Davao City mayor to meet with local rebel commanders

FOR LOCALIZED PEACE TALKS

By ROGER M. BALANZA

Mayor Sara Duterte sitting down to negotiate peace with communist leaders Ka Parago, Ka Oris and other top guns of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the New People’s Army?

This scenario is possible as Duterte said she may take an active role in bridging talks with local rebel leaders if it could help end the 40 year old communist insurgency.

This developed as days are being counted before the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDF sit down to start new negotiations for lasting peace, with preliminary talks to be held in Malaysia and Oslo next month.

Duterte said she broached last week the idea about a face-to-face encounter with the communist leaders in a localized peace talks to Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, when the Army official paid the mayor a visit at City Hall.

Tabaquero, said Duterte, expressed support to her plan to meet with rebel leaders.

If this would materialize, the localized peace talks could possibly include Ka Parago, true name Leoncio Pitao, the head of the NPA First Pulang Bagani Command operating in the boundaries of Davao City, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon, and Ka Oris, true name Jorge Madlos, the spokesman of the NDF in Southern Mindanao, who are the famous faces of the communist movement in Southern Mindanao.

Duterte said she was elated that the military supports initiatives by local officials to backstop top level negotiations between GRP and NDF.

It is enlightening to know that the military is open to local government officials talking directly with the rebels, she said.

Duterte however said she is still clueless about the mechanics of localized peace talks or its value to the top-level peace negotiations between GRP and NDF.

The NDF earlier had frowned on local rebel leaders being lured into localized peace talks, describing it as a government ploy to split the revolutionary movement.

Duterte’s idea of meeting with the rebel leaders comes a week after her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, assailed the regional command of the Philippine National Police (PNP) of derailing President Benigno Aquino’s peace initiatives with the communists.

The elder Duterte scored PNP regional commander Pedro Tango for the New Year’s Day arrest of Edwin Brigano, 53, a member of the NPA, by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Special Action Battalion while the Yuletide truce—from December 16 to January 3–between the military and the NPA was still in force.

The vice mayor said the arrest of Brigano while the Yuletide ceasefire was in effect could have destroyed confidence building initiatives by local government officials that President Aquino had encouraged.

The arrest was a slap on the face of the president, he said on television where he also threatened to stop local government aid to the local police. He said he would ask President Aquino to kick out Tango from the regional command, saying his poor judgment indicated that the police officer “had no use for the gray matter between his ears.”

“If you create a bigger problem, if you are incompetent and do not know what you are doing for the country, then you must go,” said Duterte in a message to Tango, adding the police action spoiled what could have been a perfect brew that could help local efforts leading to peace.

The Dutertes earlier before Christmas had invited Parago and other local rebels to come down from their hinterland territories to the city proper to celebrate with the Dabawenyos the City Hall-initiated Pasko Fiesta, with assurance of their safety.

Duterte said her offer to sit down with the rebels is unilateral that has yet to get a response, and would not say if she would lead the government panel in the localized peace talk.

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