Walk the talk? Panelo needs a fact-check

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23 October 2018 | Press Statement

Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

NDFP Negotiating Panel Chair Fidel Agcaoili answers questions from the press during the aborted 5th round of talks last May 2017 in Noordwijk. NDFP archive photo

Newly appointed presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo was conveniently suffering from amnesia when he challenged the NDFP’s Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison to “walk the talk” and support President Rodrigo Duterte’s “call for conciliation…and peace….”

I believe that a quick fact-check can help disabuse him of his befuddlement.

Since May 2017, President Duterte has terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP three times and foiled every attempt to resume these through back channel talks. Last August 14, he appeared to have terminated the peace talks for the fourth time.

At any rate, during the third termination in November 2017, President Duterte issued Proclamation 360, ending the peace negotiations.

To date, he has not revoked this proclamation. During the last back channel talks from March to June 2018, committees under the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels worked out a number of unprecedented agreements on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development, which constitute the bedrock sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

Also hammered out was an Amnesty Proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners to be signed and certified by President Duterte as urgent to obtain the concurrence of Congress in order to effect their expeditious release.

And there was an agreement for a Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire which would have taken effect upon signing by the Negotiating Panels. The CUC was conceptualized to evolve into a bilateral ceasefire.

Together, these three agreements would have constituted the Interim Peace Agreement to be signed at the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo last June 28 to 30.

Never have the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations advanced to this level. But for his own vile reasons, President Duterte has chosen to terminate the talks right at the brink of all these breakthroughs.

Imagine the time wasted, the effort squandered. Imagine the lives that could have been saved on both sides of the armed conflict.

In his latest policy-setting speech during the State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Duterte made no mention of the peace talks. His latest speech in Davao City merely mentioned surrender talks, and enticements to individual NPA guerrillas who capitulate. Nowhere does he mention the meaningful reforms that should be in place to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Since then, the festering social problems that feed the fires of armed conflict have only worsened, as seen in the murder two days ago of nine sugar workers in Negros who were planting food crops on an idle piece of hacienda land so they could feed their hungry families.

As a testament to the utter failure of the GRP to effect social justice, the land remains undistributed 18 years after the sugar workers first petitioned the DAR for the estate to be placed under land reform coverage.

The urgency of implementing thoroughgoing reforms is undisputed. The NDFP has always been ready to negotiate with any GRP administration willing to forge the needed changes that could better the lives of the Filipino masses.

Atty. Panelo should break free from his stupor and instead ask his principal why he has kept on thwarting efforts to seek a negotiated solution to the country’s problems.#

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