Rebels. Photo from the INQUIRER archive

TACLOBAN CITY – A group of former communist rebels has called on the government to be extremely cautious in its plan to reopen peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

In a statement released on December 11, former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao called on the national government to face “with great awareness the challenges and complexities inherent in the peace process .”

“The recently concluded talks and signed communiqué between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front are a welcome development. We express our support for the revival of peace talks, but would like to raise some crucial reservations,” the statement said.

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He added: “While progress in dialogue is commendable, it is essential to approach this renewed commitment with great awareness. The sincerity and commitment of the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army)-NDF to ending armed struggle must be a central focus during these talks.”

The declaration was signed by 51 individuals who were rehabilitated members of the NPA or leaders of groups identified by the government to be at the head of the CPP-NDF, but who returned to the folds of the law.

In Eastern Visayas, where the problem of insurgency continues to be a major problem, among the signatories were Alma Gabin, who was once the CPP's assistant secretary for education in the region; Rey Christian Sabado, also former assistant secretary of education of the CPP front committee 2; and Napoleon Escalona, ​​former president of Kadamay, an urban organization based in Tacloban City identified by the Army as one of the CPP-NDF-NPA fronts in the region.

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Considering the government's past experiences in previous and failed peace talks, the group said it was necessary to carry out a thorough examination of the new framework and proposed agendas.

“It is crucial to ensure that lessons learned from previous negotiations inform the definition of a more effective and inclusive approach,” he said.

“There must be a genuine exploration of their potential for transformation and reintegration into mainstream society, ensuring the dignity of their involvement in addressing social, political and economic issues through peaceful means,” they added.

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The group also reminded the government that the CPP-NDF-NPA should not set conditions and demands such as the release of political prisoners before initiating peace negotiations with the State.

“We emphasize that no political prisoner should be released and in the absence of a fully operational NDF peace panel and consultants, the appointment of new consultants becomes a prerequisite for the progress of peace talks,” they stated.

They said the communist group should also be prevented from recovering its lost bases and party buildings.

“(We) advocate prioritizing localized peace engagement over national peace talks to more directly address burning issues affecting communities. This approach can lead to a more nuanced and responsive resolution to the root causes of the conflict,” they said.

READ: The government asked: Release political prisoners as a show of good faith

The group hoped that their position would be taken into consideration by the Marcos administration, which is leaning towards another peace talks with the hope of putting an end to more than 50 years of armed communist movement in the country.

“We hope that the negotiations will lead to a just, humane and lasting peace in our country”, they stated.

President Marcos previously granted amnesty to selected members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, the Workers' Revolutionary Party of the Philippines/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade and the Moro National Liberation Front.

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He also commended that peace talks with the NDFP would continue after former President Rodrigo Duterte halted talks with the group in 2018.