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Communist rebels resume talks with gov’t

The Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) has resumed peace talks with the Aquino government, ending a 15-month period of stalled negotiations. But the good news was dampened down by the failure to agree on the contentious issue of the release of CPP-NDF consultants from detention.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the resumption of talks is a “step in the right direction.” “We certainly welcome the decision of both parties, the decision to resume talks with the government,” said Lacierda.

The decision of the NDF over the resumption of talks was announced over the weekend after meeting government negotiators in Oslo, Norway last week.

In this meeting, the government was represented by chief negotiator Padilla, panel members Efren Moncupa and Jurgette Honculada, consultant Paulyn Sicam and secretariat head Maria Carla Villarta. Chairman Luis Jalandoni, CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, panel members Fidel Agcaoili and Julieta de Lima, and Rachel Pastores, legal consultant were those that represented the NDF. As for the Norwegian government, the third party facilitator, were Ambassador Ture N.L. Lundh, Sverre Johan Kvale , and Knut Solem. Former senator Wigberto Tañada attended the meeting as an observer.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, however, rejected the demand of the NPA to release a number of its consultants from detention.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP spokesman, said the consultants shall be facing trial for “crimes against the people.” He further added that “those who have pending cases should face the charges against them. If they committed a crime against the people, they should be held answerable.”

Burgos cited a case of Tirso Alcantara, a National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant and also an NPA leader who was arrested on January 2011 by government troops under murder charges.

In other news, the Philippine Army has announced that it seized a temporary NPA encampment in Capiz Monday (June 18) morning. It was seized by the troops led by 1st Lieutenant Roberto Escalona who were in combat operations when they caught the rebels training in manufacturing of landmines in the village of Buri in the town of Tapaz.

Recovered from the scene were a laptop,  printer, generator set, four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used as land mines, wires for IEDs, four rifle grenades, two hand grenades, one 12 gauge shotgun, and one improvised Garand rifle.

The encounter and discovery of the encampment brought the total number of seized campsites to 25 this year 2012 alone, four of which were considered major encampments and the others were classified as satellite encampments.

This month, four NPA camps have fallen into the hands of the military following their discovery in different locations in the Samar and Leyte provinces.

Army records also show that from January, five NPA camps have been seized, while more or less 40 abandoned NPA camps were discovered in Samar and Leyte Islands. “It indicates that the rebels are always on the run to avoid pursuing government troops,” said 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Arvin Lagamon.