EXTRA MILE FOR PEACE. President Rodrigo Duterte (fourth from left) extends handshake to NDF consultants as gesture of commitment to pursue peace despite the recent sharp exchanges with the communist rebels. Also in this photo are (L-R): GPH panel member Atty. Angela Librado; NDF consultant Rey Casambre; NDF legal counsel Rachel Pastores; NDF consultant Satur Ocampo; GPH panel chair, Labor secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello III; GPH panel member Atty. Antonio Arellano; and GPH panel member, former Agrarian Reform secretary Hernani Braganza.
Despite the posturing and exchanges of diatribes, President Rodrigo Duterte is still hopeful the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will put an end to the decades old insurgency problem in the countryside.
"The President assured NDF lawyers present during the meeting in Malacañang yesterday [August 15] that the NDF consultants will fly to Oslo,” Labor Secretary Silvestre ‘Bebot’ Bello III said.
Bello, who heads the government panel negotiating with the NDF, will fly to the Middle East today to attend to concerns of overseas Filipino workers there and will immediately proceed to Europe for the talks.
“The President instructed the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist the NDF consultants who will be travelling to Oslo, Norway over the weekend for the formal talks slated for Monday next week, August 22,” GPH panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad said.
Several detained high-ranking NDF leaders have been allowed to post bail to be able join the peace negotiations in Oslo under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).
The government, upon orders of the President, did not pose objections to their temporary liberties to fast track the peace negotiations.
Among those allowed by the regional trial court in Quezon City to join the peace talks are Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chair and secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), respectively.
The CPP, along with its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA), is waging Asia’s longest running insurgency.
The NDF is the political umbrella of the CPP-NPA.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza will head the Philippine delegation during the opening ceremonies.
“The President said, that while he was hurt by the sharp exchanges between him and CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison who is based in The Netherlands, he gave assurances that he will walk the extra mile for peace," Dureza shared.
President Duterte had vowed to reopen peace negotiations as a campaign promise during the May 2016 elections.
The President is known to have maintained an open line with several high ranking rebel leaders in Mindanao.
The 71-year old president was instrumental in the releases of government soldiers and policemen who were captured by NPA rebels.
But the series of armed encounters have exasperated the President who threatened to call off the peace negotiations if the NPA rebels continue to launch offensives and ambuscades against government troops.
But during the meeting in Malacañang yesterday, President Duterte said he is open to any proposal that "would address the root of rebellion in the countryside."
Also present during the meeting were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and BID commissioner Jaime Morante.
The GPH panel was also in complete attendance. Joining Bello in the meeting with the President was Librado-Trinidad, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza, and new GPH panel member Antonio Arellano, a retired regional state prosecutor in Region 11.
Arellano, who was detained by the Marcos government, is a close friend of President Duterte and is a former human rights lawyer like Bello.
Bello and Arellano were former anti-Marcos activists in Davao City, the home city of the President.
The NDF consultants who met with President Duterte were led by former Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo, NDF panel member Fidel Agcaoili and NDF lawyer Edre Olalia.
The Oslo talks are expected to tackle substantial issues on socio economic reforms, political and constitution reforms, security and immunity guarantees, cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.