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Activists call for urgent talks with communists

Ongoing rights violations make negotiations imperative

D'Jay Lazaro, Manila

December 13, 2012

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Peace advocates today called on the government and communist rebels to return to the negotiating table to end what they described as the "worsening plight of our countrymen."

Pilgrims for Peace said “escalating human rights violations” and a “continuing climate of impunity” has compelled them to voice their "concerns and calls" louder.

“After more than 20 months, the two sides have not met even once for formal talks,” said Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, co-chairperson of the group.

Formal peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front resumed in February 2011 following a hiatus of more than six years.

“Our hopes ran high that our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace was once again on track,” said Sister Arnold Maria Noel of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit.

The talks, mediated by Norway, failed because of disagreement over the implementation of earlier agreements, such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, signed in 1998.

“Compliance with agreements is the key for formal peace talks to resume and to continue in earnest,” Sister Noel said.

The two sides have agreed that the stalled talks can resume as soon as one of at least three jailed rebel “consultants” is released.

Bishop Iniguez said such a release would certainly have a strong "positive impact as a goodwill and confidence-building measure."

In a statement, Pilgrims for Peace said it is “deeply concerned” that if talks do not resume ordinary people will “continue to grovel in poverty” even while a privileged few enjoy the benefits of what the government says is “high economic growth” this year.

“Our hope and belief is that the peace negotiations would bring about social and economic reforms that would in turn greatly reduce if not eradicate the violations of civil, social, economic and cultural rights,” the group said.

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