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Philippine gov't peace talks with leftist rebels at risk of impasse

(Xinhua)

08:27, September 02, 2011

MANILA, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- After an impasse in the peace talks with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippine government's negotiations with the local leftist rebels, which are scheduled to resume on Sept. 12 in Oslo, Norway, are also at the risk of being scrapped.

On Tuesday, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel, accused the government of insincerity in pursuing the peace process.

The NDF is the umbrella organization of all left-wing groups in the country, including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

The NPA has been waging an insurgency against the government for more than four decades.

Earlier, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III challenged communist rebels to show sincerity and goodwill towards the reopened peace negotiations after the NPA waged an obviously coordinated raids and abductions throughout the country, killing and wounding scores of civilians and armed combatants.

The latest one was the abduction of the mayor of Lingig, a town in the province of Surigao del Sur in Mindanao, and his two military escorts on Aug. 6 by some 30 NPA guerrillas.

On the other hand, Jalandoni said the continued refusal of the Aquino government to release 13 NDF consultants from detention and what he termed as "negative actions" of the government could derail the peace process.

"As I see it, the Sept. 12 talk is now unclear because of these delaying actions and statements coming from Alex (the government's chief negotiator Alexander Padilla) that are actually invalid, null and void, and beyond his authority," Jalandoni told reporters.

Meanwhile, Jalandoni said they remained "determined and committed to resume the peace talks, if not on Sept. 12, then perhaps in October."

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have earlier opposed the release of the detained NPA commanders, saying they are charged not just with rebellion but also with murder and arson, among others.

AFP Civil Relations Chief Brig. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario said Jalandoni is making a ridiculous demand as a pre-requisite to the peace negotiations.

"They should not abuse the immunity privilege granted to their legitimate consultants by extending the same privilege to those facing numerous criminal charges. Doing so is deceptive, malicious and self-serving," del Rosario said.

The government has also shot down a reported demand by the NPA for a prisoner swap in the release of Mayor Dano.

Padilla said that accommodating such a demand would open the possibility to similar abductions and "swaps" in the future. He said this would be tantamount to giving in to blackmail.

Earlier reports said that Lingig town police chief, Inspector Ignacio Serrano Jr., has confirmed that the NPA had sent feelers for swap of prisoners. "They wanted a swap for NPA rebels captured in Davao and a Sparrow Unit member nabbed in Mati, Davao del Sur," Serrano said.

But Padilla maintained there should be no conditions especially for the release of non-combatants.

Because of the abductions, Padilla said he is now uncertain whether the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF can restart in mid- September in Norway.

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