Statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF

I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs.

The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time.

10 Reds pardoned

 

President Rodrigo Duterte has granted pardon to 10 communist rebels, most of whom had been imprisoned for more than 10 years, just days after the head of the government peace panel (GRP) announced peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) will likely resume next month.

Labor Secretary and GRP panel head Silvestre Bello III said the latest batch of releases is part of the continuing commitment of the government to release detained rebels on humanitarian grounds.

“This is in accord with the process that will eventually lead to a general amnesty proclamation once we reach a final peace agreement with the communist rebels,” Bello said.

“We are continuing to work on the releases of the sick, elderly, those long detained and the women as the peace negotiations progress,” he added.

Among those ordered released through presidential pardon was NDF consultant Emeterio Antalan who is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).

The releases of two other JASIG-covered NDF consultants were withheld pending completion of their court documents. They are Eduardo Sarmiento and Leopoldo Caluza.

Those pardoned were convicted and serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa for common crimes ranging from illegal possession of firearms and explosives to homicide and murder. The NDF listed them as political offenders arrested and convicted on trumped up charges.

Lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad, GRP supervising panel member who oversees the JASIG implementation and releases of detained rebels, said the release of the rebels is pursuant to the JASIG and PCBREP resolutions originally covering 15.

PCBREP stands for Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Parole.

She added that it was also in pursuant to joint GRP-NDF statements during 3rd and 4th round of talks held in Rome, Italy and in The Netherlands respectively.

President Duterte had also pardoned 4 convicted rebels in December. He likewise ordered the release of at 18 NDF consultants in July last year as part of confidence building measures prior to the resumption of the peace talks.

This brings the total of released NDF leaders and members to 49 since Duterte assumed the presidency.

Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDF resumed in August last year in Oslo, Norway.

Aside from Antalan, who already served 9 years and six months in prison, also included in the recent batch of pardoned prisoners are Ricardo Solangon (17 yrs, 11 months), Joel Ramada (11 yrs), Apolonio Barado (15 yrs 10 mos), Generoso Rolida (13 yrs 9 mos), Manolito Matricio (18 yrs 4 mos), Josue Ungsod (18 yrs 7 mos), and Sonny Marbella (15 yrs 5mos). The period of detention of Jose Navarro and Arnulfo Boates were not available.

Three other communist rebels were listed among those for release. They are Raul Villar, Armando Vidar and Juanito Itaas.

Itaas, along with Donato Continente, was convicted for the murder of Col. James Rowe, an official of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) in April 1989 in Quezon City. He was allegedly a hitman of the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the erstwhile urban hit squad of the New People’s Army. ###

OPAPP statement on recent NPA attacks in Mindanao

There were several recent serious offensives in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country allegedly done by CPP/NPA/NDF forces that further fuel the public’s doubt on whether it is still worthwhile to continue the peace negotiations with them.

Targets of the intensified offensive were not only government forces, but the civilian populace and private property. This is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHR-IHL), which the CPP/NPA/NDF committed to uphold and respect.

More disturbing is the fact that the communist leaders, while in Europe, issued recently a statement condemning terrorist groups wreaking havoc in Lanao. These communist leaders even offered to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable our government to focus manpower and resources in the fight against terrorists.

Now this.

To us and the public as well, this is not only disturbing. This disrupts the conducive and enabling environment in peace making and peace building.

In the meantime, we will await further validation of these recent incidents and will undertake corresponding and appropriate steps to deal decisively with this situation.

Rebels in the list immune from arrest, surveillance

MANILA (21 June) – The updated list of National Democratic Front (NDF) rebels and consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) was recently deposited in The Netherlands, according to Philippine government (GRP) peace panel member concurrently supervising the Committee on JASIG and releases, Angela Librado-Trinidad.

The list, encrypted in USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash disks and a back up security drive (sd) and locked in a safety deposit box, contains photographs and real identities of rebel consultants who are still underground.

The rebel leaders included in the JASIG list as well as other persons directly participating in the peace negotiations are guaranteed free movement and freedom from arrest, surveillance, interrogation and similar actions in connection with their involvement or participation in the peace negotiations for the duration of the peace talks.

Immunities cover acts, statements, materials, information and data made during or resulting from the peace negotiations.

Also included in are rebel leaders who have already surfaced and are physically participating in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government (GRP) and the NDF. The JASIG-covered rebel consultants were issued letters of authority (LAs) by GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello, which they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The deposit is in line with the mandatory provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and supplemental guidelines, which the GRP and the NDF panels signed in 1995 and 1998, respectively and affirmed by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as the August 26, 2016 Joint Statement as a necessary component of the peace negotiations with the communist rebels.

On hand during the depositing of the USB and the back up sd in the safety deposit box were GRP peace panel members lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza from the GRP Panel, Fidel Agcaoili and adviser Luis Jalandoni from the NDF Panel.

This was witnessed by Archbishop Joris August Odilius Ludovicus Vercammen of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, the Third Party Depository, and Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Jamie Ledda.

Braganza explained that the deposit is part of JASIG verification and process of validating the identities of persons using aliases in the list of JASIG-covered Document of Identification (DI) Holders.

“We have to be strict this time as we do not want a repeat of the July 2011 verification incident that almost resulted to the collapse of the peace negotiation,” he pointed out.

It could be recalled that in July 2011, the GRP and NDF panel members conducted the JASIG verification process after an alleged rebel consultant was arrested. Upon verification, the encrypted diskettes containing the photographs of NDF consultants could not be opened due to faulty decryption diskettes provided by the NDF panel.

The NDF panel claimed that the decryption diskettes could have been corrupted when Dutch authorities seized the diskettes and other materials during a raid at their Utrecht headquarters.

GRP panel wants review case of detained bishop

The Philippine government (GRP) peace panel is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the process for the immediate release of a Protestant bishop who was arrested along with an alleged high-ranking rebel leader in Ozamis City last month.

Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and panel members said priests and bishops of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) have been “assisting the Government it its peace efforts and initiatives especially in facilitating the release of (government) captured soldiers/military officers or members of law enforcement agencies in the past.”

Bello urged the DOJ to look into the case of Bishop Carlos Morales on humanitarian ground.

Morales was held on May 12 at a military checkpoint together with alleged ranking rebel leader and National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rommel Salinas on humanitarian grounds.

The IFI bishop claimed he did not know Salinas who flagged him down and asked for a ride last May 12, several weeks before the cancelled 5th round of peace talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

At that time, Bishop Morales told police investigators he just took pity of Salinas who was carrying several bags.

Salinas was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for destructive arson, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder and robbery.

Another prelate of the IFI (popularly known as the Aglipayan Church), Bishop Felixberto Calang has been actively participating in the GRP-NDF negotiations in Europe as an independent observer.

On several occasions, Calang served as third party facilitator in the release of government soldiers and policemen captured by rebels belonging to the New People’s Army, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The CPP and the NPA are two of the rebel organizations under the umbrella of the NDF.

The Philippine government and the NDF have resumed peace negotiations under the Duterte administration after these collapsed in 2011.

Statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza on recent NPA attacks

“Since the latest statements of the National Democratic Front and the government to mutually refrain from taking offensive operations against each other cover only Mindanao, and since there is yet no mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide, the NPA attack in Maasin, Iloilo and elsewhere must be dealt with accordingly and decisively by the AFP and the PNP with the cooperation of civilian agencies and the affected communities.

Having said this, it is disheartening to note that such attacks provide a negative impact in our mutual commitment with the NDF to provide that enabling environment conducive to the continuation of peace negotiations with them.

The “impact” is not just on the peace negotiations, it illustrates the tragedy of the insurgency. Hopefully, the attack is just part of the birthpains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions, even if it covers only Mindanao as of now. It is an argument for a nation-wide ceasefire.”

GRP statement

We welcome the recent statement of the National Democratic Front (NDF) reaffirming its support to the Philippine government’s fight against Maute, Abu Sayyaf,  Ansar al-Khalifah Philippines (AKP) groups and other terrorist organizations wreaking havoc in Marawi City and other parts of the country.

We also appreciate the NDF’s commitment in their declaration to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to focus their attention on the war against terror groups.  These voluntary gestures and expressions from the NDF in solidarity with government against acts of terrorism augur well for the desired continuation of the stalled 5th round of peace talks as they provide, if sustained, the needed enabling environment favorable to moving the peace negotiations forward.

The Philippine government hereby correspondingly reciprocates with the same declaration of not undertaking offensive operations against the New People’s Army to pave way for the eventual signing of a mutually agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement and agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces towards a just and lasting peace.

 

The GRP continues to adhere to mutually acceptable principles enunciated in The Hague Joint Declaration , which was reaffirmed by both parties.

Likewise, the Philippine government hereby unequivocally recommits its adherence to all previously signed agreements, including specifically, but not limited to, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  Furthermore, the Philippine government commits to continue to maintain this needed enabling environment in step with the NDF’s own commitment to do the same.

Finally, we express our appreciation to the Royal Norwegian Government’s steadfast and indefatigable support and assistance to the entire process and for trusting that efforts are being exerted towards a final peace agreement.

 

 

SILVESTRE H. BELLO III
GRP Panel Chair

 

OPENING STATEMENT OF PEACE ADVISER JESUS G. DUREZA – Fifth Round of Peace Talks

5th Round of Formal Talks GRP – NDFP 27 May 2017
 | Noordwijk Aan Zee
The Netherlands

WHILE WE HAVE GONE THIS FAR AND THE FILIPINO PEOPLE ARE ROOTING/SUPPORTING US, THERE ARE CHALLENGES THAT WE MUST TOGETHER ADDRESS AS WE MEET HERE TODAY ON THE SCHEDULED 5TH ROUND OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE HAS GIVEN THE MANDATE AND STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS WHERE WE ALL CAN POSSIBLY CONVERGE, TAKING UNPRECEDENTED AND EVEN UNCONVENTIONAL AND NEVER-DONE-BEFORE ACTIONS AND DECISIONS TO SEEK PEACE;

THESE INCLUDE –
A) ENGAGING THE CPP/NPA/NDF ( CNN) EVEN BEFORE THE ASSUMPTION

INTO OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT DOING “BACK CHANNELING”TO RE- START THE LONG STALLED AND MORIBUND PEACE TALKS;

  • B)  INVITING THE OUTLAWED CPP/NPA/NDF TO NOMINATE MEMBERS OF HIS CABINET;
  • C)  IN UNPRECEDENTED MOVES, RELEASING PRISONERS FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES AND OTHERS ALREADY CONVICTED BY OUR REGULAR COURTS AND THOSE WHO ARE OLD AND INFIRM AND SICK;
  • D)  FOR A TIME, DECLARING A UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE AND HALTING

OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE NPAS;

E) PERSONALLY WELCOMING AND MEETING SEVERAL TIMES WITH LEADERS OF THE CPP/NPA/NDF IN MALACANAN

F) DESPITE THE OPEN AND BLATANT ATTACK OF NPAS IN THE COUNTRY AND EVEN IN DAVAO CITY, THE PRESIDENT’S OWN HOME TURF, HE DIRECTED THE PANEL TO KEEP THE COURSE OF PEACE.

.
HIS ACTIONS WERE DECISIVE THAT ENTAILED INVESTMENT OF VALUABLE SO- CALLED POLITICAL CAPITAL, BUT HE KEPT THE COURSE STEADY IN PROTECTING THE GAINS OF THE PEACE TALKS WHICH HAVE REACHED THIS UNPRECEDENTED STAGE.

HOWEVER, TODAY AS WE MEET HERE TODAY, THERE ARE SERIOUS

CHALLENGES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED:

PLEASE ALLOW ME TO MENTION A FEW:

0.
THE NOTICEABLE UPSCALE OF INCIDENTS OF OFFENSIVE ATTACKS BY THE NPAS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY

0.
THE SEEMING PERCEPTION OF THE BIGGER PUBLIC THAT THESE NPA OPERATIONS ARE IN OPEN AND PUBLIC DEFIANCE OF PRESIDENT DUTERTE WHO HAS CONSISTENTLY ACCOMMODATED THEM IN UNPRECEDENTED WAYS

0.
THE RENEWED SURFACING OF PUBLIC APPREHENSION QUESTIONING THE SINCERITY OF THE CPP/NPA/NDF IN THE PEACE TALKS;

0.
THE PUBLIC ADMISSIONS OF SOME PANEL MEMBERS OF THE CPP/NPA NDF

LEADERS THAT THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THEIR FORCES ON THE GROUND;

0.
THE SUDDEN AND PERCEPTIBLE EROSION OF PUBLIC SUPPORT TO THE PEACE TALKS WITH STRONG MESSAGES RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLIC TO ALTOGETHER STOP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS;

0.
THE CLAMOR NOW TO PURSUE INSTEAD LOCALIZED PEACE TALKS;

0.
AND THE LATEST AND RECENT PRESIDENT’S PUBLIC STATEMENTS THAT HE WILL NO LONGER SIGN AGREEMENTS WITH THE CPP/NPA/NDF IF ALL OF

THESE WILL CONTINUE AND NOT ADDRESSED. ALL OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS NOW PUT AT GREAT RISK OUR EFFORTS TO STAY THE COURSE OF PEACE.

0.
BUT THE MOST SERIOUS DEVELOPMENT OF LATE AND WHICH NOW PUTS IN

GREAT JEOPARDY AS TO WHETHER OR NOT WE CAN STILL KEEP THE COURSE OF PEACE IN THIS PEACE TABLE IS THE BLATANT PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED DECISION OF COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES, THE POLITICAL ORGAN OF OUR COUNTERPARTS ACROSS THE TABLE WHO ARE HERE, ORDERING THEIR FORCES ON THE GROUND TO ACCELERATE AND INTENSIFY ATTACKS AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FACE OF THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO WHICH WAS PRINCIPALLY DIRECTED AT EXTREMISTS AND TERRORISTS WHO OPENLY AND DEFIANTLY CHALLENGED THE GOVERNMENT AND PUT TO HARM THE FILIPINO PEOPLE TRIGGERED BY THE STILL-ONGOING VIOLENT INCIDENT IN THE ISLAMIC CITY OF MARAWI IN MINDANAO.

BY SUCH DEFIANT, BLATANT AND SERIOUS CHALLENGE BY THE CPP/NPA/NDF DIRECTED AT THE GOVT UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE DESPITE ALL THESE GAINS IN OUR WORK FOR PEACE AND DESPITE THE PERSONAL SHOW OF GOODWILL AND TRUST THAT THE PRESIDENT NO LESS HAS EXTENDED TO THE LEADERS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES, THE GOVERNMENT PANEL IS NOW LEFT WITHOUT ANY OTHER RECOURSE BUT TO ANNOUNCE, WITH DUE RESPECTS TO OUR COUNTERPARTS AND TO OUR FACILITATOR, THE ROYAL

NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT THAT IT WILL NOT PROCEED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SCHEDULED 5TH ROUNDS OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THERE ARE CLEAR INDICATIONS THAT AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE TO ACHIEVING JUST AND SUSTAINABLE PEACE IN THE LAND THROUGH PEACE NEGOTIATIONS ACROSS THIS TABLE SHALL PREVAIL.

WE THANK THE ROYAL NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS SO FAR STEADFASTLY AND FULLY SUPPORTED OUR JOINT WORK FOR PEACE FOR SO LONG. I TRUST IT WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE AT THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT SIDE HAVE ARRIVED AT THIS DECISION.

AS WE ALWAYS SAY AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO SAY SO: THE ROAD TO PEACE IS NOT A WELL PAVED ROAD. IT HAS HUMPS AND BUMPS ALONG THE WAY. BUT LET’S ALL STAY THE COURSE IN THIS NOT- SO-EASY ROAD TO PEACE IN OUR LAND.

 

‘Weed out disinformation’ – Dureza to media

MANILA CITY –  “It is now  very important that our media organizations take the special effort of weeding out what is disinformation, what is propaganda and what is the truth,” appealed Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Jesus G. Dureza to the press during a dialogue yesterday.

The peace secretary noted that spreading false information and misleading the people are one of the tactics of extremists to cause terror in the public. He hoped that the civilian community, together with the media, help calm down the situation in Lanao del Sur by putting a stop to viral misinformation.

A day before his flight to The Netherlands for the fifth round of talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), Dureza said that the ceasefire mechanisms established under the peace process with the MILF will remain effective in stabilizing the situation in Marawi City. It will also be a crucial help in preventing terror to pursue its activities.

“It will not stop us from implementing the signed agreements. The different factions, or the ‘peace spoliers’, will be dealt with accordingly with our armed and security forces,” emphasized Dureza.

Previously in March 2014, the government signed a final peace agreement with the MILF that includes a ceasefire mechanism that allows local and foreign ceasefire monitoring, socio-economic assistance, civilian protection, security, humanitarian rehabilitation and development – a template in which the Duterte administration hopes to have with the communist rebels.

The declared martial law in Mindanao will help the civilian authorities outside Marawi City keep the peace within their localities, as added by the peace adviser.

Dureza also highlighted media’s role on the peace process: to mainstream the government’s peace and development efforts so that the Filipino people will support it.

“It is through you, members of media, who will be engaging the greater public. Get them to understand why we are doing this, why it’s necessary why we have to engage, and that they should also come around and should have some kind of ownership on the outcomes of our peace work. There and only then, that we can see some positive results in our engagement for peace,” said Dureza.

The fifth round of talks with the NDF is set on the 27th of May up to June 1st in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

###

Statement on the CPP’s response to Martial Law

 

We are deeply disturbed that the Communist Party of the Philippines made a false reading of the intents of President Duterte in placing Mindanao under Martial Law.

The circumstances that precipitated, and the condition that warranted such declaration were matters of public knowledge. There was a need to restore law and order, protect the lives of the citizens and preserve private and state properties.

The President, in no uncertain terms, categorically declared he was not after the New People’s Army. He, in fact, reiterated his keenness on pursuing peace. We therefore find the CPP directive to the NPA to intensify attacks as totally misplaced borne out of a grossly distorted appreciation of the President’s intention.

At the very least, it was an insult to the candor and genuineness displayed by the President and the GRP Panel in talking peace. At worse, it betrays the absence of sincerity of the CPP in the negotiating table. Lest it be construed as abetting the criminal and terror acts of the Maute group and a gang of Moro bandits, we put the CPP to task to correct its error and recall its senseless order.

Against this backdrop, we reaffirm our commitment and remain confident in winning our quest for lasting peace.

SILVESTRE H. BELLO III
Chair, GRP Panel