“This is not something we can give up on easily. We are talking about our country’s chances of securing a just and lasting peace and putting an end to the armed conflict. These are aspirations that all peace-loving Filipinos share, and we should persevere in the peace talks. If there are problems, we have to find solutions to them; if there are obstacles, then they should be overcome.”
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Solve problems, overcome obstacles.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni is determined to exhaust all diplomatic and principled means to ensure that the peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) pushes through. Even as others might find it understandable to throw in the towel given how the GPH panel — specifically negotiator Alex Padilla — has been rudely behaving and speaking, Jalandoni and the rest of the NDFP’s peace panel including Coni Ledesma and Fidel V. Agcaoili remain steadfast in pushing for the talks.
In a forum sponsored by Pilgrims for Peace, an ecumenical formation of religious groups and lay associations, Jalandoni and Ledesma gave the background story on the not-so-rosy developments in the negotiations with the Aquino administration’s so-called peace makers.
Jalandoni answered at length what exactly is going wrong in the talks — the GPH’s refusal to uphold the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and honor its word to release the NDFP consultants in the custody of its armed forces — but not once did he betray frustration.
“This is not something we can give up on easily. We are talking about our country’s chances of securing a just and lasting peace and putting an end to the armed conflict. These are aspirations that all peace-loving Filipinos share, and we should persevere in the peace talks. If there are problems, we have to find solutions to them; if there are obstacles, then they should be overcome,” he said.
In the last month, the NDFP and the GPH have been exchanging sharp words over the media. The fiery exchange was triggered by loose statements made by GPH’s Padilla and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles saying that (1) the Jasig is no longer operable; and (2) the GPH was under no obligation to release any political prisoner, much less captured NDFP consultants.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) peace panelists Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma declares the NDFP’s continuing commitment to the peace talks. Jalandoni said the NDFP will never give up efforts to forge a principled peace agreement with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) because “the Filipino people desire an end to the conflict and want peace based on justice” in the country. (Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com)
“The NDFP always sits at the negotiating table with a readiness to talk peace and a preparedness to uphold previously signed agreements with the GPH. These are serious matters which we all take pains to handle correctly and with sincerity,” he said. He seemed unable to hold back a measure of disappointment when he explained how the GPH is deliberately failing to carry its end in implementing previously forged agreements on the release of consultants. Even then, however, he is careful with his words.
“It is expected that both panels prove sincerity by carrying out the agreements. Releasing the NDFP’s consultants is a good-will building measure, it is true; but at the same time, it’s also a promise previously made by the GPH when we began negotiations earlier this year in February. As for the Jasig, neither the GPH panel nor the GPH itself can simply declare it’s inoperable — it will only lose effect if and when the head of the NDFP and the GPH agree to declare it so by one party sending a letter to the other,” he said.
In any case, human rights groups assert that even now the Aquino government continues to refuse to address the issues of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Jasig-protected individuals, among them Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, Rogelio Calubad, Sotero Llamas ; as well as hundreds of others without Jasig protection.
Jalandoni clarified that despite all the negative setbacks, however, the NDFP leadership is determined that the peace talks proceed.
“NDFP chairman Mariano Orosa remains committed to the talks, and so are we,” he said. “It has to be said, however, that the life of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations depends on compliance with the Jasig. If the GPH cannot comply with the Jasig, then there is no way that we can trust the GPH to comply with any other agreement.”
Confidential letter to Aquino
Further proof of the NDFP’s sincerity to talk peace with the GPH is how the NDFP peace panel sent a letter to GPH President Benigno Aquino III in January 2011. Jalandoni explained that in the letter, the NDFP offered a “special track” to the peace talks.
“This letter to Aquino was of a confidential nature, but the NDFP has decided to now inform the public that such an offer was made to encourage the talks with the GPH. The NDFP laid down its concerns affecting the Philippine’s economic and political situation as well as issues involving human rights. In it, the NDFP also stated its readiness to engage in talks and forge an agreement on socio-economic reforms that will also serve to support and strengthen the previously signed Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). It was good that the GPH received this letter positively, and the talks began in February,” he said.
These days, however, the positive atmosphere that first enveloped the talks the Aquino administration as represented by its peace panel in the talks have somewhat turned gray. Various spokespersons form Malacañang such as presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have taken to issuing statements which are, to say the least, detrimental to the talks.
Again, Jalandoni is firm yet diplomatic in his reaction to this.
“There are those who would much rather have the talks collapse at the expense of the Filipino people’s hopes for peace; but there are many more people who do want the talks to proceed. Who is Lacierda, who is Gen. Eduardo del Rosario? Who are they among the thousands and thousands of Filipinos who desire for an end to the armed conflict and the beginning of society where there is peace based on justice?,” he said.