SolGen to seek arrest of NDF consultants following cancellation of backchannel talks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20) — The government's chief counsel said on Thursday his office will ask courts to order an arrest of temporarily released National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants after government canceled backchannel talks have been canceled.

"OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) will ask the courts to cancel all bail bonds of NDF (National Democratic Front) consultants, order their arrests, and recommit them to their detention facilities," Solicitor General Jose Calida said on his Twitter page.

READ: Dureza: Backchannel talks canceled due to NPA attacks

The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The Duterte administration ordered the temporary release of 20 political prisoners in August 2016 to join the first round of peace talks as NDF consultants in Oslo, Norway.

NDF legal counsel Edre Olalia responded to Calida, saying the move does not help the peace process.

"Another unfortunate knee-jerk hardball reaction that does not solve but aggravates the situation," Olalia said.

Meanwhile, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the move would violate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) between the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Philippine government (GRP).

"OSG will be blatantly violating JASIG as among the agreements reaffirmed by GRP, if it pushes through with rearrest of NDF consultants. It is among the ways by which the peace process is continuously undermined by the GRP," Palabay said.

The JASIG, which is an immunity guarantee for communist negotiators, was signed in 1995. It safeguards its participants from surveillance, arrest, detention, prosecution, or any other similar punitive actions.

The Duterte administration ordered the termination of JASIG on Feb. 7 amid truce violations and bad faith on both sides. In March, the two parties recommitted to resume the talks, while the JASIG was reinstituted on June 19.

Cancellation of backchannel talks

On Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza announced on his Facebook page the cancellation of backchannel talks with the NDF.

He cited the recent attacks of the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), on government troops as the reason behind the cancellation.

READ: One dead, police agent abducted, 5 wounded as presidential security group clashes with New People's Army

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) on Wednesday had an encounter with members of the NPA in North Cotabato, resulting in one civilian volunteer dead, a member of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection group abducted, and five PSG members wounded.

Duterte: No more peace talks if hostilities continue

After the Cotabato attack, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government panel to hold off formal peace talks with communists unless the NPA stops attacking government troops.

His decision comes after the CPP said on July 19 that it would oppose Duterte's plan to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2017, a move the group claims to be directed against it.

Dureza said the resumption of talks would depend on the rebel group's commitment to follow guidelines for a possible ceasefire deal with government, including suspending operations against the military and the police and stopping all extortion activities.

READ: Duterte: No peace talks with communist rebels if hostilities continue

He said the NDF needs to order the NPA to halt all offensive operations against government troops "in order to pursue their shared goal of sustaining economic development throughout Mindanao."

Duterte lifted on Feb. 3 the government's unilateral ceasefire against the NPA, saying the group's demand were too much.

This came after the group said on Feb. 1 it would continue fighting the government beginning Feb. 10.

Duterte said after releasing the communist leaders and engaging them in peace talks in Oslo, Norway, the communists are now asking the government to free all 400 political prisoners from the communist side — something the government cannot easily meet.

"I thought all the while we have the ceasefire, suddenly they lifted it because they wanted ang Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would want me to release 400 prisoners," Duterte said.

CNN Philippines' Lara Tan and VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.