IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME! With just two weeks before Christmas, the historic Price Mansion in Tacloban City is aglow with bright and colorful Christmas lights and decors. The place, owned by the Romualdez family, has become a favorite place in the city among its populace and visitors during Christmas season. (SAMAR LEYTE AERIAL)

On the proposed peace talk

TACLOBAN CITY-The peace agreement that is said to be considered by the Marcos administration with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) has received a lukewarm response from former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and their so-called front organizations.

In a statement released on Monday (Dec.11), the signatories, who dubbed themselves as ‘Group of Former Rebels of the CPP-NDF from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao’ asked the national government to take ‘with keen awareness of the challenges and complexities inherent in the peace process.’

In Eastern Visayas, where the problem of insurgency remains to be its basic security issue, the statement was signed by 13 former NPA rebels and leaders of front groups. Among them were Alma Gabin, who was once the deputy secretary for education of the CPP in the region; Rey Christian Sabado, also a former deputy secretary for education of the CPP- front committee 2; and Napoleon Escalona, former president of Kadamay, an urban organization based in Tacloban City identified by the Army as among the fronts of the CPP-NDF-NPA in the region.

“The recently concluded talks and signed communique between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front is a welcome development. We express our support for the revival of the peace talks, but we would like to raise some crucial reservations,” the statement said.

It added: “While the progress in dialogue is commendable, it is essential to approach this renewed engagement with a keen awareness of the challenges and complexities inherent in the peace process.”

It was signed by 51 individuals who were either rehabilitated NPA members or leaders of groups tagged by the government to be front of the CPP-NDF but have returned to the fold of the law.

The group said that considering of the past experiences by the Philippine government on previous and failed peace talks,” it necessitates a meticulous examination of the new framework and agendas proposed.”

“It is crucial to ensure that the lessons learned from past negotiations inform the shaping of a more effective and inclusive approach,” it said.

“The sincerity and commitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF in ending armed struggle must be a central focus during these talks. There should be a genuine exploration of their potential for transformation and reintegration into mainstream society, ensuring the dignity of their involvement in addressing social, political, and economic issues through peaceful means,” they added.

They also reminded the Philippine government officials that the CPP-NDF-NPA is, at present, has no capacity to set preconditions and demands like the release of political prisoners.

“We stress that no political prisoners should be released, and in the absence of a fully operational NDF peace panel and consultants, the appointment of new consultants becomes a prerequisite for the progress of the peace talks,” they said.

They also stressed that if ever there will be indeed a peace negotiations, the CPP-NDF-NPA should not engage in any activities that could affect the result of the peace agreements.
Among these activities the communist group should stop engaging while a peace talk is ongoing include any effort to recover their lost bases and party building, and ‘agrarian revolution.’

“(We) advocate for prioritizing localized peace engagement over national peace talks to more directly address burning issues affecting communities. This approach can lead to a more nuanced and responsive resolution to the root causes of conflict,” they said.

The group hopes that their stand would be taken into consideration by the Marcos administration which is leaning toward another peace talk with the hope of ending the more than 50 years of communist armed movement in the country.

“We hope that these reservations are considered thoughtfully and that the negotiations lead to a just, humane, and lasting peace in our country,” they said.