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Philippine Peace Center

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Hon. Sen. Ma. Ana Consuela Madrigal

Chairperson

Committee on Peace and Reconciliation

Philippine Senate

 

 

Madame Chairperson,

 

Thank you for inviting the Philippine Peace Center to the Committee on Peace and Reconciliation hearing to determine the status, look into the problems, and present recommendations with regard to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

 

The Philippine Peace Center (PPC) was established in 1992, on the eve of the signing of the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration, and has since provided technical and consultancy services to the peace negotiations.  Having served as its executive director from 1992 to 1994, senior researcher from 1995 to 2000, and again executive director from 2000 to the present,  I would like to give my modest contribution to this hearing from the vantage point of someone who has observed the negotiations from close range and has in some ways directly participated in various activities that have supported the negotiations.  Among these activities are research, information and education, including writing and publishing analytical studies on the peace process.

 

Hereunder are some of the salient observations and findings of the PPC which might be  relevant and useful to the Committee and to the purpose of this hearing in particular, with particular focus on the problems encountered under the current Arroyo administration.

 

1.      On the current status of the peace negotiations

 

The peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP have been stalled for the past 27 months, since the GRP unilaterally suspended formal peace talks in 31 August 2005. This is the longest stretch or period that formal talks have been suspended since negotiations began in 1992, beating the 21-months that the peace negotiations were terminated under the Estrada administration from 1999 to 2001.

 

We will recall that the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations were formally resumed in April 2001 under the Arroyo administration.  But if the repeated recesses and suspensions of the formal talks unilaterally declared by the GRP from June 2001 up to  November 2003 are added up, we arrive at a total of 29 months that the talks had been stalled, with only 22 days of informal talks scattered in between long stretches of suspensions.

 

In sum, since negotiations were resumed in April 2001 up to the present, the Arroyo administration has suspended or recessed the formal talks for a total of 56 months or more than 70% of the time since resumption.

 

For its part, during this period, the NDFP called for a postponement of the formal talks in July 2004, lasting for four months and five days until the GRP suspended the formal talks.

 

The positive thing is that so far, since 2001, neither party has formally terminated the peace negotiations.

 

2.      On the reasons behind the impasses resulting in suspensions and recesses

 

The Philippine Peace Center has published a number of articles enumerating the stumbling blocks and contentious issues in the peace talks. But at this time, I would like to focus on what I believe constitutes the biggest obstacle to the current talks under the Arroyo administration.

 

One of the major obstacles to the negotiations since it started in 1992 and more markedly since November 2001, is the mindset of some quarters in the GRP that military offensives against the CPP-NPA-NDFP, combined with civil-military actions (medical missions, public works, disaster relief and rescue, etc.) and psychological operations (i.e., the right mix of coercion and intimidation, instilling terror and “winning the hearts and minds”) are sufficient to dismantle the political infrastructure of the CPP, crush the NPA and force the NDFP into capitulation.

 

This militarist mindset has been dramatically and significantly reinforced in many ways by the US-led “war on terror”, tilting the balance in favor of the hawks in government (especially in the Cabinet) and dominating its entire national internal security policy, to the detriment of the peace negotiations.

 

First, the Arroyo government threw its full support behind the “war on terror” to gain increased economic and military aid from the US, including joint military exercises which dovetailed into the US’ geopolitical objectives of pre-stationing troops and war materiel in the Philippines while assisting the AFP in its military campaigns against the CPP-NPA and the MILF.    

 

Second, the “war on terror” provided the cover, pretext and justification for the perpetration of  extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, massacres, strafings of houses and other gross human rights violations against suspected “terrorists”.  The Arroyo government scrambled to enact an anti-terrorist law patterned after the US PATRIOT Act which suspends, if not outrightly violates, constitutional rights, in the hope of suppressing dissent and crushing opposition to its rule.    

 

Third, the Arroyo government has been attempting, since November 2001,  to use the “terrorist” tag to pressure the NDFP into a negotiated capitulation.  The GRP has threatened to unleash its entire “counterterrorist” and “anti-terrorist” arsenal with the backing of the US unless the NDFP signs a “Formal Peace Accord” which is nothing more than an agreement to lay down its arms and disband the NPA.

 

From 2001 to 2007, there was a marked increase in extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture and massacres against progressive leaders and activists of legal and open mass organizations tagged by the AFP as “communist fronts” and “enemies of the state”. The killings and other human rights violation abated, though still continuing, only after the international community exerted extraordinarily intense pressure on the government to put a stop to these.

 

In 2006, the DOJ, in concert with other agencies in the IALAG (Inter-Agency Legal Action Group) headed by the National Security Adviser, filed rebellion charges against purported leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDFP, including members and consultants of the NDFP negotiating panel and  six progressive Congresspersons.  Upon review of the “evidences” submitted and the process undertaken by the DOJ, the Supreme Court eventually ordered the dismissal of the case on the basis of insufficient evidence and lack of due process. The Supreme Court eventually ordered the release of septuagenarian Cong. Crispin Beltran, who was illegally arrested and detained for more than a year on the rebellion charge.         

 

To justify these actions, the GRP unilaterally suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), despite the absence of any provision in the agreement for such a suspension.

 

The attempts of the Arroyo government to use the “counterterrorism” weapon against the NDFP culminated in the recent arrest, by Dutch authorities, of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the NDFP, and the simultaneous raids on the NDFP offices and on the residences of NDFP panel members and staff.  While the GRP initially denied any involvement and claimed the operations were entirely a Dutch initiative, official Dutch government statements and documents declare that these actions were undertaken in response to a request by the GRP to extradite Prof. Sison, and that the evidences and witnesses on which the charges were based were provided by the GRP.

 

The US government likewise welcomed the Dutch action and offered to assist in the prosecution of Prof. Sison if the Dutch government should request them, as though they were not privy to the entire operation. But again, Dutch prosecution documents reveal that the statements of some of the witnesses against Prof. Sison were taken in the US embassy, and in an unnamed location in the former Clark air base, evidently a US facility considered as US territory.

 

The Dutch courts have recently ruled that the evidence presented by the Dutch prosecution are not sufficient to establish probable cause on the charge against Prof. Sison of “inciting to murder” in connection with the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara.

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2.2    Points of contention and other problems

 

There are a number of contentious points in the negotiations that have apparently caused some of the suspensions and recesses of the formal talks.  These include the status of belligerency issue, the “one sovereign political power” issue, indivisibility of territory, etc.  I am submitting herewith articles and studies by the PPC dealing with these issues. I shall not dwell on these now, since I believe these issues are best dealt with once formal talks are resumed, and the outstanding problem now is how to resume the formal talks.

 

There is overwhelming evidence of the GRP’s non-compliance with if not outright violations of its bilateral agreements with the NDFP.  This throws a monkey wrench on the negotiations, and undermines confidence and goodwill in the negotiations.

 

There is also the recurrent problem of the lack of the GRP Negotiating Panel’s mandate to negotiate.  Several times, the two panels go through the grind of negotiations and reach an agreement after arduous, stressful and heated discussions, only for the agreement to be vetoed by the GRP’s Cabinet Oversight Committee for Internal Security, which oversees the peace negotiations.  While this is not currently the key concern, since the formal talks are not underway, this can be a crucial factor in case informal or exploratory talks are undertaken to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks.

 

3.  Recommendations.

 

3.1.   Conduct a thorough and critical review of the Arroyo administration’s “all-out support” for the US “war on terror”, particularly its impact on the peace negotiations with the NDFP, the perpetration of human rights violations by government security forces,  and in relation to the issues of national and economic sovereignty.

 

3.2.   Conduct a thorough review of the GRP’s compliance with the bilateral agreements, and determine the reasons behind non-compliance or violations of agreements.

 

3.3.   Push for measures to restore goodwill and confidence such as the reactivation of the Joint Monitoring Committee, addressing the problem of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations by government security forces, and complying with the Oslo I and II Joint Communiques.

 

3.4.   Generate broad and significant public support for the peace negotiations through an information and education campaign aimed at encouraging public participation in the discussions of the substantive agenda, especially on social and economic reforms and political and constitutionl reforms. 

 

3.5.    Support the efforts of existing and newly-organized formations of peace advocates such as the Pilgrims for Peace and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform in calling for the resumption of formal peace talks and other efforts aimed at  attaining a just and enduring peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

   

 

 

 

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