(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels have dismissed as “duplicity” a recommendation by Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to resume peace talks and hold a ceasefire as they laid down their own conditions to restart the negotiations.
Esperon unveiled his, which he said he had submitted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at the first day of a summit on extrajudicial killings called by the Supreme Court.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace negotiating panel, said Esperon “speaks with a forked tongue” and called the general’s proposal “mere cheap propaganda.”
With Esperon’s recommendation is a condition for the rebels agree to a three-year bilateral truce.
Jalandoni and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison, who issued separate statements, said the rebels would agree to resuming talks only if the government would accept the NDF’s Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace, a 10-point proposal to accelerate the forging of a peace agreement and truce that the rebel umbrella organization had submitted.
Jalandoni said Esperon “did not care to address the root causes of the armed conflict” and “wanted only the pacification of the revolutionary movement.”
Both Jalandoni and Sison said the NDF remained open to resuming the peace talks on condition that the government would address so-called “prejudicial questions” such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, the displacement of civilians by military operations and the terrorist listing of the CPP, the New People’s Army, and Sison.
Should the government agree, “this would be an important step towards accelerated negotiations on the fundamental economic, social and political reforms for the benefit of the people,” said Jalandoni.
“Such negotiations could be attended by a ceasefire,” he added.
Sison said the NDF has “long informed” the government, through Norway, the third-party facilitator of the talks, “that it was ready to engage in exploratory talks for the purpose of resolving the abovementioned prejudicial questions and agreeing on a ceasefire that did not mean the surrender and pacification of the revolutionary forces and people but on one that would be based on clear binding principles and the adoption of a procedure for accelerating agreements on social, economic and political reforms.”
Jalandoni also slammed Esperon for blaming the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances in the country on the rebels, saying the military chief “continues to be in total self-denial” about the killings that United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston had “convincingly attributed to the AFP.”
Negotiations with the communists have been suspended since 2004 over the rebels’ inclusion on the US and European governments’ list of foreign terrorist organizations and a subsequent crackdown on international funds being channeled into the movement.
The CPP and the NPA have been waging a rebellion since 1969, in what has become one of Asia’s longest running communist insurgencies.
Human rights groups have said that the insurgency has led to a military strategy that has arbitrarily attacked legitimate left-wing political groups labeled as “fronts” for the rebels.
Local rights group Karapatan has documented more than 800 victims of summary executions since Arroyo came into power in 2001, many of them political activists who had been vocal against the government.
With a report from AFP