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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House panel adopts resolution urging President Duterte to resume GRP-NDF peace talks
12 September 2018 07:01:19 PM

The House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity chaired by Rep. Ruby Sahali (Lone District, Tawi-Tawi) on Wednesday adopted House Resolution 1803 which urges President Rodrigo Duterte to resume the peace negotiations between the government peace panel (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), and complete the comprehensive agreements of social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

In a hearing, the Committee adopted the resolution, principally authored by Sahali, which states that last November 23, 2017, President Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360, terminating the peace talks with the NDF. Subsequently, on December 5, 2017, the President issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP-NDF as alleged terrorist organizations.

The resolution recognizes that as compared to the previous administration, peace negotiations under the Duterte administration have reached remarkable and unparalleled headway after four successful rounds of negotiations.

The resolution further states that continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreement on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for their economic hardships.

“It is highly imperative that Congress hears and echoes the Filipino people’s desire for the resumption of the peace negotiations and for the GRP and NDF to forge substantive agreements that will resolve the root causes of the nearly five-decade old armed conflict. It is the cause for a just and lasting peace itself that is the very compelling reason to continue the peace negotiations,” the resolution states.

Sahali recalled that when they filed the resolution, she had only one thing in mind: to make sure that the GRP and the NDF return to the peace negotiating table.

"Compared to the previous administration, mas dumami yung steps for peace and reconciliation in the present administration,” said Sahali during the hearing.

Expressing optimism for the resumption of then peace talks, Sahali said the door for peace has not been closed.

Last year, Rep. Isagani Carlos Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna) said the Makabayan bloc filed House Resolution 2065, calling for the resumption of the peace talks between the GRP and the NDF, but this was not referred to the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

Zarate said HR 2065 likewise calls for both parties to disclose what were the agreements made during the informal talks held from March 2018 up to June 2018.

Rep. Ariel Casilao (Party-list, Anakpawis) requested the GRP to suggest the resumption of the peace talks to the President.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza thanked the Committee for keeping intact its intention which is the same as that of the executive department. Its intention is to address the historical injustice against the Bangasamoro people and address the social issues involving the negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), he said.

“We know very well that the President had already cancelled the peace negotiations, but he had said the table for… the door for resumption is still wide open. We did not totally shut this,” said Dureza.

But in the meantime that the President cancelled the peace negotiations, Dureza said the Chief Executive thought that during those times, there were some issues that hounded not the negotiations, but the bigger table, which is the public.

“As you noticed very well, President Duterte engaged the CPP very decisively and he felt that there was no reciprocity on the other side despite the steps that he has taken. And he is worried that the bigger table, which is the public, may also be engaged,” Dureza added.

He said the President believed that he can sign any agreement, but if he did not get public support, then everything will go for naught.

“That’s why when he cancelled it, he said we need several months to assess the situation, take a look at the documents previously signed, validate them, and find out whether these are still very valid,” said Dureza.

Dureza said the President is consistent with his position that the door for peace negotiation is still wide open, but he cited four points that the CPP must consider.

“One, there will be no coalition government. Two, a stop to the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax. Three, the venue for the talks must be made local, and four, the pursuit of negotiations and secession of hostilities must be done on certain issues to contend with,” said Dureza.

Right now, Dureza said the GRP is continuously studying the situation, although there are persistent hard voices coming from both the GRP and CPP sides.

“But we understand that Joma Sison also addresses his own table in the same manner that the President addresses his own bigger table,” said Dureza.

Together with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello as members of the GRP panel, Dureza said they are working closely with President Duterte. He stressed they do not unilaterally make decisions and recommendations.

"These are common efforts being done with the President whenever the GRP comes to a certain decision point," he said.

At the proper time, Dureza said GRP will be able to make the necessary step, whether to resume or totally close the peace negotiations. At this point, he said they still adhere to the President's statement that door for peace negotiations is still wide open.

The adopted resolution is also authored by Reps. Jesus Nonato Sacdalan, Lourdes Acosta, Leopoldo Bataoil, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Lawrence Fortun, Rodante Marcoleta, among others. | Eddie Galvez