President Aquino says resumption of peace talks depend on communist rebels

March 25, 2014 9:34 am 

MANILA, March 24 — President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels will only depend on their “willingness” to return to the negotiating table.

In an interview with reporters following an event in Malacanang, President Aquino said that the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), will have an effect on the stalled peace talks with the communist groups.

“Well, they have walked out to the CPP-NPA and they have walked out of the peace talks, if you remember correctly. Does it have an impact? I don’t think so. It really depends on their willingness to go back to the bargaining table,” the President said.

He said he was not surprised with the arrest of the Tiamzons affirming that they were the ones he was referring to in a prior interview about a high-profile fugitive who will be arrested soon.

“It wasn’t a surprise because I did mention it,” the President told reporters.

CPP founding chairman Jose Maria "Joma" Sison earlier said that the arrest of the Tiamzons will impede the peace negotiations. The insurgent’s peace panel likewise condemned the arrest of the couple saying that they were both covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG), while government officials said otherwise.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier defended the legality of the arrest of the Tiamzons in Carcar, Cebu last Friday saying that they were not covered by any immunity. She stressed that guarantees under the Jasig is not operational since the peace process between the government and the communist rebels have been stalled.

President Aquino, meanwhile, believes that the arrest of the couple has delivered a “serious blow” to the CPP-NPA. “It shows you also the competency of our security forces,” he said.

On Sison’s threat of more attacks following Tiamzon’s arrest, the President said “The attacks have not ceased.

So, what are they saying? For them, it’s business as usual I guess.”

He also cited media reports that the Tiamzons were in possession of hand grenades and pistols, which he said "normally does not occupy the belongings of a peace negotiator."

President Aquino said the government should deal with “root causes” of insurgency problem to be able to stamp it out.

“That’s why we are focused on empowering our people, especially in trying to move them out of poverty in the various interventions that we have been doing from education, to health, to livelihood, to housing, to disaster preparedness and so on and so forth,” he said. (PNA)

CTB/PCOO/UTB

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