Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Palace on Joma claim: No ‘stand-down’ deal yet

From Malaya Business Insight (Jun 14): Palace on Joma claim: No ‘stand-down’ deal yet

PEACE negotiators from government and the communist group have agreed to implement a “stand-down agreement” starting Thursday next week as an act of goodwill for the resumption of formal peace talks, according to Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, who said the agreement was reached during the back-channel talks held last week.

But Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said government is still finalizing its position on the proposed stand-down agreement with the CPP-NDFP-New People’s Army.

“Hindi pa namin na-finalize (We have not yet finalized) on the government side. Will let you know,” Dureza said in a text message when asked about the agreement. He did not elaborate on the proposed pact, saying the government panel is still in a meeting.

Sison, who has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since the late 80s, said the back-channel talks were “successful.” He declined to give details, saying a joint statement is due to be issued by the government and the NDF.

Pressed on the agreement, Sison said: “(It will be on) June 21, instead of June 14, because of the delayed court permission for the six NDFP consultants to surface and travel.”

Sison was referring to communist leaders Benito Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, Alan Jazmines, Randal Echanis, Vicente Ladlad, and Adelberto Silva who were recently allowed by a Manila court to travel abroad to take part in the talks.

“One week stand-down before the June 28-30 formal peace talks in Oslo (Norway)... A stand down is a form of ceasefire...The stand down agreement is an act of mutual goodwill to stimulate the resumption of formal peace talks,” said Sison, replying to questions sent through Facebook messenger.

“It is also to prepare for the coordinated unilateral ceasefires which are a more advanced form of ceasefire. Stand-down means stay where you are and do not shoot at the other side,” Sison also said.

Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs office, said there is yet no instruction from higher authorities for the Armed Forces to implement the stand-down order.

Sison earlier said the stand-down agreement will become a coordinated unilateral ceasefire when an interim ceasefire agreement is approved by both sides.

He said the coordinated unilateral ceasefire will advance to a bilateral ceasefire once the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, one of the substantive agendas in the talks, is signed.

Also, Sison has said the bilateral ceasefire will also depend on the amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

President Duterte ordered government negotiators in April to work towards the resumption of the talks which he terminated in November last year amid series NPA attacks on civilian and military targets.

President Duterte recently suggested anew that the NPA members confine themselves in a camp or a peace zone while peace talks are ongoing, and refrain from bringing firearms when they go out in public.

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