Detained peace consultants on Sunday rejected the idea of holding peace negotiations in the Philippines as well as the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to have a one-on-one session with self-exiled communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
In a statement they signed, 10 jailed consultants said the one-on-one proposal of Duterte to Sison, who is in The Netherlands, was a “trap” and a “setup” “intended to finish [Sison] off and decapitate the 51-year-old nationwide insurgency.”
The statement was signed by Leopoldo Caloza, Eduardo Sarmiento, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Renante Famara, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Cleofe Lagtapon, Esterlita Suaybaguio and two other staff members of the NDFP Alex and Winona Birondo.
The NDFP is the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The consultants also questioned why Duterte has not released any public statements regarding the opposition of some security officials to reviving negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDFP.
The statement of the consultants was read at a forum organized by church groups supporting the peace talks.
“It is important that peace negotiations be held in a neutral third country because the NDFP does not want to repeat the experience during the August 1986-January 1987 negotiations,” they said.
They were referring to the time when the bloody Mendiola massacre broke out following peace negotiations. Thirteen farmers were killed during the incident.
The consultants described as the “biggest obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Peace Process Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and top echelon of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.
Sources said that the informal talks leading to the main negotiations are being worked out in The Netherlands by the government and NDFP panels.