PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza expressed alarm over the recent attacks and harassments allegedly conducted by the New People's Army (NPA) amid the ongoing peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) that has been gaining momentum after the third round.
"The unilateral ceasefire was precisely set in place to provide an enabling environment for the ongoing peace talks and also to secure the support of the stakeholders and the bigger public in understanding and supporting these unprecedented, although small but significant steps, for sustainable peace in the land," Dureza said in a press statement released Tuesday afternoon.
"We do not wish to unnecessarily squander those gains that even saw President Duterte exercising strong political will to move the peace process forward," he added.
The offensives are contrary to the air of camaraderie experienced during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy, leading Dureza to believe that the negotiators are not in full control of their men.
"Either some in the National Democratic Front (NDF) leadership talking to the government are not in full control of their own forces on the ground, or they are themselves undermining these efforts for sustainable peace, or pressuring government for certain concessions," Dureza said.
Dureza assured that President Rodrigo Duterte is focused on achieving peace and will "definitely walk the extra mile for peace."
"But our counterparts on the other side of the peace table must also reciprocate accordingly and do the same," he said.
In the latest round of talks held in Rome, the government of the Philippines (GRP) and NDF agreed to separately discuss the joint bilateral ceasefire when both negotiating panels meet in February, in time for the depositing of identification documents of rebel leaders who are to be covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (Jasig) in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
This bilateral ceasefire was not discussed in the third round as the NDF refused to include it in the agenda. But the NDF finally conceded to include it in the February talks after they formally received the GRP's draft bilateral ceasefire proposal on the fourth day of the Rome talks.
NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they will study the draft proposal and will submit their own draft as well.
Of greater importance during the third round was the signing by both parties last January 21, the supplemental guidelines for the full operation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Bello described the signing as a concrete manifestation of the Duterte administration’s adherence for respect of international human rights law and a victory for the people and the Duterte government and a major dividend in the peace process.
The guidelines were drafted in 2004 but this was not signed as peace negotiations bogged down in 2011.
The guidelines is a set of mechanisms on how to address complaints of violation by the government forces and the NPA, the armed wing of the NDF.