THE NETHERLANDS - His visit to the National Democratic Front Panel (NDFP) headquarters in Utrecht, Netherlands brought a larger-than-life hope for Filipinos that unity is soon going to be a reality in the Philippines.
At the NDFP office, where ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau was exclusively invited, there was so much laughter and talks sounded light and not serious at the meeting between Senator Francisco Pangilinan and NDFP's Jose Maria Sison and Louie Jalandoni.
Pangilinan, who just arrived from the Inter-Parliamentary Union event in Geneva, exuded a unique charisma as he sat face to face with Sison, Jalandoni and Sison's wife, Juliet.
The senator came in his capacity as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and Committee on Social Justice and Rural Development.
Pangilinan brought with him the promise that as a party mate of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, he will bring to the President the conditions laid down by NDFP, in the name of peace and unity.
"Well, ang relationship ko sa NDF, ilang dekada na rin. I was a student activist in the 80s during the Marcos dictatorship so I fully understand the causes that they are fighting for," Pangilinan told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau in an exclusive interview.
"We should focus on how we can unite, on what common ground we can go to, rather than look at our differences, on what divide us. And there is more that will unite us. There is more reason for us to unite in terms of moving forward and bringing prosperity to a nation than there is reason for us to be divided," Pangilinan said.
Roots of armed conflict
In fact, Pangilinan presented his proposals to the NDFP, particularly in helping push the peace talks and modernization of agriculture in order to solve poverty which he says is the root of the armed conflict in the Philippines.
"Obviously, if you look at the Philippine situation, sitwasyon ng ibang bansa, walang bansa na naging progresibo at talagang naging matagumpay at talagang gumanda ang buhay ng mga citizens nila na mayroong armed conflict na hinarap. So the roots of the armed conflict is really poverty and injustice so we're really gonna have to push for peace and I want to see it in my lifetime," Pangilinan said.
"Hindi biro itong insurgency na hinaharap ng bansa. It has been around for over four decades. Social unrest, even more so. The challenge is really how do we achieve a just and honorable peace so that the full potential of the nation in terms of the resources, in terms of its talent, its skill in terms of the economy can really be achieved," Pangilinan added.
The NDFP, for its part, trusts the senator's capability and sincerity.
"Sinabi naman sa kanya ni Louie [Jalandoni] na pag-aaralan ng NDF 'yong mga proposed solutions at mga dahilan kung bakit dapat isipin nating lahat na may pag-asa ang Pilipinas," Sison said.
"Umaasa kami na maipapaabot kay President Aquino 'yong mga pinag-usapan. Kasi bandang GPH (government panel) sa side ng Philippine government, si P-Noy naman ang pinakamapagpasya. Siya ang magpapasya tungkol sa mga bagay-bagay sa panig na 'yon kaya minamahalaga namin 'yong dalaw in Senator Pangilinan. (Si) Kiko kasi, nakakausap niya ang Presidente," the Communist Party of the Philippines chair added.
Conditions for resuming talks
Although the meeting was relaxed and cordial, the NDFP remained firm in its conditions in order for the stalled peace talks to resume.
"Sabi niya tutulong siya sa pag-push for the going forward of the peace talks through the release of the JASIG-protected (political prisoners), the NDFP consultants, as well as for the release of political prisoners. So we value very much his willingness to help and to push forward these talks which are of great importance to us," Jalandoni said.
"Right now na-postpone ang talks which was scheduled in June sa Oslo dahil wala pang nare-release kahit isa dun sa 17 NDFP consultants na dapat ma-release. At saka gusto din naming ma-release 'yong mga political prisoners in accordance with the agreement under CARHRIHL, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, so we hope that his [Pangilinan's] push, his help together with the help of others will push forward the talks and let the talks hopefully take place in Oslo in September," the NDFP chair said.
"Simple lang naman 'yan--17 lang 'yang JASIG-protected na political prisoners. Kung mapapalaya 'yan, 'yong formal talks madaling isagawa," Sison added.
According to Sison, the relationship is good between the NDFP and the Philippine government in the sense that they are talking, and that even if the formal talks in Oslo were postponed, the door remains open on both sides.