Prospects for Genuine Peace
Rey Claro Casambre
Philippine Peace Center
2nd Anniversary EDSA 2
January 17, 2002
Shalom Center, Manila
At the height of our campaign to oust the immoral, corrupt, and
warmongering Erap, we presented to then Vice President GMA the
“People’s Agenda” which is basically identical to what we are
challenging her with now. We recall that even then, GMA had hedged and
hawed on the issues of national and economic sovereignty. And it was
only on the issue of the peace that she categorically, emphatically
and unequivocally committed herself to “reverse the Estrada policy of
all-out-war” and embark on the road to all-out-peace. Specifically,
she would resume the peace negotiations with the NDF and the MILF
which had both been terminated during Estrada’s time.
Indeed, when GMA assumed the presidency, we were dismayed, but not
surprised, that she would retain, continue to pursue and even
reinforce the same anti-national and anti-people and anti-national
economic policies and foreign policies of previous administrations. On
the other hand, she did keep her promise of resuming talks with the
NDF and MILF.
But not for long. Formal talks with the NDF were unilaterally recessed
by the government in June 2001 and have never been resumed since then.
From June 2001 up to the present, instead of undertaking confidence
and building measures to pave the way for the resumption of formal
talks, the GMA government put up one obstacle after another and made
the resumption virtually impossible.
First, it expanded Cabinet Cluster E (which oversees the peace
negotiations with armed the NDF, MILF and MNLF) into a Cabinet
Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) with the addition of
top defense, military, police and intelligence officials, thereby
allowing the hawks and militarists to dominate and control government
policy and decisions on the peace process.
Second, it emasculated the GRP Negotiating panel’s mandate to
negotiate by requiring it to clear everything and anything with the
COC-IS before it signs anything – be it an agreement, a joint
communique, implementing guidelines, or even a one-page press
statement, by suspending formal negotiations (in March 2002) and
ordering backchannel talks in its stead, and adding a new layer of
authority -- special emissaries for backchannel talks with the power
to negotiate and sign agreements with both the NDF and MILF.
Third, in several backchannel talks, the GRP proposed ,a “final peace
agreement” that departed from the previous framework set by The Hague
Joint Declaration of 1992 by providing for the end of hostilities and
disarming and demobilization of the NPA even without comprehensive
agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms
that would address the roots of the armed conflict, and providing that
the Agreement be implemented in accordance with the GRP Constitution
and its legal processes . Thus, instead of paving the way to the
resumption of formal talks, the GRP succeeded, through backchannel
talks, in making the resumption of formal talks virtually impossible.
Fourth , the GMA government, at the instance of the hawks and
militarists, collaborated with the warmongering US Bush government in
using the so-called “war against terror” as a pretext to promote the
line of employing superior military force to crush armed opposition
groups and end the armed conflict. The US and GMA governments
attempted to blackmail both the NDF and MILF into laying down their
arms and rejoining the mainstream of society under the government’s
terms or run the risk of being tagged terrorist and facing the full
force of the gobal “counterterrorist war”. Indeed, the CPP-NPA and
Prof Jose Ma Sison were eventually branded “foreign terrorists” by the
US, Canada, Australia, and the European Union including The
Netherlands and Belgium.
The terrorist tag now presents the single biggest obstacle to the
resumption of the formal talks. The NDF points to the GRP’s campaign
to have the CPP-NPA and JMS named “terrorist” as a gross violation of
the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG, and
declared that it cannot negotiate with the GRP while the NDFP
negotiators and personnel are under duress.
(Note: if there is time, cite similarities or parallels in GRP-MILF
“Healing the divisiveness in our society” -- this is the second item
in GMA’s avowed priorities after she had announced her withdrawal from
the 2004 presidential derby.
What “divisiveness” was she referring to? Is it the divisiveness
between her political party and that of the opposition? Or could she
be referring to the deepest divides in our society -- between the
haves and the have-nots, the oppressors and the oppressed, the
exploiters and the exploiters?
So far we have not seen signs of her addressing these deepest divides,
only attempts at conciliation and rapproachment with the opposition.
But if, as she claims, she is withdrawing from the 2004 race precisely
to be freed from the distractions of politics, then one would think
that her avowed new priorities and goals includes resolving the armed
conflicts that have been raging in our country for the last 30 plus
years – the armed conflict between the government and the NDF, and the
armed conflict between the government and the Moro separatist
As many have already pointed out, there can be no true reform without
an objective and sincere appraisal and admission of shortcomings and
faults. Without correct diagnosis, there can be no correct
prescription and cure. Or, as Christians would say, without an act of
contrition, there can be no penance, reform, nor forgiveness.
With respect to the armed conflicts, there can be no genuine peace --
no healing of divisiveness -- without the parties agreeing on what are
the causes of the armed conflict and how these can be uprooted and
removed. That is why the agenda of the formal peace talks (between the
government and the NDF and the MILF) properly conisist of negotiations
on basic social, economic and political reforms
We now hear about the GRP accelerating the draft of its “final peace
agreement” with the NDFP, and a so-called “package” for the MILF, in
preparation for the resumption of formal talks with both parties. This
morning, in Today, Secretary Reyes is reported to have announced the
“National Internal Security Plan”, which has a “holistic approach” and
aims to minimize if not end the threat of insurgency in five years’
time. Is there anything new here? Is this any different from the
holistic, total war approach of Marcos, Aquino, Ramos and Estrada?
Will the GMA government reverse herself and remove all the
abovementioned obstacles to the resumption of formal peace
negotiations with the NDF and MILF?
Learn from the Mindanao experience. There have been two “final peace
agreements” in the past 20 years: the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and
the GRP-MNLF Peace Accord of 1996. The Tripoli Agreement led to the
formation of the ARMM as well as the formation of the MILF and
eventually the continuation, intensification and expansion of armed
conflict in Mindanao, including with the MNLF which subsequently
rejected the ARMM. The 1996 Accord led to the formation of the SPCPD
and the installation of MNLF Chair Nur Misuari as the governor of ARMM.
As we very well can see, the two peace agreements did not resolve the
armed conflict and Mindanao and Nur Misuari himself is behind bars for
To conclude, what is needed is a Genuine Peace Agreement, not a “Final
Peace Agreement” that, by its design, intent and content, is anything
but final. Genuine because it will lead to genuine peace, genuine
because it is genuinely agreed upon by two forces with mutual respect
and with the common goal of seeking peace by upholding national
freedom, genuine democracy and social justice.
The road to freedom, democracy and social justice is long, winding and
tortuous. There are no shortcuts in the genuine quest for genuine