MANILA - The peace negotiations between the communist rebels and the Philippine government are ongoing and the safety and immunity guarantees for negotiators remain binding despite the recent suspension of formal talks, according to the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The NDFP negotiating panel received assurances from Secretary Silvestre Bello, head of the government panel, that the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) "remains operative," a statement from the communist party's political wing said.
NDFP consultants who were in The Netherlands flew out of the country "in good faith" and the group insisted that the government is "duty-bound" to ensure that they will not be harassed, surveilled, searched, arrested or detained after they set foot in the Philippines.
With the JASIG in place, NDFP consultants involved in the peace negotiations are assured of free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in traveling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the negotiations; and immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.
"We deem it necessary to underscore the continuing effectivity of the JASIG in order to prevent any misreading or misinterpretation that would lead prosecutors to move for, and for the courts to cancel, the bail bonds of NDFP consultants still facing charges and for the police and military to arrest NDFP consultants who are set to return to the Philippines following the GRP's cancellation of the fifth round of formal talks," part of the statement read.
It added, bilateral consultations between the working groups of the government and the communists' side may still be held in the Philippines in preparation for the eventual resumption of the formal talks.
Upon President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao following clashes between his troops and Maute group bandits, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered its troops intensify offensives against government following the martial law declaration.
This declaration from the rebels prompted the government to suspend the fifth round of peace negotiations over the weekend. It was the second time for the talks to hit a roadblock under Duterte, who also suspended the talks in February.
Duterte, a former student of NDF's chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, vowed to end during his term the nearly five decade-long Maoist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.