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'Agreement with the devil'?: Brawner optimistic restart of peace talks with communist rebels will lead to lasting peace

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner believes the recent agreement between the government and communist rebels to resume peace talks will finally lead to peace.

“Right now we believe na yung ginawang joint statement (made) is really moving towards lasting peace,” Brawner told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Tuesday.

This was his response when asked about Vice President Sara Duterte opposing the Marcos administration’s decision to grant amnesty to current and former members of rebel groups, as well as resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Duterte described the joint communique between the government and the said group an “agreement with the devil.”

Brawner said he cannot blame the vice president for opposing the move, saying this is also the sentiment of others including some soldiers given what transpired during previous talks.

Still, he maintained that the joint communique of the government and the NDFP will possibly lead to peace since it has no preconditions like ceasefire and release of political prisoners. He also highlighted both parties' mention in the statement of their committment to end armed conflict.

“The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socio-economic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation with the aim of achieving the relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace," said the communique signed on Nov. 23 in the Norwegian capital Oslo.

«The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict,» it added.

Brawner noted the government will only know that the rebels are sincere once the NDFP signs the final peace agreement.

Following the release of the joint statement, a framework agreement should follow, ending with the signing of the final peace agreement, he said.

For now, Brawner said the AFP will continue its operations to neutralize rebels.