Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Peace talks to end protracted war — Joma

Peace talks to end protracted war — Joma

Vi Massart
Paris bureau chief
HEADLINE NEWS, The Philippine Star January 15, 2004

Utrecht, The Netherlands - Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. "Joma" Sison has said that they are open to peace negotiations to put an end to their decades-long war with the government.

Sison, who is on a self-imposed exile in Utrecht, the Netherlands where this interview was conducted, said "a just and lasting peace is possible" between the government and the members of the CPP.

The communist panel is prepared to forge a final peace agreement with the government panel based on a more modest demand for reforms, he said.

The 65-year-old Sison established the CPP in 1969, originally for the violent overthrow of the government based on the belief that his "hated enemies," American capitalists and imperialists, dictated the government's political and economic doctrines. He envisioned the creation of an egalitarian society presided over by the proletariat.

This peace agreement, however, may not guarantee a cessation of hostilities between government soldiers and communist rebels.

According to observers, questions remain if Sison still has the required clout over the CPP, the New People's Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front to stop all rebel attacks. The NDF, which functions as the CPP's political arm, represents the rest of the party in the peace negotiations with the government.

Sison has reportedly "mellowed" down since the United States declared him, the CPP and the NPA as foreign terrorists in 2002. This label has prompted the Dutch government to freeze his bank accounts and cut off all social benefits he enjoyed since his arrival in Utrecht in 1998.

The Dutch courts also revised Sison's status as a political refugee and denied his request for asylum.
Since he has been labeled a foreign terrorist, most members of the European Union are also likely to refuse him entry.

Sison cannot yet return to the Philippines, where he has a P10-million bounty on his head. Faced with few options, he appealed the Dutch ruling before the European Court of Human Rights based on humanitarian grounds, which will make it less easy for the Dutch to expel him.

Last Tuesday, President Arroyo said peace talks between the government and the communist rebels are set to resume early next month, possibly in Asia.

CPP spokesman Gregorio Rosal said they may have "better prospects" after the May elections since the Arroyo administration has refused to remove the roadblocks to the talks, among them the government's all-out international campaign to tag the CPP and Sison as terrorists.

Chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III brushed aside Rosal's claims that communist rebels are not interested in talking peace with the Arroyo administration, saying he has no reason to doubt the sincerity of Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF peace panel, in signifying his conformity to resume the peace talks "notwithstanding the occurrence of violent incidents" between the rebels and government troops.

Last Saturday, NPA rebels raided a power plant in Calaca, Batangas and killed four soldiers guarding the plant. Three rebels were later killed in the ensuing firefight.

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