Lawmakers Urge Pres. Duterte to Re-continue Peacetalks

A good number of congressmen are calling President Rodrigo Duterte to pursue a better road for peace. 1/5 of the House of Representatives urge the president to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF).

As a backgrounder, the NDFP is a political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), a group involved in various armed insurgencies for 5 decades.

In House Resolution No. 1803, the 61 lawmakers also called for the conclusion of the comprehensive agreements on socioeconomic and political reforms to “lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.”

The lawmakers held on to Mr. Duterte’s remarks on Feb. 20 that he might reopen the negotiations but would have to consult military officials first. This followed a meeting with Norwegian officials who host the talks.

Mr. Duterte met with Idun Tvedt, Norwegian special envoy to the peace process between the Philippine government and the NDFP, in Davao City on Feb. 15.

The President on Nov. 23 last year terminated the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360, which cited the alleged insincerity of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, by committing unspecified “acts of violence and hostilities.”

The termination came two days before the fifth round of formal talks were supposed to be held from Nov. 25 to 27 in Oslo. The agreements on socioeconomic reforms and general amnesty for political prisoners were supposed to have been discussed.

‘Terrorist’ declaration

Last Dec. 5, the President issued Proclamation No. 374 declaring the CPP and NPA terrorist organizations.

“Compared to previous administrations, peace negotiations under the Duterte administration have reached remarkable and unparalleled headway after the four successful rounds of negotiations,” the resolution read.

“Continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreements on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for their economic hardships,” it added.

Signatories

When Mr. Duterte ended the talks, negotiators were already working on the draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), aimed at addressing the economic grievances and social inequalities that caused the insurgency.

The resolution was signed by the peace, reconciliation and unity committee chair, Ruby Sahali, and three of the four vice chairs—Jose Christopher Belmonte, Jesus Nonato Sacdalan and Amihilda Sangcopan.

The fourth vice chair, Shernee Tan, did not sign the resolution. Tan is an advocate of martial law nationwide.

The call for the resumption of talks was also supported by Deputy Majority Leaders Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. and Arnel Ty, and Deputy Minority Leaders Anthony Bravo, Eugene Michael de Vera and Alfredo Garbin Jr.

All seven members of the Makabayan bloc—Carlos Isagani Zarate, Arlene Brosas, Ariel Casilao, France Castro, Emerenciana de Jesus, Sarah Jane Elago and Antonio Tinio—signed the resolution.

Likewise, five members of the opposition Magnificent Seven bloc—Teddy Baguilat Jr., Emmanuel Billones, Raul Daza, Edcel Lagman and Tomasito Villarin—expressed support for the resolution.

Eight representatives from Mindanao, which Mr. Duterte placed under extended martial law by invoking the communist insurgency, signed the resolution, too. They are Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Joel Mayo Almario, Lorna Bautista-Bandigan, Lawrence Fortun, Zajid Mangudadatu, Maximo Rodriguez Jr., Juliette Uy and Manuel Zubiri.

Among the signatories are 14 lawmakers from Luzon: Jorge Banal, Leopoldo Bataoil, Bayani Fernando, Gabriel Bordado Jr., Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Edward Maceda, Allen Jesse Mangaoang, John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto, Strike Revilla, Cesar Sarmiento, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Eric Singson, Noel Villanueva and Victor Yap;

Nine lawmakers from the Visayas signed the resolution: Erico Aristotle Aumentado, Wilfredo Caminero, Leo Rafael Cueva, Juliet Marie Ferrer, Carlito Marquez, Edwin Ong, Henry Ong, Raul Tupas and Melecio Yap Jr.

Nine other party-list representatives also backed the resolution: Michelle Antonio, Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay, Salvador Belaro Jr., Sabiniano Canama, Virgilio Lacson, Benhur Lopez Jr., Rodante Marcoleta, Ron Salo and Orestes Salon.