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An Overview of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

 

by Rey Claro Casambre,

Executive Director, Philippine Peace Center

for the

Workshop on the Peace Process and Human Rights

Philippine Political Parties Conference

29 June 2005

 

 

I.  History and Accomplishments

 

Thirteen years ago, in September 1992, Cong. Jose Yap, special emissary for Philippine President Fidel Ramos, and Mr. Luis Jalandoni representing the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed the Hague Joint Declaration, which was to serve as the framework agreement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.   Very few believed then that any agreement would ever be signed, or that the peace negotiations would even reach the stage of formal talks where human rights, socio-economic reforms, and socio-economic reforms would be discussed.  After all, the two parties have diametrically opposed strategic objectives, with each party’s professed goal being the political annihilation of the other.

 

Thus, many were surprised when four more agreements were signed by the two negotiating panels in succession in the next three years, including the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in February 1995, and agreements on the sequence, formation and operationalization of reciprocal working committees (RWCs) for each of the four items on the substantive agenda, also in February 1995, and on the ground rules for the holding of formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP in June 1995.

 

When formal talks began in June 1995, very few believed that any agreement could be reached on any item of the substantive agenda.  Again, the two panels achieved what was largely thought to be impossible when they signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on 16 March 1998.

 

It took another six years before the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), in June 2004, would be constituted by both parties in accordance with the CARHRIHL and as a result of the two Oslo Agreements of February and April 2004.  Three hundred sixty-five complaints of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been filed as of  June 6, 2005;  of which 358 are complaints against AFP and PNP forces, and 7 against NPA forces.  Unfortunately, the JMC has not met since July 2004 to evaluate and act on these complaints. The GRP has taken the position that the JMC cannot meet until the formal talks are resumed. It is not clear on what provision of the CARHRIHL or any bilateral agreement the GRP has based this position.

 

From the point of view of the NDFP, the signing and implementation of the CARHRIHL and the various goodwill and confidence building measures that have accompanied the talks throughout are concrete gains from the peace negotiations that immediately benefit the people even as the armed conflict continues.  This explains why the NDFP has been pushing for the full implementation of the CARHRIHL. 

 

From the point of view of the GRP, the mere fact that peace talks are going on – whether these are formal or informal talks – provides at least a semblance of political stability especially in times of crisis. This is why the GRP has constantly returned to the negotiating table whenever political instability arises from some crisis situation, usually setting aside if not resolving whatever reason it had for calling a recess or suspension of the talks.  The clearest and most classic example of this is when then President Estrada frantically attempted to revive the peace negotiations at the height of the impeachment trial and at the eve of his ouster.

 

The signing of the CARHRIHL has proven to all and sundry that it is possible for the GRP and the NDFP to arrive at a formal agreement despite seemingly irreconcilable goals, views and positions.  It builds confidence in the peace talks, paves the way to the negotiations on social and economic reforms, and shows how  impasses can be overcome, if not avoided.

 

Despite these accomplishments there are those who continue to believe that nothing will come out of the peace negotiations.  They argue that at the rate the peace negotiations are going, it is doubtful that more agreements could be signed, or granting they are signed, that these could be implemented.

 

A closer look at the history of the negotiations shows that the two panels did not need all of thirteen years to hammer out the twelve bilateral agreements.  Rather, the negotiations might be more accurately described as a series of long recesses, suspensions and even a 2-year termination, with a few days of talks in between.  To quantify, the Philippine Peace Center made a time study of the peace negotiations, adding up the time spent in actual negotiations and comparing this with the periods when no negotiations were taking place.  Out of the past thirteen years since the signing of the Hague Joint Declaration in September 1992 to the present, a cumulative total of ten years were spent on recesses, suspensions and termination, most of  which  were unilaterally declared by the GRP.  In other words, if the two panels had worked continuously without any delay due to suspensions and terminations, what has been accomplished in thirteen years could have been achieved in only three years, or as early as 1995.

 

It is important, therefore, in order to advance, to pinpoint the reasons for the delays. What are the major issues or points of contention? What have been the obstacles to the smooth conduct of the negotiations?

.

II.  Obstacles and Problems

 

There have been a number of reasons and issues that had caused the delays in the negotiations. All of these apparently stem from divergent and opposite views, interpretations and implementation – or violations --of the bilateral agreements, and especially of the framework Hague Joint Declaration. 

 

The most prominent of these issues is the “mutually acceptable principle” of national sovereignty.  We recall that the issue of national sovereignty had been the cause of the termination of the peace negotiations in 1999.   The GRP had earlier refused to implement the CARHRIHL and indefinitely suspended the formal talks, insisting that it had the “sole sovereignty” or exclusive authority and jurisdiction over any violation of human right and international humanitarian law regardless of which side is accused. The NDFP on the other hand responded that the GRP’s assertion of sole sovereignty denies the reality of two existing and contending political authorities, in effect imposes the GRP Constitution and legal processes on the NDFP,  thus violates the Hague Joint Declaration provision that “there shall be no preconditions that negate the inherent character of peace negotiations.”

 

Further, when the Philippine Senate  ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement in May 1999 at the behest of the Executive branch, the NDFP declared that the GRP had violated the Hague Declaration  provision on the principle of national sovereignty by giving the US extraterritorial rights and surrendering jurisdiction over crimes committed in Philippine territory by US personnel.  The NDFP points out that while the GRP claims to be the sole sovereign power, it constantly surrenders and compromises the Filipino people’s sovereignty by bowing to the demands of foreign powers such as the US. 

 

Currently, the impasse has grown out of  the NDFP’s insistence, on one hand,  that the GRP first comply with bilateral agreements before formal talks resume; and on other hand, the GRP’s insistence that it has complied with the agreements and it is up to the NDFP to prove that the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison are not “terrorists”.

 

The NDFP demands, in particular, that the GRP should comply with the agreements to take effective measures to address the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and NDFP Chief political consultant in the “terrorist” lists of the US, Canada, Australia and the European Union. The NDFP has condemned the  listing as a violation of the mutually agreed framework principle of national sovereignty,  of the JASIG, and the CARHRIHL.  Further, the NDFP has charged the GRP with having collaborated and connived with these foreign powers in such inclusion and using this to pressure the NDFP into capitulation.  

 

It will be recalled that the GRP officially welcomed the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and Prof.  Sison in the US “terrorist” listing, and actively  campaigned for the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and NDFP in the European Union’s terrorist list.  In the hearings conducted by the HOR Committee on Foreign Affairs on the “terrorist” listings on August 11, 2003, then National Security Adviser Golez declared:

 

The Government welcomed the tagging of the CPP/NPA as a foreign terrorists organization (FTO) by the US Department and the freezing of its assets. The Government also welcomed similar actions by Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the European Union.

 

Mr. Sison “is wanted not for political but for criminal acts”. Murder charges have been filed against Mr. Sison for the death of Congressman Aguinaldo and his driver, Joey Garo.

 

… In a meeting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople and Foreign Minister jap de __ Scheffer of the Netherlands on 25 January 2003 in Brussels, Mr. Scheffer assured Mr. Ople of The Hague’s full cooperation in “serving the ends of justice and the rule of law with regard to crimes that have been committed by Mr. Sison”.

 

Clearly, the GRP had campaigned for the inclusion of Prof. Sison on the basis of false information that he was facing criminal charges here in the Philippines.  Then Foreign Secretary Ople repeated this misrepresentation the next day, 12 August 2003 at the same committee hearing.  The previous year, after his tour of several European countries to campaign for the “terrorist” tag on the CPP, NPA and NDF, he proudly announced that the tour was a big success and explained that the “terrorist” tag would  pressure the NDFP into signing a peace agreement with the GRP.

 

Despite these, the GRP claims it has complied with the agreements. The GRP argues  it cannot call on foreign governments to remove the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison from the “terrorist” lists because the GRP respects the sovereign right of these states to draw their own lists as they wish.  However, the NDFP points out that the minimum compliance that they propose is a joint statement by both parties to the effect that the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison in the “terrorist” lists adversely affects the peace negotiations and is an infringement on Philippine sovereignty.

 

Unfortunately, since the postponement of the talks in August 2004, the GRP has taken the opposite track of itself labeling the NDFP as a “terrorist” organization and pressuring it into signing a “final peace agreement” or at least agreeing to an indefinite ceasefire to prove that it is not a “terrorist” organization.  This is in stark contrast and yet perfectly consistent with the GRP and US tack of not tagging the  MILF as “terrorist” for so long as they believe it can still be enticed into signing a “final peace agreement” and coopted with promises of hefty aid for “socio-economic development”.

 

The “terrorist” tag and the GRP’s support for the “war on terror” has led to a “counterterrorist” mania such as displayed by the AFP’s “Knowing the Enemy” document.  Worse it has led to cold-bloodedl killings of  progressive leaders and activists, lawyers, journalists, human rights workers and peace advocates under the guise of  “counterterrorism”. No less than UN ad litem Justice Romeo Capulong has become the target of an assassination attempt. 

 (14)

We should make it clear, however, that the apparent disagreement over “national sovereignty” is not the only reason for the impasses and delays in the talks and for the non-implementation of and non-compliance with bilateral agreements. Many of the provisions in the bilateral agreements, especially those of the CARHRIHL, have not been implemented for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with national sovereignty. To name a few:  the release of  political prisoners held by government, the review and repeal of repressive laws and statutes, and the indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos dictatorship.

 

This last issue of indemnification, in particular, has been described by the NDFP as a “casus belli”, because of the abject failure of the GRP Principal to seriously implement the agreement when it clearly had the authority and the resources to do so.

 

We should make it clear, however, that the apparent disagreement over “national sovereignty” is not the only reason for the impasses and delays in the talks and for the non-implementation of and non-compliance with bilateral agreements. Many of the provisions in the bilateral agreements, especially those of the CARHRIHL, have not been implemented for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with national sovereignty. To name a few:  the release of  political prisoners held by government, the review and repeal of repressive laws and statutes, and the indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos dictatorship.

 

This last issue of indemnification, in particular, has been described by the NDFP as a “casus belli”, because of the abject failure of the GRP Principal to seriously implement the agreement when it clearly had the authority and the resources to do so.

 

III.   Prospects and Resolutions 

 

In order to find ways of breaking impasses and advancing the peace negotiations it is helpful and necessary to dig deep and draw lessons from the past thirteen years. What has kept the peace talks going?  When does it advance and when does it falter? What will it take to accelerate the peace negotiations?

 

A close study of the conduct of peace negotiations since 1992 clearly shows that the talks will only advance if it proceeds in accordance with previous bilateral agreements, and especially with the framework agreement, the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration.  As stated earlier, all the delays were due to disagreements over the interpretation, if not actual violations, of these bilateral agreements.

 

In the current impasse, it is clear that the GRP tack of using the “terrorist” listing to pressure the NDFP into an indefinite ceasefire if not a “final peace agreement” will not work, even if it is accompanied by the unstated threat of an escalation of punitive military and paramilitary operations with the backing of the US under the pretext of  of “counterterrorism”. 

 

The NDFP will reject any proposal for an  “indefinite ceasefire” or “final peace agreement” that seeks to put an end to the armed conflict through the capitulation of the NDFP and without the necessary social, economic and political reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict. 

 

Prof. Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant,  recently reiterated the NDFP’s  position that there is no use going on with the talks until the GRP complies with the bilateral agreements.  For the formal talks to resume, Prof. Sison wrote:

 

The least that the GRP must do in order to help pave the way for the resumption of formal talks in the peace negotiations is to agree with the NDFP in reaffirming  The Hague Joint Declaration, JASIG, CARHRIHL and the Oslo Statement I and Oslo Statement II in  condemnation of,  in opposition to or in relation to the “terrorist” listing by the US and other governments in 2002 and thereafter.

 

The GRP must in fact comply with the existing agreements with the NDFP and must continue to pursue the effective measures required by the Oslo Statement I and Oslo Statement II in order to overcome the implications and consequences of the “terrorist” listing which are adverse to the continuity of the peace negotiations.

 

In the same statement, Prof Sison made public some novel proposals that could accelerate the negotiations once formal talks are resumed. These include (1)  the appointment of special representatives of the two principals who could discuss agenda #3 (political and constitutional reforms) and #4 (end of hostilities and disposition of forces); and (2) cumulative local ceasefires in certain areas to allow the investigation, trial and punishment of human rights violators among the GRP forces,  and unhampered implementation of relief, rehabilitation and development projects by the people in accordance with a previous bilateral agreement.

 

Prof. Sison further proposed the following:

 

 *  The GRP principal must forthwith issue a declaration condemning the threats to and acts against the life, limb and liberty of the NDFP panelists, consultants, staffers and others and ordering the GRP military and police forces to respect the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.  The clear cases of the NDFP chief political consultant and senior legal adviser being threatened with assassination must be cited.

 

* As required by the CARHRIHL, the GRP must forthwith fulfill its obligation to the nearly 10,000 successful class and individual plaintiffs in the US human rights litigation against the Marcos estate.   Congress must do what needs to be done in order to ensure that the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime receive what is due to them.  Depriving them of what is due to them will outrage the people.

 

The Philippine Peace Center, for its part,  proposes the following specific “doables” for the GRP, especially the legislative branch. These measures would immediately and greatly enhance the climate for negotiations, advance the implementation of agreements, and accelerate the pace of the negotiations:

 

1.   To begin with, GRP should agree to hold the JMC meetings as provided for in CARHRIHL even if the formal talks are not ongoing nor forthcoming.

 

2.   Make a statement or pass a resolution affirming that in the absence of any anti-terrorist law, nobody can be legally called  “terrorist”, or accused, stigmatized and persecuted as one.  Further, that the GRP upholds the Hernandez doctrine against the criminalization of alleged political offenses.

 

3.  Review and repeal of all repressive acts, especially those promulgated under the martial law regime.

 

4.  Stop the killings and harassment of progressive leaders and activists, lawyers, journalists, human rights workers and peace advocates; and bring to justice the perpetrators of these dastardly crimes.

 

5.  Pass a law allocating from the Marcos ill-gotten wealth recovered by government approximately USD 150M for the indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos dictatorship, as provided for in the CARHRIHL.

 

6.  Review and repeal the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty as an anachronism and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as unconstitutional.  Review and rescind the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA) as unconstitutional.

 

 

There will be a lot more “doables” that the GRP must study and undertake especially when the negotiations on social and economic reforms are underway.  In the meantime, the immediate problem is how to resume the formal peace talks.

 

The ball is in the GRP’s hands, so to speak.  It should cast away the illusion that it can pressure the NDFP into capitulation, or even into accepting a “prolonged ceasefire” in turn for the removal of the CPP-NPA and Prof. Sison from the “terrorist” lists.  It should seriously consider these proposals, especially the recent proposals from the NDFP listed above, on how the formal talks can be resumed and accelerated.

 

Perhaps President Macapagal-Arroyo can learn an important lesson from her predecessor who realized but too late the value of maintaining the peace negotiations.

 

  

*  *  *


 

 

Annex 1.   GRP-NDFP Bilateral Agreements

September 1, 1992 -    The Hague Joint Declaration

June 14, 1994 -  The Breukelen Joint Statement

February 24, 1995 - Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees

February 26, 1995 - Joint Agreement on the Ground Rules of the Formal Meetings between the GRP and NDFP Panels

June 26, 1995 -  Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs)

June 26, 1996 - Additional Implementing Rules Pertaining to the Documents of Identification

March 18, 1997 - Supplemental Agreement to the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWC Agreement)

March 16, 1998 -  Additional Implementing Rules of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) Pertaining to the Security of Personnel and Consultations in Furtherance of the Peace Negotiations

March 16, 1998 - Joint Agreement in Support of Socioeconomic Projects of Private Development Organizations and Institutes

March 16, 1998 -  Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines

March 9, 2001 –Joint GRP-NDFP Statement on the Resumption of Formal Peace Talks

February 14, 2004 Oslo Joint Statement I

April 2, 2004 Oslo Joint Statement II

 

 

 


 

Annex 2.  PREJUDICIAL QUESTIONS AND PROPOSALS OF THE NDFP

 

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison

Chief Political Consultant

NDFP Negotiating Panel

21 June 2005

Utrecht, Netherlands

 

We wish to clarify the prejudicial questions that have arisen from the actions undertaken by the  Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the US government to intimidate and pressure the National Democratic Front of the Philippines ( NDFP), obstruct and possibly to scuttle the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.  At the same time, we wish to cite the proposals of the NDFP to resolve said prejudicial questions.   We also anticipate that the Filipino people and revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP will raise the level of their resistance against intimidation and repression.

 

Prejudicial Questions

 

The NDFP has raised four prejudicial questions and has repeatedly declared that these must be resolved before the formal talks in the GRP-NDFP negotiations can be resumed.

 

The prejudicial questions pertain to: 1. the “terrorist” listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army and the NDFP chief political consultant by the US and other governments, 2. the attempts of the GRP to use the “terrorist” listing to intimidate the NDFP and pressure it to capitulate through a “final peace agreement” or a “prolonged ceasefire” one-sidedly decided by the GRP,  3. the  attempts of GRP personnel to intimidate and assassinate the NDFP chief political consultant, the senior legal adviser and other consultants of the NDFP and 4. the continuing failure of GRP to indemnify the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime.

 

1.“Terrorist” listing. The GRP connived with the US in November 2001 and August 2002 to designate the CPP/NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant as “foreign terrorists” since August 2002.  Through the late Foreign Secretary Blas Ople, it openly campaigned for the “terrorist” listing of the same by the Council of the European Union.

 

The “terrorist” listing violates the principles of national sovereignty and noncapitulation in The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD), the guarantees for duly-authorized panelists, consultants, staffers and others in The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Hernandez political offense doctrine of simple rebellion and basic democratic rights enshrined in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for

Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

 

2.  Preconditioning and Pressure.  The GRP and the US have repeatedly declared publicly that the delisting of the CPP/NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant would occur only after the capitulation of the NDFP.  Through Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and US ambassador Francis Ricciardone, the two governments have dueted in saying that the CPP/NPA must first cease the armed revolution and have demanded that the revolutionary forces and people stop resisting oppression and exploitation. 

 

The GRP has gone to the extent of stating that the US has the sovereign right to trample on the national sovereignty of the Filipino people and all the agreements done by the GRP and NDFP. It has blatantly used the “terrorist” listing by the US, the European Council and other governments to intimidate the NDFP panelists, consultants and staffers, pressure the NDFP to capitulate and to precondition the resumption of formal talks with the capitulation of the NDFP.

 

3. Acts of Intimidation and assassination.  The NDFP chief political consultant has been subjected to the most brazen acts of human rights violations, including deprivation of the essential needs of human existence and the right to due process despite what amounts to criminal sanctions.  Death threats have been made against him by the GRP national security adviser Norberto Gonzalez and by a Bangkok-based organization of the US special forces.

 

Now, the acts of intimidation and assassination are already extended to other NDFP consultants.  Senior legal adviser Romeo T. Capulong has been the target of two assassination attempts.  Other consultants have noticed increased surveillance on them.  The office of the NDFP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee has not been established in Utrecht because of false “terrorist” presumptions of the European Council, Dutch and other European governments against the entire NDFP.

 

4. Indemnification of the Plaintiffs in Human Rights Case Against Marcos. The continuing failure of the GRP to fulfill its obligation under CARHRIHL to indemnify the nearly 10,000 successful class and individual plaintiffs in the US human rights litigation against the Marcos estate is prejudicial to the continuance of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.  The GRP has been unjust to these victims of human rights violations by preventing them from seeking justice in the Philippines and now by trying to rob them of their indemnification.

 

Resolving the Prejudicial Questions

 

1. The least that the GRP must do in order to help pave the way for the resumption of formal talks in the peace negotiations is to agree with the NDFP in reaffirming  The Hague Joint Declaration, JASIG, CARHRIHL and the Oslo Statement I and Oslo Statement II in  condemnation of,  in opposition to or in relation to the “terrorist” listing by the US and other governments in 2002 and thereafter.

 

The GRP must in fact comply with the existing agreements with the NDFP and must continue to pursue the effective measures required by the Oslo Statement I and Oslo Statement II in order to overcome the implications and consequences of the “terrorist” listing which are adverse to the continuity of the peace negotiations.

 

2. The GRP must cease forthwith to insult the NDFP by demanding the capitulation of the NDFP in any form or manner.  After the resumption of formal talks in accordance with the immediately preceding No.1 above, the GRP and NDFP must proceed to discuss and negotiate  item No.2 on social and economic reforms in the substantive agenda and accelerate the work of the Joint Monitoring Committee that has been created under CARHRIHL..

 

Subsequently,   the GRP and NDFP principals can appoint their respective special representatives to discuss in advance items No. 3 (political and constitutional reforms) and No. 4 (end of hostilities and disposition of forces) and to exchange proposals for accelerating the peace negotiations and defining additional reasons for holding ceasefires, without violating the existing agreements.  In this regard, the third party facilitator and others are invited to provide assistance for research and socio-economic projects.

 

Even before item No. 4 of the substantive agenda is reached, there may a cumulative kind of ceasefire related to the following: 2.1 the investigation, trial and punishment of human rights violators among the GRP military, police and paramilitary officers and

2.2 the undertaking of mutually approved relief, rehabilitation and development projects by people’s organizations in localities in accordance with the Joint Agreement in Support of Socio-Economic Projects of Private Developments and Organizations.

 

3. The GRP principal must forthwith issue a declaration condemning the threats to and acts against the life, limb and liberty of the NDFP panelists, consultants, staffers and others and ordering the GRP military and police forces to respect the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.  The clear cases of the NDFP chief political consultant and senior legal adviser being threatened with assassination must be cited.

 

4. As required by the CARHRIHL, the GRP must forthwith fulfill its obligation to the nearly 10,000 successful class and individual plaintiffs in the US human rights litigation against the Marcos estate.   Congress must do what needs to be done in order to ensure that the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime receive what is due to them.  Depriving them of what is due to them will outrage the people.

 

Futile Threats Against the NDFP

 

The worst elements of the GRP and certain foreign governments have tried to intimidate and pressure the NDFP Negotiating Panel, its consultants and staffers with the implications and consequences of the “terrorist” listing of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant and with the actual escalation of state terrorism in the Philippines and on a global scale under the direction of the US. 

 

However, the NDFP has declared in defiance that the worst that such governments can do to the NDFP panelists, consultants and staffers does not even amount to a pinch on the entire revolutionary movement of the Filipino people.  The persecution and martyrdom of a few vulnerable Filipinos by such governments can only inflame the revolutionary spirit of the Filipino people and drive them to intensify the armed revolution.

 

The Arroyo regime, which is depending too much on militarists and clerico-fascists in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, is itself in a precarious, unstable and isolated position.

It is now confronted by a broad united front of opposition forces that is poised to oust it from power. 

 

In fact, the Arroyo regime is now in the process of falling as a result of the exposure of the tapes proving that Arroyo herself had a direct hand in the commission of fraud in the 2004 elections.  If necessary, the NDFP can wait for the emergence of the next regime of the GRP.  The Arroyo regime is not in any position to frighten the revolutionary forces and people.  By further offending them, it can only push them to intensify the people’s war.

 

The NDFP stands firm that the GRP must comply with the existing agreements and with the  just and reasonable demands of the NDFP, all in accordance with the national and democratic rights and interests of the Filipino people.  The Arroyo regime can only put itself in a worse situation by  running counter to the firm principled position and the just  and reasonable demands of the NDFP. 

 

It is the GRP’s own lookout if it reneges on agreements it has already made with the NDFP.  The crisis conditions of the Philippine ruling system and the US and world capitalist system are favorable for intensifying the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle for national liberation and democracy against the US and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.

 

There is no more reason for the NDFP to negotiate with the GRP if the latter does not comply with agreements already made.  No amount of intimidation and bloody repression can compel the NDFP to capitulate to the GRP.  Every time the GRP and other governments raise the level of intimidation and repression against the NDFP can only signal to the Filipino people and revolutionary forces the need to raise the level of resistance.

 

The crisis-ridden GRP can only go closer to the cliff by trying to intimidate and pressure the NDFP towards capitulation.  The revolutionary people and forces represented by the NDFP are well-tempered and tested by decades of revolutionary struggle, including a long period against the Marcos fascist dictatorship.  The revolutionary movement has grown in strength and advanced precisely through people’s war. ###


 

Annex 3.  Excerpts from  Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific,

Chapter 9.6.1 on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

(Published by the European Center for Conflict Prevention)

 

By Rey Claro Casambre

Philippine Peace Center

February 2004

 

The armed conflict between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)  has been raging throughout the country for more than three decades. Under martial rule from 1972-86, the government pursued a policy of suppression, pacification and cooptation in dealing with this armed challenge. Fourteen years of full-blown dictatorship and unabated counter-insurgency campaigns failed to weaken, much less crush it.  It was only after Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986 that the incoming government initiated peace negotiations with the NDFP.

 

The current  peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDFP began in 1992 under President Fidel Ramos. The talks have produced ten major bilateral agreements, despite  long recesses, suspensions and complete breakdowns between a few days or weeks of actual negotiations[i].  After having been recessed and suspended for two and a half years since June 2001, formal talks  resumed last February 2004 in Oslo, Norway with social and economic reforms now on the agenda.

 

In 1992, president-elect Fidel V. Ramos, called for peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)[ii], the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and military rebels who  staged several failed coups against the Aquino government. The military rebels signed a peace agreement with the government in October 1993, while the MNLF signed a Final Peace Agreement, also with the Ramos government in 1996.

 

The NDFP responded positively to the offer for peace negotiations for the following reasons:

1.         to counter any impression that it was the GRP that genuinely wanted peace while the CPP/NPA/NDF eschewed it,

2.         to propagate its program for a people’s democratic revolution

3.         to achieve immediate gains that benefit the people and the revolutionary movement.

It did so knowing that it risked confusion within its ranks, rendering its forces vulnerable to government offers of amnesty and rehabilitation for those who surrender and return to the mainstream of society.

 

The NDFP line for the attainment of a just and lasting peace is none other than its general line of the peoples democratic revolution, i.e., the struggle to overthrow imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism. It states that it has no illusions this can be achieved through peace negotiations alone, and it still considers armed struggle as the principal form of struggle. Even when compared to democratic mass protest actions, the peace negotiations have secondary importance. The NDFP stresses that its strength on the negotiating table derives from its strength on the battlefield and the democratic movement for national and social emancipation. The peace negotiations have the unique advantage of being an arena where the NDF can assert equality and parity with the GRP. Thus, the NDFP asserts, peace negotiations do not play the primary role but contribute positively to the quest for lasting peace [iii].

 

 

Exploratory talks were held in The Netherlands from 30 August-1 September, 1992, resulting in  The Hague Joint Declaration, which  set the objective, substantive agenda and the framework for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations:

 

  • The objective is to resolve the armed conflict; the common goal is the attainment of a just and lasting peace

  • The negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice

  • No precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the negotiations

  • The substantive agenda consists of (1) human rights and international humanitarian law, (2) socio-economic reforms, (3) political and constitutional reforms, and (4) the end of hostilities and the disposition of forces.

 

The National Unification Commission (NUC) was created by Ramos on 28 July 1992 to formulate a general amnesty program and a comprehensive peace process. The NUC submitted its recommendations in July 1993 after a series of provincial, regional and national consultations. However, in contrast to the openness and wide publicity given to the consultations, these recommendations were not immediately and fully divulged to the public.

Ramos adopted the NUC proposals, and in September 1993 issued an executive order,  “Defining the Approach and Administrative Structure for Government’s Comprehensive Peace Efforts”. The “six paths to peace”, which to this day stands at the core of GRP’s peace program, consist of the following:[iv]:

 

·      The pursuit of social, economic and political reforms which deal with the root causes of insurgency and social unrest

·      Consensus-building and empowerment for peace, which seek to make consultations with people a regular part of  governance

·      Peace talks with the rebel groups aimed at final negotiated settlements

·       Reconciliation, reintegration into society and rehabilitation of rebels, including amnesty and other measures to address the needs of former rebels, demobilized combatants and civilian victims of the armed conflicts

·      The protection of civilians and the de-escalation of conflict, which includes such measures as limited suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO); recognition of peace zones; intensified delivery of basic services to conflict areas, and strict implementation of laws and policy guidelines for the protection of human rights

·      Building a positive climate for peace, which includes confidence-building measures between the government and rebel groups, and peace advocacy and education for Philippine society as a whole

 

Like the NDFP,  the GRP does not consider the peace negotiations to be the primary means of attaining a just and lasting peace.  It asserts that socio-economic and political reforms are being undertaken with or without not peace talks. Nonetheless, peace negotiations have been used to  provide some semblance of political stability whenever the government is confronted by crisis situations, especially those that scare away foreign investors.

 

 

In his first “State of the Nation Address” before  Congress in July 1993, President Ramos made the following assessment:

 

Our peace initiative has succeeded beyond our expectations. It has brought the military rebels and southern secessionists to the conference table, and fragmented the insurgent communist party to the core[v]...[italics added]

 

Ramos was referring to a long-simmering rift within the CPP that  broke out in the open soon after the Party leadership issued a call in mid-1992 to “reaffirm our basic principles and rectify our errors”. A number of leading cadres rejected that call, defied the Party leadership and publicly  criticized the Party center.  The CPP-NPA-NDFP appeared   deeply divided, with the “rejectionists” having the larger following. However, when the dust had settled, the CPP remained intact with the greater majority rallying behind the Party leadership. The “rejectionists” tried to regroup into a single Party, but failed due to political, ideological and personal differences. They now comprise four distinct groups, with only one waging armed struggle.

The Ramos government initially adopted a “wait and see” attitude,  freezing the negotiations with the NDFP after the Hague Joint Declaration was approved. It offered to hold separate talks with the splinter groups, and drew one into peace negotiations, resulting in a cease-fire agreement and a  PhP 500 million rehabilitation package. 

 

Exploratory talks between the GRP and NDFP resumed in 1994, subsequently resulting in  agreements on safety and immunity guarantees, ground rules for formal meetings, formation of reciprocal working committees (RWCs) and other preliminary agreements.

 

Formal peace talks began on 26 June 1995. In March 1998 both parties signed a Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the first of four items on the substantive agenda. However, the implementation of the CARHRIHL was shelved after the GRP objected to a number of provisions implying the NDFP  had the political authority to implement CARHRIHL. In May 1999, the GRP entered into a “Visiting Forces Agreement” (VFA) with the US,  which the NDFP considered a violation of national sovereignty and thus of The Hague Joint Declaration. This, on top of previous disagreements, resulted in the termination of the peace negotiations in mid-1999.

 

At issue, in particular, has been the interpretation of “national sovereignty”. The GRP asserts that it is the sole sovereign power and that the Republic is indivisible. Thus the NDFP cannot share sovereign power and the authority, for example, to investigate, prosecute and impose sanctions on violators of human rights and international humanitarian law.[vi]  Further, all agreements must be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the GRP Constitution and legal processes.

 

The GRP is extremely wary that the NDFP would gain a status of belligerency through the negotiations. The NDFP, on the other hand, asserts its status as a revolutionary organization and a belligerent under international law, exercising sovereign power  in areas it controls, with an army to defend its constituency and territory. It argues that there is no need to gain belligerency status through the talks, having achieved this on the battlefield and through the establishment of its mass base.

 

A deeper examination reveals that the NDFP claim to belligerency and political authority is not  the crux of the debate.  First, the GRP has been slow to implement provisions of the CARHRIHL that do not involve NDFP political authority, such as the review and repeal of repressive GRP laws, release of political prisoners and the indemnification of human rights victims under martial law. Second, the NDFP cites  examples of the GRP  compromising national sovereignty and territorial integrity to the US, such as the VFA provisions surrendering  jurisdiction over US servicemen committing crimes, and the terrorist listing of the CPP/NPA and Prof. Sison by the US and European Council. 

 

The more fundamental difference between the GRP and the NDFP impeding the  peace negotiations is a disagreement on the root causes of the armed conflict, and on the nature of a “just and lasting peace”.

 

The GRP considers the following as the roots of the armed conflict:

 

  • massive and abject poverty

  • iniquitous distribution of wealth and control over the base of resources needed for livelihood

  • injustice

  • poor governance

 

These are all acknowledged by the NDFP. But the GRP is silent on how foreign domination and control has stunted the growth of the Philippine economy and caused suffering and misery.   In contrast, the NDFP highlights this as the fundamental problem.

 

The difference  goes beyond semantics. The NDFP points out that rather than address this problem, successive administrations since the Marcos regime have pursued basically the same economic policies that further open up the economy to foreign exploitation and plunder. Thus, measures being pursued by the GRP, such as Ramos’ Social Reform Agenda, fall short when assessed in terms of how economic independence and progress can be achieved to alleviate the  the people’s suffering.

 

A comparison of the two parties’ proposals for social and economic reforms reveals great disparity on how to address the roots of the armed conflict. The GRP’s proposals all lie within the framework of the Philippine Constitution and laws, notwithstanding the provision in the “six paths to peace” that reforms “may involve constitutional amendments”.  In  initial negotiations for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reform, the GRP resisted any reference whatsover to foreign domination and control of the Philippine economy.

 

From the 1993 NUC list of “reforms which will deal with the root cause of insurgency”, to last year’s  GRP draft “Final Peace Agreement”, for example,  no constitutional amendment is proposed for land reform or national industrialization, only better and more vigorous implementation of existing laws such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

 

NDFP proposals, on the other hand, hew closely to the “Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution”.  Even as adjustments are made considering  the nature of  negotiations, these proposals nonetheless aim to dismantle monopolies – foreign and local -- from which arise the economic and political power of the ruling elite.  The most important of these are in agrarian reform, national industrialization, the protection of economic sovereignty and the national patrimony, and upholding the people’s basic social and economic rights. Many of these proposals, if agreed upon would require major constitutional changes.

 

Without the assistance of a neutral third party, it is unlikely that the peace negotiations would   advance this far. From the outset the NDFP has been open to having a foreign neutral third party in the negotiations. But the GRP argued that the armed conflict was an internal matter that should be resolved without any foreign third party intervention. The GRP, wary that having a foreign third party in the negotiations would give the armed conflict an international character and grant the NDFP belligerency status, initially insisted on holding the talks in the Philippines, then proposed a “shifting venue”. The NDFP objected, pointing to the 1986 experience when CPP/NPA/NDFP personnel who surfaced for the peace talks were subjected to intensive surveillance, identification and punitive actions[vii]. To underscore its point, the NDFP offered to host the peace talks inside  NDFP territory, with the NDFP issuing safe-conduct passes to GRP personnel..

 

Exploratory and formal talks have been hosted by The Netherlands and Belgium since 1992.  The Royal Norwegian Government has acted as third party host since the resumption of formal GRP-NDFP talks in April 2001. It has taken an even more active role as third party facilitator since October 2003. Other, less significant activities by outside parties have included an offer from the Swiss government to host talks (rejected by the GRP)[viii], similar offers from the European Parliament, and European Parliament resolutions supporting the negotiations and expressing concern over human right violations.

 

In contrast,  there is also what  might be called foreign third party “conflict aggravation”. For example, the US, The Netherlands, and the Council of the European Union have jeopardized peace negotiations by listing the CPP/NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison as “foreign terrorists” since August 2002.

 

The GRP has itself undermined confidence-building efforts by campaigning for the “terrorist” listing among member-states of the European Union in October 2002, welcoming such actions, and then using the “terrorist” listing to pressure the NDFP into agreeing to a “new enhanced process” that would lead to the signing of a “Final Peace Accord”. The NDFP has denounced  the listing and the actions of the GRP as violations of national sovereignty and of the bilateral agreements. It also rejected the GRP’s proposed “new process” and draft  “Final Peace Accord” as “negotiated capitulation”.

 

 


 


*  Excerpted from Searching for Peace in Asia-Pacific, Chapter 9.6.1

 

[i] Philippine Peace Center, “Timeline of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations”, Makati, 2002

 

[ii] The Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation) consists mainly of Muslim people in Mindanao, in the Southern Philippines. The MNLF led an armed secessionist movement in 1972 and signed  the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Accord with the GRP. The MILF was formed from a faction of the MNLF led by Hashim Salamat that rejected the Tripoli Agreement. 

 

[iii] Sison, Jose Maria, “History and Circumstances Relevant to the Question of Peace”, in “The People’s Struggle for a Just Peace”, International Network of Philippine Studies, Utrecht, June 1991, p.3.

 

[iv] The “six paths to peace” are reiterated in the Arroyo administration’s Executive Order No. 3, Defining Policy and Administrative Structure for Government’s Peace Efforts, (28 February 2001).

 

[v] Cited by Rome T. Capulong in The Ramos Peace Program - Towards a Genuine and Lasting Peace or a Mere Pacification Campaign? Makati, 1994, p. 3.

 

[vi] Silvestre Bello III, “Overview, Status and Prospects of the Peace Negotiations Between the Government and the NDF”, Handout at the Media Roundtable Discussion on the “Prospects on the Resumption of Peace Talks Under the Arroyo Administration”. Quezon City, 24 April 2003, p.2.

 

[vii] Government intelligence officials reported that their intelligence stock on the CPP/NPA/NDFP increased by 60% after the 1986-87 ceasefire and peace talks.  

 

[viii] “Switzerland offers good offices for peace talks between NDF and Aquino government in Geneva. Aquino government rejects offer”, Neue Zuricher Zeitung, 17 May 1991

 

 

 

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