“As before, we shall weather Lorenzana’s declaration (of all-out war) and gain strength.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the revolutionary movement shall weather the Duterte administration’s declaration of all-out war against the Left.
In a statement, NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said “the spoilers in the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Department of National Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the neoliberal globalization members in the Cabinet won the day.”
“They have managed to persuade the President to tow the line of the US or be dealt with,” Agcaoili said.
On Feb. 7, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza sent to the NDFP by email the written notice of termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig). Agcaoili said the NDFP intends to acknowledge it soon to enable the 30-day grace period to run before it becomes effective.
Reacting to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s declaration of all-out war against the Left, Agcaoili said “The revolutionary movement will persist and continue the struggle for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people until a just and lasting peace is achieved in the country.”
Agcaoili noted that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada, and many DND secretaries and AFP chiefs of staff also issued such declaration. “As before, we shall weather Lorenzana’s declaration and gain strength.”
The NDFP chief negotiator remains open to the possibility of resuming the talks. He said there can be backchanneling talks to iron things out but warned the Duterte administration against demanding ceasefire in exchange for the resumption of talks.
“They should understand that we are not intimidated. They have promises to keep and we shall not withdraw from these,” Agcaoili said, referring to the release of political prisoners.
The formal notice of termination of Jasig from OPAPP came two days after President Duterte cancelled the peace talks and branded the CPP-NPA-NDFP [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines ]as a terrorist group and a day after one of the NDFP consultants released on bail was arrested in Davao City and the police chief ordered the arrest of other NDFP consultants.
Immunity guarantees permanent
Despite the formal notice of termination of Jasig, NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia said the immunity guarantees of NDFP consultants and staff subsist and only the safety guarantees shall be deemed ineffective.
Olalia explained that safety guarantees refer to “free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in traveling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the peace negotiations.” He said that the immunity guarantees such as immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations, on the other hand, are perpetual and permanent and remain in force even after Jasig is terminated.
Olalia said the NDFP political consultants temporarily released on bail cannot be rearrested even with the GRP’s written notice of termination of the Jasig.
Aside from the immunity guarantees still in effect, Olalia said the released political consultants are still validly out on bail and there are no valid outstanding and unused or unserved warrants of arrest for them. He added there are no court orders cancelling or shortening their cash bails as there are no existing legal grounds to do so.
“Will they still be arrested by the PNP [Philippine National Police] and AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] notwithstanding the above? Or will the GRP honor binding and solemn bilateral agreements or follow the proper legal and judicial procedure? That is, of course, an entirely different question…” Olalia said.
In a related development, the NPA North Central Mindanao Region clarified in a statement that the Feb. 1 incident in Malaybalay City resulting in the death of three soldiers was a legitimate encounter between the Army���s 8th Infantry Battalion and NPA guerrillas.
Ka Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA-NCMR belied that Corporal Pat O. Non, Corporal Nino Christopher Talabor and Sergeant Owen Yee were arrested and killed after. Juanito added that the three soldiers were armed with .45 pistols.
Juanito said the bodies of the soldiers were not desecrated. He said that since the bodies were not immediately retrieved for more than 24 hours, they must have decomposed due to the changing weather conditions.
Juanito said the 8th IB troops have been in barangay Kibalabag since October 26 and in barangay Manalog since November 24. He added that they have warned the soldiers to pull out from the villages since Nov. 20 last year but have remained in the two barangays to this day.
“The sincerity of the revolutionary movement, especially by the NPA, to the peace negotiations should not be doubted,” Juanito said, adding that the 164 days of the NPA’s unilateral ceasefire since August 21, 2016 to January 31, 2017 was “proof enough.”
It was after the Malaybalay incident that Duterte declared the cancellation of peace talks and ordered the arrest of NDFP consultants.