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GRP, NDF to sign bilateral ceasefire agreement before December

MARIKINA CITY, Philippines – A bilateral ceasefire document may be agreed upon and signed by the government and the National Democratic Front before December. This was disclosed by Government chief negotiator for talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) Silvestre Bello III in a gathering of civil society members over the weekend.
“We are talking to have the final document [signed] either by end of November or first week of December. But we are eyeing the last week of November since we need to address other concerns in the talks,” Bello said.
The aforementioned ceasefire document was scheduled to be signed on or before October 26 but the parties decided to postpone. “We have to postpone the signing. There are still several items that need to have a consensus, such as the monitoring mechanism, the parameters of hostile acts, the definition of buffer zones,” explained Bello during a peace forum organized by the city’s Rotary Club members.
During the first round of talks, the government and the NDF agreed to transform their separate indefinite unilateral ceasefire into a joint, bilateral ceasefire within two months from the signing of their Joint Statement last August 26. Bello also shared that the government is also eyeing to release prisoners within this month as part of confidence-building measures in the peace process, while also clarifying that the prisoners’ release is not a precondition to the bilateral ceasefire but a show of goodwill from President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
“Releasing of prisoners based on humanitarian reasons is on its way within this month… This is in line with the previous pronouncement of President Duterte on the releases. We are asking for some time from the NDF and the public since the releases must undergo judicial processes,” the chief negotiator explained. “Under the leadership of President Duterte, we have very positive developments in the peace talks.”
Bello, who is also serving under the Duterte administration as Department of Labor and Employment secretary, said that recent updates in the GRP-NDF peace talks should be cascaded to concerned stakeholders and the general public so they will know how they can be involved in the ongoing peace negotiations.
He called on the public, whom he referred to as the ‘bigger peace table’, to help the negotiating panels in disseminating correct information about the talks and building constituency for the peace process. “Know what is happening and participate. You are the bigger peace table… We need to get your support in this process.”
Recalling the lessons derived from the abrogated Colombia peace process, the chief negotiator stressed the importance of winning the confidence of the people’s peace table. “Without your support, our peace process with the National Democratic Front will not go anywhere.”
For his part, youth leader Kevin Abergas concurred with Bello and assured him that the city’s youth sector is ready to be on board in the process as part of their social responsibility for the country. Aside from Bello, the Rotary Peace Forum was also attended by government panel member Hernani Braganza, NDF panel member Benito Tiamzon, and NDF consultants and sub-panel members Wilma Tiamzon and Adelberto Silva.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.