Senator Jamby Madrigal, NDFP call for resumption of GRP-NDFP peace talks

[NDFP-IIO, Utrecht] Philippine Senator Maria Ana Madrigal met with the peace negotiations panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Utrecht, The Netherlands on Sunday and Monday (9 and 10 November) and issued a statement reiterating her call for the immediate resumption of the formal talks in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the revolutionary NDFP. The joint statement called on the government of the Netherlands to respect Philippine judicial processes and to stop poisoning the atmosphere for peace negotiations between the two parties in conflict.

Senator Madrigal, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, visited Utrecht specifically to follow up on the developments of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations. She exchanged information with the NDFP Negotiating Panel on the status, impediments and prospects of the peace talks and on the work of her Senate Committee.

In their joint statement released on 10 November, Senator Madrigal and the NDFP Panel called on the Dutch government to "cease and desist from using false charges to oppress, pressure or harass NDFP panelists, consultants and staffers." They reminded the Dutch government of the 1 June 2007 decision of the Philippine Supreme Court which already nullified the charge of rebellion against Jose Maria Sison, Chief Political Consultant to the NDFP Panel, and others, "including the false allegations regarding the Kintanar and Tabara killings."

"These politically motivated and false charges," the statement asserted, "have served to impede and poison the atmosphere for peace negotiations."

Dutch police arrested Sison on 28 August 2007, alleging that he masterminded the killing of GRP security officers Romulo Kintanar in 2003 and Arturo Tabara in 2004. Dutch authorities also simultaneously ransacked the NDFP information office in Utrecht and the private homes of NDFP panelists and volunteer staffmembers, including the home of NDFP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Luis G. Jalandoni, to obtain so-called evidences for the trumped up charges. The District Court of the Hague ordered the release of Sison on 13 October 2007, citing insufficient evidence in the case filed against him.

Senator Madrigal and the NDFP peace panel said that formal peace talks need to be immediately resumed "for the benefit of the Filipino people, because of the impact of the global economic crisis on (the Philippines), as well as renewed upsurge in political killings, enforced disappearances and mass filing of false chages against political activists". They affirmed that the resumption of peace negotiations must be in accordance with existing agreements between the GRP and the NDFP, and must address the roots of the armed conflict in the country "with social, economic, political and constitutional reforms".

As a sign of "goodwill and confidence building", they urged the Gloria Arroyo government to replace General Hermogenes Esperon as GRP Peace Adviser who, they asserted, "has proven to be a major stumbling block to the resumption of the peace talks." They also urged the GRP to immediately release political detainees who were ordered released since 2001, and NDFP panelists; drop false charges against NDFP panelists, consultants and staffers, in accordance with the 1 June 2007 Supreme Court decision; and to carry out the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to abolish Arroyo's Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) and to prosecute rights violations arising from the GRP's military operations in the countryside.

The joint statement expressed the hope that the informal talks of the GRP and the NDFP to be facilitated by the Norwegian government later this month would "pave the way for the resumption of fomal talks, in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration (of 1992) and other existing bilateral agreements".

Jalandoni and Sison signed the joint statement for the NDFP Negotiating Panel. Other peace panelists present in the discussions were Fidel V. Agcaoili, Julieta de Lima and Coni Ledesma. Also present were NDFP political consultant Danilo Borjal, and Senator Madrigal's Legislative Officers Attys. J. Gary Jimenez and Romando Artes.