Reds ready to call truce

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Communist Party of the Philippines has warmed up to the idea of a ceasefire agreement despite remarks in the press rejecting it, a Palace official said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said leaders of the communist movement had informed the facilitators from the Norwegian government that they were not closing the door on establishing a mutual ceasefire.

“In truth, they have informed the Norwegian facilitators that they are willing to sign an agreement similar to the cessation of hostilities pact we have with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Ermita said.

Norway, as broker of the stalled peace talks, was consolidating the demands from both sides to facilitate a resumption of exploratory talks, he added.

But CPP founder and lead negotiator Jose Ma. Sison rejected Ermita’s optimistic outlook.

In an e-mailed statement, Sison said the sending of a government delegation to Norway to assess the possibility of reviving the talks with a ceasefire accord as a precondition was “foolishness.”

“They just repeated the same old tune… that the revolutionary forces should surrender and lay down their arms under the guise of a ceasefire and forget all about the root causes of the armed revolution,” Sison said.

“There should be economic and political reforms first to solve the root problems that brought about the armed revolution of the toiling masses and entire people,” the communist leader, who has been in self-exile in The Netherlands for almost two decades, said.

Negotiations bogged down three years ago after the CPP accused the government of providing prejudicial information that led to their inclusion in the terror lists of the United States and the European Union.

After the communists pulled out of the talks, the government retaliated by suspending safety and immunity guarantees for the communist negotiators.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales recently said the communists would not be part of the government’s list of terrorist organizations as the Human Security Act of 2007 took effect on July 15.

But Ermita contradicted Gonzales, saying the “communist-terrorist” tag still applied as far as Malacañang was concerned.

In the Senate, Senator Ma. Ana Consuelo Madrigal filed a bill seeking the repeal of the Human Security Act, but Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the law’s critics to give it a chance, saying it had enough safeguards against human rights violations.

At the same time, Palace allies in the House of Representatives welcomed an initiative to hold a summit on the anti-terror law.

Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco and Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan said public discussions of the law would help people realize they had a role to play.

Cuenco added that such a summit would clear up some of the misconceptions about the law.

“The common concern is that the law would violate some basic human rights, which is not true since the Human Security Act contains more than 100 safeguards against abuses,” he said.

An outspoken critic of the government, Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr., called for a review of the act, saying it could be subject to abuse.