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New NDF peace panel head tapped

OSLO, Norway – The National Democratic Front announced Wednesday that it has accepted the resignation of Luis Jalandoni as chairman of its peace panel, replacing him with vice chairman Fidel Agcaoili just hours ahead of the start of the second round of peace negotiations here.

“The national leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has granted the long-standing request of comrade Luis G. Jalandoni to resign as the chairperson of the NDFP negotiating panel,” the NDFP said in a statement.

The rebel group also said it was bringing in former Communist Party of the Philippines chairman Benito Tiamzon as member of the panel.

The re-organization was announced in a hastily called press conference at the Holmen Fjordhotel that was attended by Jalandoni, Agcaoili, Tiamzon, and chief political consultant CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

The other members of the NDF peace panel are NDF special office for the protection of children chairperson Connie K. Ledesma, NDF representative for Nordic countries Asterio Palima, and Juliet de Lima-Sison.

According to the NDF, at 81-years-old, Jalandoni had been asking to be allowed to resign. He will be staying on as senior adviser of the panel.

“I have been asking to resign since 11 years ago. I am 81 now. It’s time for younger ones to take over the function of chairmanship,” Jalandoni said.

Agcaoili said he will find the panel chairmanship “a challenging job.”

“I find it difficult to take over the role (of chairman), but I will do my best,” he said.

The changes in the composition of the NDF peace panel came just hours before the start of the second round of talks here, which will focus on the declaration of joint ceasefire and the release of the remaining political prisoners by the Duterte administration, among others. (Rocky Nazareno)