MANILA, Philippines - Government peace panel chief Alexander Padilla clarified yesterday that the Aquino administration is open to resuming the peace talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF), provided it would not be about the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“We are always open but they should have a concrete and serious initiative. But all they want to talk about is releasing prisoners. Our doors have always been open but it should not be on JASIG,” Padilla told The STAR.
Padilla noted that he had a “very informal” talk with NDF founder Luis Jalandoni when the rebel leader was in the country last month regarding the possibility of resuming the peace talks.
But Jalandoni, he claimed, was seeking the reconstruction of the JASIG list.
“That’s what they want to happen since the JASIG list is now inoperative. They want to talk about a new list. Right there and then I rejected it because I knew what would happen. They would include in the list those who have already been arrested,” Padilla added.
He said the government would go back to the negotiating table only if the talks will be on ceasefire or reduction of violence and rehabilitation projects in the community.
“What we want to achieve is a ceasefire, you can call it also a truce, whatever. Whether they can retain their firearms or they will surrender, whatever. But we want the violence minimized. We have been asking them to stop using landmines … and to stop attacking civilians and stop putting buses on fire,” he added.
Asked about the possible impact of the arrest of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma who is the party’s secretary-general, Padilla said the negotiations have been at an “impasse” even before the arrests.
Security forces nabbed Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and five other NPA cadres last Saturday in Barangay Zaragosa in Aloguinsan, Cebu.
The Tiamzons, facing 15 counts of murder, were arrested by virtue of a warrant issued by a Leyte regional trial court.
“It’s not moving. If you remember they even made a statement in December that talks will not resume and that they will wait for the next administration because the Aquino administration will fall,” he added.
Party-list group Bayan Muna is asking the House of Representatives to look into the arrest of the Tiamzon couple.
In a resolution, Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said the Tiamzons were arrested despite showing their identification cards as NDF consultants in the peace talks with the government and who enjoy safety immunity.
Sources said the Tiamzon couple was staying in Cebu to have access to medical facilities to treat their ailments.
A senior government agent said Benito has a kidney problem while his wife has asthma. – With Jess Diaz, Jaime Laude, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Ben Serrano