By Francis Wakefield
Department of National Defense (DND) Spokesman Arsenio Andolong said that the defense department is always open to peace.
Andolong made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte said that he may meet with communist leaders returning to the country this month.
“Any effort that will achieve peace, we are always open and we defer to the wisdom the President although in the past we have expressed our apprehension over the continuation of the peace talks because the communist terrorist group have not really followed the protocols that we’ve set, like they do not honor the ceasefire, they cotninue to conduct criminal activities and peace talks cannot prosper under those conditions,” Andolong said.
However, Andolong admitted that achieving peace cannot be done by the military alone.
“Its a whole of government approach. We have to address the issue on governance, we have to make sure that there is a delivery of basic services, and three of course, we have to make sure that all humanitarian, international humanitarian law and rule of law is followed,” Andolong said.
“Ang problema hindi sumusunod yung kabila dun sa [The problem is the other side is not following the] rule of law,” he added.
Regarding fears by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders that they might be arrested once they step foot in the country, Andolong said as of this date, time and minute they have not received any such order or guidance that they will apprehended.
The President had said during the Subaraw biodiversity festival in Palawan last November 10 that he may meet with NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.
“Agcaoili and Jalandoni — I will not keep it a secret. I do not want iyang confidential-confidential. Pupunta dito sabi nila gusto nila akong kausapin. Ang problema nila pagka hinuli sila. So sabi ko talagang huhulihin kayo [I don’t want it confidential. They said they will go here to talk to me but the problem is they will be caught. I said, I will really arrest you],” Duterte said.
Duterte said he immediately convened a meeting with military officials to discuss the request of the two negotiators.
“Nagtawag ako ng cluster meeting kasali na mga military. So what do you think? Sabi nila, baka. Baka pala. It’s not a very big margin there. Pero baka pala [I called for a cluster meeting including the military. So what do you think? They said, maybe. It’s not a very big margin there but maybe],” he said.
The President also said he will announce if the meeting will push through when he comes back from participating in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea, respectively.
“So, when I go back after Papua New Guinea and Singapore, I will make the announcement. Kaya usap tayo ulit kasi baka, baka pala [so let’s talk again because it’s a maybe],” he said.
In a statement posted on the NDFP website last Sunday, November 11, Agcaoili disclosed that he, Jalandoni and Panel member Coni Ledesma will be returning to the country this month “in connection with our work as members of the NDFP component in the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRHIL).”
This, despite the decision of President Duterte to terminate the peace negotiations between the Philippine Government (GRP) and NDFP.
In the same statement, Agcaoili said that they would also “welcome the opportunity to meet with the President unless he does not want to or his military is against it.”
The NDFP official also said they planned to pay a courtesy call on Bjorn Jahnsen, the new ambassador of Norway to the Philippines, who replaced Erik Forner. The Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) had been acting as the Third Party facilitator of the GRP-NDFP talks.