Government, rebels fail to break impasse-A A +A
Sunday, June 17, 2012
DAVAO CITY (Updated) -- Government negotiators and communist rebels have failed to break a yearlong impasse in peace talks as bloody clashes continue to rage in the country, officials said Sunday.
Government negotiator Alexander Padilla said the two sides met in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Thursday and Friday to discuss differences that have stalled talks on settling the 43-year Marxist rebellion.
Norway, which has been brokering the talks, arranged the meetings.
However, key differences, including a rebel demand for the release of jailed comrades, remained unresolved.
The government and the rebels agreed to continue "meaningful discussions of concerns and issues" aimed at reviving the talks and attaining "a just and lasting peace," they said in a statement after the meetings.
"We're still far apart," Padilla told The Associated Press by telephone from Oslo.
The Philippine government renewed a call for some form of ceasefire to foster negotiations similar to a truce that has held for years between Filipino troops and Muslim rebels in the country's south, he said.
In the latest violence, suspected communist New People's Army rebels killed an Army officer and wounded three soldiers in a land mine attack in southern Compostela Valley province late Friday, the military said.
The attack targeted an Army truck carrying the soldiers near a church and school in Bantacan village and showed the rebels did not care if nearby civilians were exposed to harm, regional Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza said.
Chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the guerrillas are ready to resume talks if the government addresses several issues, including the release of 14 rebel consultants who have been arrested in recent years.
The rebels said the consultants are covered by a government guarantee shielding them from arrests during the talks.
The government said it refused to release the rebel consultants because they have failed to produce proof they are covered by the immunity.
A list of 75 rebel consultants was deposited in a Dutch vault in 1996 by both sides. It was discovered last year that two diskettes containing the list were damaged and the details could no longer be retrieved, officials said.
Jalandoni also expressed willingness to resume talks if government acts on issues such as:
* Respect for and compliance with all bilateral agreements without qualification. The bilateral agreements were signed without reservation. Elaboration or amendment to the agreements must be by mutual agreement of both parties;
* Release of all 356 political prisoners in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Hernandez political offense doctrine;
* Rectification of "terrorist listing" of Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and Prof. Jose Ma. Sison by US and other foreign governments being declared by Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles as "sovereign right" of these foreign governments (February 2004) and "welcomed" by former President Gloria Arroyo and declared by her as "not intervention in internal affairs" of the Philippines (August 2002);
* Indemnification of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime in connection with the human rights litigation in the US as provided for in the CARHRIHL; among others.
The rebels also committed to sit down with the negotiating panel with regard the ceasefire that the government is demanding but this will be in connection with an earlier proposal for a "Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace" and another proposal for truce and alliance that the rebels submitted to the President.
The government has yet to make known its side on the signing of the joint agreement.
Battle setbacks, surrenders and infighting have weakened the Maoist rebels but the military still regards them as the country's most serious security threat. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. (AP/Stella A. Estremera/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 18, 2012.