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Joma Sison says NDF open to peace talks

By Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau
Posted date: September 12, 2008
Breaking News / Nation

BAGUIO CITYŚCommunist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Ma. Sison belted out two songs to serenade university students here on Thursday after a talk that was beamed live from his exile base in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

In his lecture, Sison said he wanted to pursue peace talks with the government that were shelved by President Macapagal-Arroyo because of the continuing offensives of the communist rebels against government soldiers.

Members of the League of the Filipino Students-Baguio (LFS-Baguio) chapter, which organized the lecture, and students of the University of the Philippines Baguio cheered when Sison sang an adaptation of "Inang Bayan" and "Internasyunal" following a clamor from them.

"Inang Bayan" is about the longing to return to his native land while "Internasyunal" is about attaining social justice and rising from oppression.

"I want to go home but I am still needed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as a peace negotiator," Sison said in the video conference.

He said they told the members of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) that the NDF was "always prepared" to resume the talks. The PEPP delegation met with the NDF officials on September 2 in Utrecht to discuss peace prospects.

The group was composed of bishops, priests and nuns led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro City.

"What are the prospects of the peace talks? It is not clear at this point because GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) is making it hard [for the talks] to prosper because of the pre-conditions she demanded such as disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration," he said.

"She's like telling us that we have to surrender before we can negotiate. What kind of negotiation is that? It's worse than asking for a ceasefire," he said.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. ruled out the resumption of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, saying that the group had become irrelevant after it refused to surrender commanders blamed for attacking civilians.

He said disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) would be the basis for any dialogue for peace.

"The (government) sends military forces to Mindanao. It would look like it is the MILF which is doing the aggressions but it's the police and the military," Sison said.

He said one sign that the government was prepared to resume the peace talks would be if it complied with the joint agreement on safety and immunity guarantees.

He said the government panel should also overcome the impediments to formally resume the talks. Among these are the inclusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army on the list of foreign terror groups, alleged human rights violations by the government, and the failure to indemnify the victims of martial law.
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