how to accelerate the forging of comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to address the root causes of the armed conflict,” he added.

The rebels also rejected the three-year ceasefire proposal made by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon in the effort to revive the peace talks.

They claimed Esperon’s proposal for the resumption of talks as “cheap propaganda,” saying the plan seeks only to crush the communist movement and does not address the root causes of the 39-year-old conflict.

“He (Esperon) wants only the pacification of the revolutionary movement,” NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni said in a separate statement from the Netherlands where he also lives in exile.

Esperon recommended Monday the resumption of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, which were stalled in 2004 after the rebels accused the government of instigating their inclusion on US and EU lists of terrorist groups. Resumption of the talks is conditioned on the communists agreeing to a three-year ceasefire.

Jalandoni said they are “open to start exploratory talks” aimed at addressing the killings and abductions of left-wing activists and the “unjust terror listing” of the CPP-NPA.

“Such negotiations could be attended by a ceasefire,” Jalandoni said.

According to Sison, the NDF negotiating panel, through the Norwegian government, has long informed the GRP of its readiness to engage in exploratory talks to resolve some thorny issues.

But agreeing on the ceasefire, Sison said, “does not mean the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces.”

‘Discuss this first’

Malacañang urged the CPP-NPA to consider a truce and resumption of the peace talks before rejecting it outright.

National Security Adviser and acting Defense chief Norberto Gonzales said it would be preferable for the communists to sit down and discuss the ceasefire offer and the resumption of talks before imposing conditions on the government.

“We support the ceasefire offer. I have also heard the reaction of the CPP-NPA and it would be better if we could discuss this first rather than laying out a set of conditions this early,” Gonzales said.

“But there’s nothing we could do if they don’t want it. What’s the use of talking if they are not interested?” he added.

Gonzales said the government’s anti-insurgency campaign is still being implemented even with the ceasefire proposal from Esperon.

Gonzales, though, stressed the government is willing to wait for further developments from the NDF, the political arm of the CPP-NPA representing the communists in the peace talks.

“We are still hopeful that they would change their decision,” Gonzales said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, for his part, said the ceasefire offer has not been formally withdrawn in spite of the pronouncements from the CPP-NDF.

“It’s a wasted opportunity if they will not avail themselves of the offer of the AFP. This is something that we would like to continue to pursue. Of course there will be temporary setbacks but in the end we believe we’ll move closer to peace,” Bunye said.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed support for the government’s offer of a three-year truce.

CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio said the government could expect collective support from the bishops who want a peaceful resolution of the decades-old armed conflict with the communist insurgents.

“The Church has long been calling for this dialogue and not liquidation of insurgents as solution to insurgency. The good way to resolve this is through dialogue and this proposed ceasefire is a good way towards reaching that goal (of peace),” Quitorio said.

He said the bishops are also pleased by the efforts of the government to resolve the issue of unexplained killings.

The proposal to revive the peace talks with the CPP-NPA over a three-year ceasefire was made by Esperon during the two-day National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances called by the Supreme Court.

The summit was attended by top government officials, with Esperon representing the AFP, human rights groups, including CBCP, which was represented by Quitorio.

“The initiative of coming up with this summit is in itself very good. Now at least we have a methodology in solving this very urgent and pressing concern,” Quitorio said.

Left-wing and human right groups blame security forces for the killings, saying most of the more than 800 victims since 2001 were members of leftist organizations. A United Nations human rights envoy also singled out military forces.

Esperon denied the accusations and accused the communists of killing more than 1,300 people in recent years. He said a police task force has found that 14 soldiers were involved in only six cases, and the other killings apparently did not involve the military.

“While we have the mandate to crush the insurgency by 2010 through the force of arms, there is another way of doing it - it is through the force of peace negotiations,” Esperon said.

Sison’s dilemma

Negotiations with the communists have been suspended since 2004 over the inclusion of the CPP-NPA on the US and European governments’ list of foreign terrorist organizations and a subsequent crackdown on international funds being channeled into the movement.

The CPP, and its 7,000-strong armed wing NPA has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969, in what is one of Asia’s longest running communist insurgencies.

Human rights groups have said the insurgency has led to a military strategy that arbitrarily attacked legitimate left-wing political groups labeled as “fronts” for the rebels.

Local rights group Karapatan has documented more than 800 victims of summary executions since President Arroyo came into power in 2001, many of them political activists who had been vocal against the government.

Sison, for his part, scored a victory after the EU’s Court of Justice last week overturned the decision of the EU governments to freeze his assets.

The Luxembourg-based court said the EU governments breached European law by not informing Sison of the reasons why his assets were frozen under EU’s anti-terrorism policies.

But the court’s decision did not rule whether Sison should be removed from the EU’s terror list.

The United Kingdom said yesterday that the court failed to address the substantive issues over Sison’s inclusion in the terror list.

“The Court’s judgment focused on EU procedures, and did not address the substantive question as to whether Jose Maria Sison is or is not involved in terrorism,” the British government said in a statement.

The British government added that on June 29, 2007, the Council of the European Union announced its support for the new measures in line with the court’s requirements over the Sison issue.

“The new procedures better safeguard the legal rights of the persons and entities involved, in particular by providing them with a statement of reasons and an opportunity to make their views known to the Council,” the statement said.

The effect of the judgment issued on July 11, 2007 had been to include Sison on the list of individuals involved in terrorism, subject to a European Community-wide asset freeze.

The EU Council also announced last June 29 its decision to maintain Sison on the terror list.

“This decision is not affected by the present ruling of the Court of First Instance. This means that Mr. Sison remains on the list in spite of the criticisms set out in the Court’s judgment, which have already been fully addressed,” the statement said.

The EU list of terrorist groups and individuals is drawn up and kept under review on an autonomous basis by the Council pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1373(2001), requiring the funds of persons and groups involved in terrorism be frozen.

“Asset freezing is a preventive measure, with the aim of obstructing and disrupting the financing of terrorism.”

The Royal Netherlands Embassy also issued on Friday a statement saying Sison is still on the EU terror list.

The embassy explained the judgment of the European Court concerns an old terrorism list, not the new list adopted on June 29, 2007. -With Marvin Sy, Edu Punay, Pia Lee-Brago, AP, AFP


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