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PRIMER ON THE GPH-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
 

Prepared by the Philippine Peace Center for KAPAYAPAAN: Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace
 


1. What is the current status of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)?

The peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are in an impasse or in a state of suspension. The two negotiating panels have not sat together for formal talks since February 2011. The formal talks to resume discussions on Social and Economic Reforms scheduled for June 2011 did not materialize and has not materialized to date. Subsequent efforts to break the impasse through informal talks between the two Parties and to discuss an NDFP proposal for truce and alliance (also referred to as the “special track”) began in late 2011 but likewise collapsed in February 2013.

2. What has caused the non-resumption of the formal talks since June 2011?

The immediate obstacle to the resumption of the formal talks is the continuing detention by the GPH of persons who the NDFP had identified to be duly accredited NDFP panel consultants protected by the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and whose immediate release had thus been demanded by the NDFP. The NDFP postponed the resumption of formal talks to give time to the GPH to comply with the February 2011 agreement that the GPH would release “most if not all” of the named detainees in accordance with the JASIG, or “for humanitarian and other practical reasons” before formal talks resume.

The GPH on the other hand considers this as a precondition being imposed by the NDFP, and has not to date released the minimum number of detainees agreed upon in the February 2011 talks. The GPH argues that the JASIG is no longer operative for those with assumed names in their JASIG safe conduct passes since their real identities could no longer be verified after the data diskettes with the needed information could no longer be read. Thus the GPH insists that JASIG protection can apply only to those using real names or are publicly known participants in the peace talks. Nonetheless, the GPH refuses to release NDFP consultant Wilma Tiamzon despite the fact that her safe conduct pass carries her real name. Furthermore, the GPH continues to refuse the NDFP proposal to reconstruct the list of JASIG-protected persons which is provided for in the agreement.

3. What has caused the collapse of the negotiations on the NDFP proposal for an alliance and truce (special track)?

The GPH and the NDFP have different versions on the circumstances and reasons for the collapse of the negotiations on the special track:

According to the GPH, the NDFP had “killed” its own proposal of alliance and truce by taking back their proposed draft Common Declaration for National Unity and Just Peace which they presented in the December 2012 informal talks, and then submitting two new drafts in the February 2013 talks which contained unreasonable demands such as the abolition of the PAMANA and CCT programs. In effect, the GPH claims, the NDFP had reverted to the regular track.

On the other hand, the NDFP panel reported to the NDFP National Council that they found unacceptable the GPH draft Common Declaration for National Unity and Just Peace presented in the December 2012 informal talks, since this was interested only in indefinite, unilateral and multiple ceasefires and was vague on the other essential items in the proposal (e.g. Council of Unity, Peace and Development, land reform, national industrialization, etc). Thereafter, the GPH special representatives refused to discuss the NDFP’s counter-draft Common Declaration for National Unity and Just Peace, saying they had no mandate to discuss or sign anything.

In the February 2013 informal talks that followed, the GPH again refused to discuss the NDFP proposed draft Declaration of Common Intent to be signed in what the GPH proposed would be a meeting between GPH President Aquino and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison in Hanoi, similar to the June 2012 Aquino-Murad meeting in Japan. The NDFP explained further that from the start, the NDFP had explicitly stated that the proposal for alliance and truce or what has been called the “special track” was never intended to replace the regular track or the formal talks on the substantive agenda, but was meant to run parallel and complementary to the regular track.

4. What has eventually emerged as the deeper and more fundamental cause of the impasse in both formal and informal talks?

Official pronouncements by the OPAPP and GPH Panel after February 2013 have made clear the intention of the Aquino administration to set aside The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, the framework and foundation agreement of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations (see Annex). Earlier, in the February 2011 formal talks, the GPH formally submitted its “qualifications” to the Hague Joint Declaration, calling it a “document of perpetual division”. In April and May 2013, GPH panel chair Atty. Padilla and OPAPP Secretary Deles announced that the GPH no longer wanted to return to the regular track (i.e., the formal talks on the substantive agenda) and would in due time present a new approach and framework to the peace negotiations.

5. What is the “new approach” or “new framework” to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations?

Initially, Malacanang, OPAPP, GPH Panel and AFP spokespersons mentioned as components of the new approach and framework “localized peace talks”, “addressing the roots of the armed conflict on the ground”, “involving the stakeholders”, “reducing the levels of violence”, “pursuing Oplan Bayanihan”, “mass surrender”, “returning to the folds of the law” and “returning to mainstream society”.

However, a year after they said they would present a new approach, the GPH has not produced a coherent and well-defined alternative to The Hague Joint Declaration as foundation and framework for the talks. At the same time, GPH spokespersons described land reform and national industrialization as “passé” and “ideologically charged” concepts which the GPH did not want to include in the agenda anymore. More ominously and explicitly, Sec. Padilla declared in a forum of peace advocates last May 3, 2014: “We no longer want to talks about the social causes of the armed conflict… we would rather talk about reducing the levels of violence…”

Thus, the GPH has reverted more overtly to its old framework of indefinite ceasefire as a precondition to the talks, and aiming for a negotiated settlement involving the end of hostilities and the disarming and demobilization of the New People’s Army minus the fundamental reforms stipulated in the Hague Joint Declaration.

6. Is there any hope that the formal and/or informal talks can still resume in the near future?

Yes, there is hope that both Parties would agree to go back to the negotiating table for informal talks which can pave the way to their agreeing to resume formal talks on the substantive agenda. This is because neither side has formally terminated the negotiations, despite the apparent difficulty in resolving the issues that prevent them from resuming formal talks. To terminate the negotiations, either side would have had to issue a formal notice of termination to the other Party. The negotiations would then be considered terminated 30 days after the receipt of the notice of termination by the other Party. Moreover, the Aquino administration is experiencing increasing pressure to return to the negotiating table due to the intensifying political and economic turmoil generated by successive controversies.

7. Are not the 22 long years enough proof that the talks are going nowhere and that the framework is basically flawed?

In the first place, it is not true that nothing has been achieved over the past 22 years of negotiations between the GPH and NDFP. The Hague Joint Declaration, the JASIG and the CARHRIHL are landmark agreements that were forged within six years. All in all, the GPH and NDFP signed 12 major agreements in 12 years, proving that with political will and determination, the two sides are capable of crafting agreements in accordance with the current framework defined by The Hague Joint Declaration that will benefit the people and move closer to the goal of a just and lasting peace. Moreover, of the 22 years, the actual time spent on actual negotiations – the formal and informal talks and the time spent on preparations in between meetings would add up to not more than six years, with the remaining 18 years lost on impasses, suspensions and terminations.

So long as the negotiations are not terminated by either party, the people stand to gain from the formal and informal talks that are conducted in earnest. The people themselves can undertake measures and actions within the framework of the negotiations to maximize their contributions and encourage both sides to accelerate the negotiations.

8. Why is it important for the Filipino people to push for the resumption of the peace talks?

Our people have a huge stake in the peace negotiations – nothing less than a brighter future for generations to come. The peace negotiations, as agreed upon by both Parties in the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration, aims to put an end to the armed conflict and attain a just and lasting peace through a negotiated settlement. The Hague Joint Declaration also sets the substantive agenda of the formal talks, through which the negotiations shall address the roots of the armed conflict --the political, social and economic problems that perpetuate the daily violence of exploitation, poverty, misery and oppression, and engenders protest and armed resistance.

The peace negotiations is one arena where the demands, proposals and aspirations of the Filipino people could and should be discussed. It is thus important that the people’s voices are heard loud and clear. We want the parties to return to the negotiating table immediately without preconditions. We want them to iron out their differences and proceed to addressing the root causes of the armed conflict. We want to follow the negotiations and contribute to it, being more than mere spectators awaiting the outcome. We want the peace negotiations to succeed.

The past 22 years of the peace negotiations have shown that intervention from the people, directly from peace advocates and indirectly from various other advocacies – have played a significant role in pushing the peace talks forward, especially when these are stalled or in an impasse. The current situation compels us to push once again and with greater effort for the resumption of the peace talks.

9. Why is it important for the people to call on the GPH and NDFP to honor their bilateral agreements?

First, because honoring agreements is a universal imperative to the health and success of any negotiation and relationship built on and held together by trust and confidence, be it a peace accord, a business contract, a treaty between two sovereigns, a management-union CBA, a matrimonial vow, a pact among friends.

Second, because in the particular case of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, the Filipino people stand to benefit from the agreements reached so far, most notably The Hague Joint Declaration and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law. Honoring and implementing these agreements, e.g. significantly reducing human rights violations, will redound to the immediate benefit of our countrymen even as negotiations have not been completed and the armed conflict goes on.

Consequently, the people’s confidence in the peace negotiations will be enhanced. The negotiations will then enjoy the people’s support, which is essential to its success, as they see the agreements being complied with and implemented by the two Parties.

Finally, with the current impasse in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, the only way to restore and rebuild mutual trust and confidence needed to resume the talks, sustain and push it towards a negotiated settlement is by both Parties honoring and dutifully complying with all prior agreements and those they will sign in the future. Conversely, constant violations or persistent non-compliance with agreements will erode trust and confidence, poison the atmosphere, stall and then collapse the talks.

10. Why is it important for the people to call on the GPH and NDFP to address the roots of the armed conflict?

The Filipino people aspire for and deserve a free, prosperous and peaceful society. Issues confronting the Filipino people, current and historical, are the subject of the negotiations: increasing poverty, joblessness, landlessness, homelessness, lack of basic social services and security for the majority, environmental degradation, economic dependence and backwardness, impunity in human rights violations, most especially extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and killings of journalists, systemic corruption, injustice against the poor majority, transgressions against national sovereignty and patrimony, among others.

Tackling the substantive agenda in the peace talks will at once bring the needed national attention to these issues, elevate them to their proper place in the national discourse, and provide the crucible for forging a consensus on just and lasting solutions. Most importantly, a peace agreement that does not address and eliminate the roots of the armed conflict could be even worse than not having a peace agreement at all, for it could gull everyone to complacency and a false sense of peace and security while actually perpetuating and aggravating the social ills that cause the armed conflict. ###

 

 

 

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