By RAYMUND VILLANUEVA
The chief peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) advised presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza to course any complaints about alleged rebel atrocities through the proper channels instead of using these as a “scapegoat” for difficulties in resuming stalled negotiations.
Dureza on Monday lashed at the New People’s Army for the “senseless destruction” over the weekend of heavy equipment used in infrastructure projects in Davao City, saying these “unnecessarily squanders whatever gains we have been quietly getting lately in our common efforts” with the rebels to return to the negotiating table.
Reacting to Dureza’s statement, NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said: “What about the continuing killings of NPA fighters, even those unarmed and undergoing medical treatment like Ka Bendoy and his companion, and the continuing arrests, detention, threats and harassment of open legal activists and even UN rapporteurs, and the terror attacks against communities, occupation of schools and public places like health centers that have led to forcible displacements of tens of thousands of residents?”
Ka Bendoy is Bicol rebel leader Alfredo Merilos who was killed along with a civilian, Liz Ocampo, in what the military claimed was a shootout in Naga City, Camarines Sur on March 15.
However, the rebels maintain that Merilos, who was seeking medical treatment, and Ocampo were summarily executed.
As for the complaint raised by Dureza, Agcaoili said “there is a mechanism for addressing the occurrence of such incidents — the Joint Monitoring Committee under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law).”
“The (government) should bring their alleged complaints there, just as the NDFP does,” Agcaoili said.
He added that Dureza’s “attitude shows a lack of interest and sincerity in searching for the appropriate solutions in order to carry out negotiations that would forge agreements that would bring about basic social, economic and political reforms and lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace in the country.”
Although President Rodrigo Duterte began his term by resuming peace negotiations with the rebels, the talks broke down as both sides accused each other of violating their separately declared ceasefires.
In November last year, he issued Proclamation 360 formally terminating the talks.
Since then, the government has also moved to have the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA proscribed as terrorist organizations.
However, the Department of Justice petition filed in court triggered controversy by including a list of more than 600 individuals described as “terrorists,” among them UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey, and several other indigenous peoples’ and human rights advocates.