DAVAO CITY – A leader’s strong political will is the key to a successful peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), says former peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III.
For Bello, who was named by presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte as his choice to lead negotiations with the CPP-NDF, this main consideration coupled with the resolve of addressing the root causes of conflicts are vital to win the continuing quest for peace and development in the country and end the more than 40 years of insurgency that has caused the lives of thousands of Filipinos.
Problems on extreme poverty and landlessness are among the priorities that the government must attend to and focus on while having formal talks with the NDF, he asserted.
Bello talked with the members of the media on Thursday evening and admitted that though his name was floated to lead the peace panel, the position is yet to be formally offered to him.
“The value of the talks is that while you are talking you are actually addressing the root causes of the armed conflicts. The moment you do that then we have peace,” he said.
He also clarified that there is no formal offer yet for him to be in charge of the peace talks with the reds.
“There is no formal offer. But if offered who am I to refuse the president-elect of the Republic of the Philippines. Mahirap tanggihan si (It is hard to say no to) President Duterte.”
When asked what would be his first move if the position is offered to him, Bello said he will ask Duterte of his roadmap on the peace talks with the CPP.
Bello added: “I will have to ask the president ano ang kanyang (what is his) expectations. It is very important, in any peace negotiation, that you know what your principal is planning about the endeavour.”
He also emphasized that the principal must have a complete trust and confidence to his chief negotiator.
Bello also pointed out that the GPH-NDF peace negotiations should be pushed through without any preconditions as stipulated under The Hague Joint Declaration that was signed by the two parties.
“The talks should resume without any preconditions. The issues on ceasefire and the release of NDF consultants will be the products of the negotiations.”
Bello also expressed his views on personalities that he wished to be part of the panel that will negotiate with the left.
“Panel members should have deep understanding on the real situation of the country and the people.”
He named Peter Tiu Laviña, Mayor Leoncio Evasco, former Secretary Rene Sarmiento and former Secretary Braganza as his choices to sit with him in the negotiating table.
Bello also emphasized the presence on an Indigenous People (IP) in the panel; a member of the academe; and one adviser coming from the media.
He also expressed optimism the peace process with the left will resume soon and succeed given that incoming president Duterte wanted to achieve peace during his administration.
“I hope this time, with our president who has a very big mandate of our people and has shown the political will to pursue the talks will be able to bring these talks to its logical conclusion – and that is lasting peace for our country.”
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate on Thursday called on the people to actively push for the immediate resumption of the stalled peace talks between the government and the NDF, in response to the resistance of Senators Antonio Trillanes and Panfilo Lacson and individuals identified with social democratic groups.
In a joint statement, the party-list congressmen said: “As in the past, and this early, the antiquated cold-war, red-scare tactic is once again being resurrected as bogey to frustrate the resumption of the peace talks with the NDF, the release of political prisoners and the possible appointments of left personalities in the cabinet of President-elect Duterte.”
They added that the NDF should return to the negotiating table, discuss and seek solutions to the root causes of the nearly five decades old armed rebellion in the country.
“The senators who are airing these supposed fears should instead throw their support for the peace talks and stop sowing paranoia.”
The solons called on all “patriotic and peace-loving Filipinos to rally behind this fresh wind of finding a political settlement and lasting peace in our country.
They also specifically called on the members of the Church, the academe, people’s organizations and non-government organizations to be in the forefront of this peace endeavor.