GPH hopes to work with NDF

MAGUINDANAO PROVINCE, PHILIPPINES - JANUARY 27...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeA March 8, 2011 press release by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

While prospects for a peace deal with the National Democratic Front (NDF) are high, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) is looking forward to working with the communist group in achieving reforms for the country.

“We’d rather work with the NDF than against them. It has visions. We’d like to work with these people openly to attain national objectives,” GPH chief negotiator Alexander Padilla stated during a peace and security forum held last Thursday at the Walter Hogan Training Center of the Ateneo de Manila University.

“Government itself is open. It has no final formula for reforms but in the end it hopes to include the valuable inputs of its stakeholders,” he added.

Padilla, along with Marvic Leonen, panel chair for talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), delivered updates on the peace talks to representatives of various civil society organizations (CSOs).

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, who was also present in the forum, oriented the participants on the developments of the government’s peace tracks, as well as its peace and security plan.

The government and the NDF recently concluded its week-long formal talks on February 15-21 in Oslo Norway where they agreed to an 18-month timeframe for the completion of agreements on the remaining substantive agenda, such as socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

NDF, not terrorists

During the open forum, Padilla stressed that the government does not consider the NDF as terrorists. “They’re not terrorists; they are a political organization. The Abu Sayyaf are terrorists.”

Padilla related that the military no longer use the words ‘communist terrorists.’

“They have, in fact, removed it from their thinking,” he told CSO representatives.

The chief negotiator reiterated with conviction that the best time for a negotiated political settlement is now as there has never been a government as progressive as the current one.

“Armed conflict is passé. We can never win this war through military means. No matter how strong the military is. No matter how weak the NPA (New People’s Army) is. The only logical course is through a negotiated political settlement,” he said.

Progressive administration

Padilla said that the government now is open to criticisms and complaints. “Hindi ito tulad ng panahon ni Marcos (This is unlike Marcos’ time).”

He added that there has been some enlightenment and change in the military and police. “I believe that this came in with the new administration,” he stated.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for one, has adopted a paradigm shift from merely defeating armed threat groups to winning the peace with its new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) called “Bayanihan.”

On top of these changes, Padilla related that the military now reports to the GPH Panel any arrest of NDF personalities that they have done, unlike in previous administration.

He also stressed that the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) allow visits by their families to these NDF personalities, whether they are in the hospital or in detention center.

Padilla gladly mentioned that the Adhoc Cabinet Cluster is now headed by a civilian in the person of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

The chief negotiator likewise shared that they have been holding regular consultations with the security forces.

“We’ll be conducting dialogues again with the military and police to report to them what happened in the talks,” he said.