Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana denied accusations that President Rodrigo Duterte postponed the resumption of formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in deference to the military’s planned “all-out war” against the communist New People’s Army.
“That is not true,” Lorenzana said in a text message to the media on Monday.
He said the President had already decided on the postponement even before the Armed Forces of the Philippines recommended in a recent briefing that the talks be postponed for three months so that a “stand-down agreement” between the two parties could be studied for implementation.
Lorenzana said the President actually came to the decision during the first update on the government peace panel’s back-channel talks with the NDFP.
“It was in the course of this briefing and subsequent [question-and-answer] that the President decided that he needs more time to review all past agreements between the NDF and GRP (government) and the results of the recent back channeling,” he said.
The President canceled on June 14 the resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, scheduled for June 28, the date agreed upon by government and NDFP negotiators in a series of back-channel talks.
The President insisted that the talks be held in the Philippines next month.
End of peace talks
Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, exiled founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said on Sunday that holding formal peace talks in the Philippines would spell the end of peace negotiations.
NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili on Monday said: “No party has the right to change the rules of the game in midstream.”
The President has not given up on negotiating peace with communist rebels but wants any agreement to pass legal and political scrutiny, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Roque also said Malacañang hoped Sison would leave it to the government to speak about developments in the peace negotiations.
The peace talks’ resumption may depend on the release of NDFP consultants, however.
Lawyers of NDFP consultant Rafael Baylosis slammed his continuous detention in Taguig City, despite a release order issued by a Quezon City court after he posted bail last week.
On June 14, the Regional Trial Court Branch 100 ordered Baylosis’ release on a bail bond of P150,000, after his camp filed a motion to allow him to participate in the formal peace talks.
Meanwhile, a Quezon City court dismissed on June 5 the cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against another NDFP consultant, Ruben Saluta. —With reports from Jhesset O. Enano and Karlo Manlupig
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