Tiamzons lead communists' backchannel talks with gov't

MANILA, Philippines – National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma left for Europe on Wednesday night, March 8, for backchannel talks to resume the peace process.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday, March 9, revealed they will be joined by chief presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza there. (READ: Duterte: Gov't in backchannel talks with communists)

Another NDF consultant, Vicente Ladlad, was allowed to join the backchannel talks. It is not clear as of this posting who else are participating and where it will be held.

"Initially, the President said he will not talk to these people unless there is [a] compelling reason. I think because of the clamor of the Filipino people, including Congress where 100 congressmen signed a petition, yesterday, Secretary Dureza left for Europe again. And last night, we allowed the departure of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Mr Ladlad to do some backchanneling," Lorenzana said in a forum on Thursday. 

Benito Tiamzon was the alleged leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), tagged by the military as the organization's "center of gravity," before he and his wife were arrested in March 2014. 

He is the newest member of the NDF panel that has been unchanged for years.

President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the negotiations after the communist armed wing New People's Army (NPA) withdrew from a 5-month-long ceasefire with the military. 

Lorenzana said Duterte was swayed to mull the revival of the talks because of public demand, particularly citing a resolution passed by the House of Representatives. But Duterte has conditions that he hopes will be settled during the backchannel talks.

"There are the conditions or things that the President would like to happen before we go to this peace process again. Number one is there should be a bilateral ceasefire. Number two, they should stop extorting from businesses. Number three, they should release prisoners or hostages especially the military personnel," the defense chief said.

It's important to do backchannel talks first, he added, so there would be concrete proposals before the formal talks resume. (READ: Duterte to NPA on resuming peace talks: Let go of hate)

Lorenzana said the military wants the talks to succeed. "We are keeping our hopes high that this will progress so that we can attend to some more important things for our country," he said. – Rappler.com