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Peace talks with communist rebels hits deadlock

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MANILA – Negotiations with the country’s communist rebels hit a snag after the insurgents demanded immediate release of several more comrades.

Government peace panel members claimed they would no longer allow the release of rebels after they found out that one of those freed five months ago has returned to fight in the jungle.

Alexander Padilla, member of the government peace panel, said it appears that both sides will miss the mid-2012 deadline to complete the talks.

The peace panel members of the National Democratic Front, which is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, refused to meet government counterparts in June and October.

The rebels said they would only get back to the table after the release of 13 more jailed guerrillas.

They claimed the 13 are consultants in the peace talks and are covered by a 1995 agreement that provided them immunity from prosecution and arrest.

But Padilla said the rebels failed to produce proof the detainees are covered by the agreement.

Last month, the communist rebels attacked three nickel mining sites in Surigao del Norte in Mindanao, damaging confidence between the two sides.

The rebels claimed they attacked the mining sites because of what it does to the environment. The military and the police however claim the attacks were part of extortion attempts. The communist insurgency has existed for more than four decades.

Without a doubt, the attacks undertaken by the rebels undermine the ongoing peace negotiations. The rebels continue to stage acts of violence in many parts of the country.

Four gunmen believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have burned a bus owned by Holiday Bus Lines in the Davao-Cotabato National Highway, Barangay Astorga, Sta. Cruz.

Last month, rebels are believed to be behind the raid of a police outpost in Davao del Sur province.

The NPA has been known to stage attacks against government forces and private businesses. This is the reason why the government does not have a standing ceasefire agreement with them.

Unless the communist rebels stop its offensive and start to show sincerity, the peace talks appear to stay stalled for quite some time.