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Former government negotiator calls for resumption of GPH-NDFP peace talks

Political prisoner on hunger strike, protests violations of GPH-NDFP peace agreements

A former government negotiator in peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is urging the Aquino government to honor the 10 previously signed agreements between the GPH and the rebel group in order for the talks to resume.

At the sidelines of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace (ICHRPP) at the Great Eastern Hotel in Quezon City, Silvestre Bello III, who was negotiator for the GPH since the first Aquino administration to the Arroyo government, said both parties should “move the talks forward to its logical conclusion which is lasting peace for our people.”

He urged both the government and the rebel group to resume the stalled peace negotiations without any preconditions and to respect previously signed agreements including the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration and the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL).

Bello, now a partylist representative in Congress, was among the ICHRPP’s guest in its opening ceremonies yesterday.
“Even President Ramos followed agreements (made) during Cory Aquino’s period, Erap (President Estrada) followed the agreements and process despite disagreements, and even GMA (President Gloria Arroyo) because if we don’t do that, who would ever sign a contract or agreement with us?” Bello emphasized.

In his keynote address to the international conference, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the NDFP has been ready to resume the talks but that as early as the first formal meeting of the negotiating panels in February 2011, the Aquino government attacked the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration, which sets the framework for the talks, as a “document of perpetual division.”

He added that the government misrepresented as a precondition the NDFP’s demand to release detained consultants in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Bello said he doesn’t think Aquino wants to junk all previous agreements and begin the peace process again from scratch. “The Aquino government is aware that it is not correct to junk the Hague Joint Declaration which serves as the framework for the peace talks. Any person who knows his business should know that in order to be credible, you have to honor your agreements,” he stressed.

Bello added that the Presidential Adviser on the peace process may have played a role in the government’s flawed position on the talks. He said President Aquino should consider getting the advice of other members of his cabinet and people who have a deeper background on peace negotiations.

Asked if he would be willing to become a member of the GPH peace panel again if requested, Bello replied: “Only if I don’t lose my congressional seat because I have a mandate. I could probably join as an adviser, not as panelist.”

Hunger strike for peace

Bello’s call for the resumption of the peace talks with the NDFP echoes similar calls of detained NDFP peace consultants Ramon Patriarca who is detained at Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City and Pedro Codaste who is detained at the Malaybalay City Jail. Patriarca began a hunger strike last July 11 that will end on July 22 when President Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address.

The detained NDFP peace consultants accused President Aquino of not respecting the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and has instead continued abducting, torturing and detaining NDFP personnel involved with the peace negotiations.

The search for a just and lasting peace is one of the important panel discussions in the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace that is being participated in by more than 250 human rights and peace advocates from the US, Canada, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. Conference participants are expected to join the people’s mobilization on July 22 during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino at the House of Representatives.

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