Poor prospects for continuation of peace talks given Arroyo government’s lack of sincerity — CPP

By CPP Information Bureau

The Communist Party of the Philippines seconds the pessimism of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel Chair Luis Jalandoni with regard to the prospects of the peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), which are supposed to be held starting the end of August. Gloria Arroyo's Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was not telling the truth when he said that their government is bending over backwards just to make sure that the peace talks may proceed.

All along the GRP has been showing bad faith in complying with the agreements during the informal preparatory talks last June 15. Like Comrade Jalandoni, we observe that the GRP seems to be scuttling instead of paving the way for the resumption of formal peace talks.

One of the most important points in the June 15 agreements is the lifting of the GRP's unilateral suspension of the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees), the unconditional release of illegally imprisoned NDFP peace talks panel members, consultants and staff and the dropping of trumped-up charges against them. The NDFP has listed at least 22 peace panel negotiators and consultants who still have to be released according to agreements, before peace talks can proceed.

The GRP has dishonestly given itself credit for the recent releases of NDFP peace panel consultants Elizabeth Principe and Randall Echanis.

Yet, Principe's release was not because of any GRP intercession but simply because the court ordered her release after all trumped-up charges against her have been dismissed. The Nueva Vizcaya Regional Trial Court dismissed last July 6 the last of six cases against her and ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately process her papers and release her. But instead of releasing her, the PNP tarried by forwarding her papers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) "for comment"–in clear violation of the court order. The AFP tried to block her release, but she finally saw freedom on July 21, while on hunger strike to protest her further detention. Other NDFP consultants and staff members on hunger strike with her to demand their release were Randall Echanis, Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento, Prospero Agudo and other fellow political detainees.

Another NDFP consultant who has been subjected to trumped-up charges, Randall Echanis, was also released this week. But his release is limited to six months or only during the duration of the peace talks. It is utterly foul and malicious that the GRP is making him a hostage of the peace talks.

Aside from the GRP's acts to make difficult or impossible the release of other detained NDFP consultants, the reactionary regime continues to arrest and jail NDFP consultants in blatant violation of the JASIG, as in the case of Alfredo Mapano who was arrested in Cagayan de Oro on August 1 by joint police and military operatives and brought to the PNP Maharlika Detention Center. The arresting officers claimed that they were not aware that Mapano was covered by the JASIG. They know about it now, and yet he remains to date under detention.

All these violations on the part of the GRP shows that it is not really sincere in pursuing the peace talks. Until the GRP shows true compliance with agreements it has made with the NDFP peace panel, we do not see any likelihood that the peace talks will proceed within the term of a regime that keeps on violating agreements and shows no sincerity at all in the peace process. There may be better prospects for the peace talks under a future regime.