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Army chief, guv invite rebel leader to talk peace

PHILIPPINE Army chief Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista and Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. invited anew Ka Frank Fernandez, head of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), to come out and sit down with a negotiating panel for a peace talk.

"I respect Ka Frank, a former priest. If given a chance, I am willing to sit down with him for possible peace talks. We are inviting him to sit down and discuss with him problems and possibly come up with a solution," Bautista said.

Bautista made the statement after he paid a courtesy call on Marañon at the governor's office Wednesday with Colonel Oscar Lactao, commanding officer of the 303rd Brigade and Major General Jose Mabanta, Commanding General of the 3rd ID. 

Baustita said that Ka Frank has been issuing statements to the media.

"I believe that he is still alive. I hope I would be given a chance to see him in person and talk peace with him," he said.

Marañon, on the other hand, emphasized that he has been extending his invitation to Ka Frank and the NPA for local peace talks.

"That has been my long standing invitation. I am very much willing to sit down with him and, if he is sick, I will bring him to be the first patient of the newly-built extension of the Teresita Jalandoni Provincial Hospital," Marañon said.

Marañon started extending his invitation to Ka Frank and the NPA for localized peace talks since his inaugural speech after he won the governorship in 2010. He has been reiterating this in his speeches during relevant occasions in the province.

Marañon, in fact, said that under his administration, the Provincial Government has been giving support to the rebel returnees by giving them livelihood projects, sources of income, jobs and scholarships for their dependent children.

There are already about 40 rebel returnees in the province under the Marañon administration and under the leadership of Lactao in the 303rd Brigade.

Bautista also bared that in as much as the government would like to pursue peace talks with the NPA, there are still obstacles hounding the peace process which he did not elaborate on.

"I hope that we can iron out problems because it is only through peace talks that we would be able to resolve the long armed conflict," he said. 

He also said more Filipinos have already realized that the long struggle should be put to an end through peaceful solutions.

"I believe that we are gaining the peace in the sense that more people realized that this has been a long struggle. That violence is not the answer. Let's give peace a chance," Bautista said. 

However, he said is it unfortunate that the rebels reply to the government's invitation by sowing violence, citing the recent encounters that claimed a number of lives of the soldiers and the rebels.

Bautista also described the peace and order in the province as gaining improvement and that, he said, he also expects more improvement in the coming days.

Marañon also described the army's performance in the province under Lactao as satisfactory.

Two top NPA leaders were already apprehended under Lactao's term, namely Romeo Nanta and Hernando Llorente.

However, the two were released from jail after they posted bail, which according to Bautista is part of the rule of law.

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Teresa Ellera | SunStar.Com.Ph | May 3, 2012 | Article Link

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