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The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations --  Historical Overview

 

By the Philippine Peace Center

 

  

Introduction

 

The armed conflict between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has been raging for more than four decades.  On December 26, 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was re-established with the avowed objective of seizing political power through a protracted people’s war, setting up a people’s democratic state and building a socialist society.   The CPP established the New People’s Army (NPA) as its military arm in March 1969, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF or NDFP) in 1973 as a broad alliance of mass organizations fighting for national freedom and democracy. The armed conflict is rooted in the same social, political and cultural iniquities that have plagued the Philippines, as well as most underdeveloped societies, for centuries: a backward economy dominated by foreigners and the local ruling elite,   the absence of genuine democracy and rampant social injustices.

 

Fourteen years of martial rule under a full-blown dictatorship and another twenty-five years of unabated, government counter-insurgency campaigns, all under the full direction and support of the United States, have failed to suppress, much less eradicate the armed revolutionary movement.

 

Peace talks under the Corazon C. Aquino administration

 

Peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)  and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) began in December 1986 under the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, shortly after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship.  The negotiations collapsed in January 1987 after government troops fired on unarmed peasants demonstrating near the presidential palace, killing nineteen and injuring hundreds.  In March 1986, at the graduation ceremonies of the Philippine Military Academy,  President Aquino “unsheathed the sword of war” and declared a “total war” against the CPP-NPA-NDFP 

 

From this experience, the NDFP drew or validated the following lessons:

1.  Peace negotiations must proceed as soon as possible to the substantive agenda and avoid being bogged down in discussions on the mechanics and implementation of a ceasefire

2.  The peace talks should be held at a foreign neutral venue to avoid sabotage by parties who object to the negotiations, requiring a foreign neutral third party (as host or facilitator)

3.  The bilateral negotiations should be held only at the national level, i.e., there should be not talks at the local – regional, provincial or municipal levels.

 

Exploratory and preliminary talks between the Aquino government and the NDFP were held during the rest of Aquino’s term. However, these talks did not prosper due to the government’s persistent precondition that the NPA lay down their arms first before there can be any peace talks.  This was rejected by the NDFP as unacceptable and tantamount to surrender.

 

Ø      December 1988 - the NDFP announced, in the editorial of its official publication, Liberation,  its openness to the resumption of peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

 

Ø      September 24, 1990 - NDFP representatives Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma met with GRP delegation led by Gov. Bren Guiao in Singapore to discuss informally the prospects of resumption of peace negotiations.

 

Ø      September 26-29, 1990 - GRP emissary Rep. Jose Yap met separately with NDFP vice chairman Luis Jalandoni and NDFP consultant Jose Ma. Sison in the Netherlands.

 

In these preliminary talks, the Aquino government asserted  (1) the supremacy of GRP Constitution as fundamental law of the land, (2) that the armed conflict can be resolved through a peace process, (3) all paths to peace must be explored and that (4) there can be only one authorized and recognized armed force.

 

Further, it proposed the following agenda for the peace process

   Suspension of hostilities in mutually agreed upon prioritized areas

   Amnesty for insurgents

   Laying down of arms

   Disbanding of the NPA

   Safe return of insurgents to a peaceful and productive life

   Government assistance to and protection of insurgent returnees

   Legalization of the CPP

   Treatment of NPA “hold outs”

 

On the other hand, the NDFP expressed the following view of the peace process

 

-   Peace talks can start anytime without preconditions that are unilaterally beneficial or costly to one side

-   Safety and immunity guarantees can be agreed upon

-   Confidence-building measures can be undertaken to create a favorable atmosphere (e.g., release of political prisoners and prisoners held by the NPA)

-   The legal and political framework for the talks could be mutually acceptable

principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice (not the Constitution of either Party)

 

The NDFP proposed the following as substantive agenda for the talks

   Preliminary mutual understanding of the objectives of the peace negotiations and the basic problems of the people

   Mutual respect for human rights and international humanitarian law

   Social and economic reform

   Political and constitutional reforms

   Armed forces and redisposition thereof

 

An agreement on HR and IHL should be the immediate goal of the talks because human rights and IHL violations are also the immediate and detrimental effect of the armed conflict on the people, and should be mitigated immediately to provide immediate relief even as the talks are still in progress and the armed conflict has not ceased.

 .

-   Peace negotiations must be held at mutually agreed upon place abroad in order to assure safety and convenience for members of both parties Foreign neutral Third Party

-   Broad array of peace advocates in the Philippines recognized by NDF as a moral force for a just and lasting peace

 

Peace negotiations under the Ramos administration

           

At his inaugural address in July 1992,  President Fidel Ramos called for peace negotiations with armed opposition groups, i.e., the CPP-NPA-DFP, the Moro secessionists (MNLF, MILF) and the military rebels (RAM-SFP-YOU) as well as with armed splinter groups that bolted away from the CPP.

 

Ironically it was Ramos who, as  Chief of Staff and then Defense Secretary, prevented the holding of peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP  during Aquino’s term by insisting that the NPA first lay down their arms before talks could be held.

 

This time, Ramos declared that he was calling for peace negotiations with the armed groups in order  to  provide a modicum of political stability that was required to attract investments and implement his economic program, “Philippines 2000”, with the proclaimed goal of making the Philippines a “newly industrialized country” by year 2000.

 

In  August 1992, Ramos sent Rep. Jose Yap to the Netherlands as his emissary with official written authority from him to hold exploratory talks with NDFP representatives.  The talks resulted in the signing of  The Hague Joint Declaration on September 1, 1992 in The Hague, The Netherlands, by GRP emissary Rep. Jose Yap and NDFP vice chairman Luis Jalandoni.

 

Hereunder is the complete text of the The Hague Joint Declaration:

 

           Formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF shall be held to resolve the armed conflict.

 

           The common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace.

 

           Such negotiations shall take place after the parties have reached tentative agreements on substantive issues in the agreed agenda through the reciprocal working committees to be separately organized by the GRP and the NDF.

 

           The holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.

 

           The substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations shall include the following:

 

1. Respect for human rights and international humanitarian  law;

           

2. Socio-economic reforms;

           

3. Political and constitutional reforms; and

           

4. End of hostilities and disposition of forces

 

The Declaration has subsequently been referred to by both Parties as the foundation and framework agreement for the negotiations, setting the common objective, framework, modalities and substantive agenda.

 

On September 14, 1992, the NDFP announced Chairman Mariano Orosa's approval of The Hague Joint Declaration

 

On October 28, 1992, the GRP announced President Fidel V. Ramos' approval of The Hague Joint Declaration "subject to refinements of the substantive agenda".  Ramos had formed the National Unification Commission (NUC), which held provincial, regional and national consultations while peace talks with armed opposition groups were held in abeyance.

 

In July 1993, the NUC submitted its report to Ramos, but its findings and proposals, especially on the roots of the armed conflict and how these could be addressed, were kept by Ramos from the public.  On Sept.15, 1993, Ramos issued Executive Order 125  Defining the Approach and Administrative Structure for Government’s Comprehensive Peace Process, adopting the “six paths to peace” which the NUC proposed:

 

-   Pursuit of reforms (including changes in the constitution if needed) that 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 rebel groups aimed at final negotiated settlement,  with neither dishonor nor surrender for any of the parties.

 

-   Programs for reconciliation, reintegration into mainstreams society and rehabilitation, including amnesty, to address the needs of former rebels, demobilized combatants and civilian victims of the armed conflicts

 

-   Protecting civilians and de-escalation of conflict, addressing concerns arising from continuing armed hostilities, e.g. strict implementation of laws and policy guidelines for the protection of human rights

 

-   Building and nurturing a climate conducive to peace

 

At this point, the Ramos government got wind of rumors and intelligence reports that the CPP was undergoing a serious split and “power struggle” and was on the verge of disintegration.  If true, there would no longer be any need for peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDFP.  At his first State of the Nation Address in July 1993, Ramos declared,

           

“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.” (emphasis ours) 

 

It became clear in due time, however, that while some leaders and groups split away from the CPP, as well as the NPA and NDFP which it led remained intact and did not disintegrate.  

 

Exploratory talks were once again held in June 1994, this time in Breukelen, The Netherlands, resulting in the June 1994 Breukelen Joint Statement which:

 

-   reaffirmed the commitment of the GRP and NDFP to follow The Hague Joint Declaration throughout formal peace negotiations

 

-   pointed to goodwill and confidence-building measures, crucial issues and the need for safety and immunity guarantees, and

 

-   set the opening of formal peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue

 

The Joint Agreement on the Ground Rules of the Formal Meetings Between the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels establishing procedural rules to be observed in the formal talks was signed on February 6, 1995  in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands.

 

On February 24,1995, the two parties signed the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  This essential agreement lays down the principles and modalities for safety and immunity guarantees for the personnel, consultants and other people involved in the formal peace negotiations.  It also stipulated that formal meetings of GRP and NDFP negotiating panels shall be held in a foreign neutral venue.  June 1, 1995 was set as the date for the opening of formal peace negotiations in Brussels, Belgium, subsequently moved to June 26, 1995 upon request of the GRP panel.

 

 

FORMAL PEACE NEGOTIATIONS (JUNE 1995-1998)

 

The opening session of the formal peace talks was held on June 26, 1995, at the International Press Center in Brussels, Belgium 

 

The Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the  Reciprocal Working Committees was signed.  In this agreement, the sequence of headings in substantive agenda set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992  was reiterated, and the sequence of forming the forming the reciprocal working committees which shall produce one after the other the tentative comprehensive agreements on the four major headings of the substantive agenda,  the finalization of these by the negotiating panels and the approval of the final comprehensive agreements by the principals of the negotiating panels were arranged in detail.

 

The two  parties thereafter announced the formation and operationalization of their respective Reciprocal Working Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (RCW-HR-IHL).

 

The NDFP asked for a recess until the arrival of NDFP Panel Consultant Sotero Llamas, who was supposed to attend the talks but whom the GRP had earlier arrested.  However, the  GRP  unilaterally suspended the talks after refusing to release Llamas.

 

Llamas was released by the GRP from prison on June 21 and joined the resumption of formal talks which were held in June 19-26, 1996, in which initial discussions on comprehensive agreement on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law were held, and the two panels signed the Additional Implementing Rules Pertaining to the Documents of Identification

 

On July 5, 1996, the NDFP submitted to the Swiss Federal Court as depositary, and to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as official guardian, the NDFP Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I of 1977 which asserts its status of belligerency on the following basis:

 

1. the revolutionary people and organizations represented by the NDFP constitute a significant portion of the Philippine population, occupy a significant portion of Philippine territory, and have their own system of government and political principles

 

2. the New People's Army (NPA) operates on a nationwide scale with a central command and under the political leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)

 

3. the armed conflict, which is a protracted civil war, has been of an intensity and scale as to compel  the GRP to use its entire armed forces in the name of national defense from 1969 to the present, and to resort to the imposition of martial rule from 1972 to 1986

 

Another impasse in the talks occurred from November 21, 1996 – March 17, 1997  resulting from the GRP’s arrest and  detention of NDFP Panel Consultant Danilo Borjal, which the NDFP protested  as a violation of the JASIG

 

Formal talks resumed in March 18-23, 1997 in The Netherlands following the release of Borjal by the GRP. The Supplemental Agreement to the Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees was signed by both panels.  Discussions on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law continued.

 

 

On August 5, 1997 ,  the  Common Tentative draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on  Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAE-HR-IHL) was initialed by the RWCs on HR-IHL of both GRP and NDFP panels

 

The following agreements were also initialed:

 

1. 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

2. Joint Agreement in Support of Socio-economic Projects of   Private Development Organizations and Institutes

 

The GRP subsequently submitted a revised version of the Common Tentative Draft of the CARHRIHL, but this was rejected by the NDFP, calling it a “cannibalized” version.

 

Formal talks on the CARHRIHL were again held from January 6-10 and  January 28-31, 1998 in The Netherlands, , working on the original common tentative draft.  The marathon talks resulted in the signing of the CARHRIHL by the two Parties on March 16, 1998  in The Hague, The Netherlands

 

At the signing, ceremony, the two Parties also exchanged draft proposals for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms , and signed two short agreements:

-    the 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 and

-    the Joint Agreement in Support of Socio-economic Projects of Private Development Organizations and Institutes

 

NDFP Chair Mariano Orosa signed the CARHRIHL on April 10, 1998, while  GRP President Joseph Estrada signed the CARHRIHL on August 7, 1998, thus making the CARHRIHL binding and effective on both Parties

 

However, o n October 27-29, 1998, a GRP team headed by Sen. Franklin Drilon held informal talks with NDFP panel headed by Luis Jalandoni. It raised the GRP’s objections to Art.4 Part III and Art. 6 Part IV of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAR-HR/IHL), and proposed the deletion of these provisions. It also proposed that the Joint Monitoring Committee be placed under the Office of the President of the GRP.  Both proposals were rejected by the NDFP as tantamount to capitulation and violative of the 1972 The Hague Joint Declaration.

 

GRP President Estrada unilaterally suspended the formal talks and the JASIG in February 1999

after the New People’s Army (NPA) captured and detained four AFP and PNP officers in succession in  Mindanao and Bicol:  General Obillo and Maj. Montealto in Davao del Norte, P/Maj Bernal in Bicol, and Sgt. Lozada in Surigao Sur.

 

From April 9-27, 1999  the NDFP released . as a goodwill and confidence-building measure and for humanitarian reasons, five AFP and PNP officers (the four above plus a PA intelligence agent, Sgt. Wilfredo Demol, who was arrested by the NPA a year earlier.

 

 

Termination of Peace Negotiations Under Estrada Administration

 

On May 27, 1999, upon the behest of Malacanang, the Philippine Senate ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement allowing the US troops visiting rights, including excemptions from inspection and quarantine, extraterritorial judicial rights or exemption from Philippine jurisdiction of US troops and personnel who may commit crimes on Philippine territory while on active duty.

 

Viewing this as a violation of The Hague Joint Declaration provision on national sovereignty as framework of the negotiations, and considering this as the latest of a series of violations  of the JASIG and CARHRIHL, the NDFP announced  on May 29, 1999 - its Recognition of De-facto Termination of the Peace Negotiations by the GRP

 

On  May 31,1999 the  GRP issued its  formal notice of termination of peace negotiations.  The termination took effect on  July 1, 1999 and did not resume throughout Estrada’s remaining months in power.

 

Resumption of Peace Negotiations Under Arroyo administration

 

Shortly after Estrada was ousted and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the Presidency in January 2001, Arroyo announced the government’s policy of resuming the peace negotiations with the NDFP.  On February 28, 2001, Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 3 Defining Policy and Administrative Structure for the Government’s Comprehensive Peace Process which reiterated the six paths to peace and defined the following principles:

 

a. A comprehensive peace process should be community-based, reflecting the sentiments, values and principles important to all Filipinos. Thus, it shall be defined not by the government alone, nor by the different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one community.

b. A comprehensive peace process aims to forge a new social compact for a just, equitable, humane and pluralistic society. It seeks to establish a genuinely pluralistic society, where all individuals and groups are free to engage in peaceful competition for predominance of their political programs without fear, through the exercise of rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, and where they may compete for political power through an electoral system that is free, fair and honest.

c. A comprehensive peace process seeks a principled and peaceful resolution to the internal armed conflicts, with neither blame nor surrender, but with dignity for all concerned.

 

GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and formal peace talks resumed in April 27, 2001, with both parties affirming that all bilateral agreements entered into since the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration are valid and binding on both parties 

 

The Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) was accepted by both parties as Third Party Facilitator in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

The second round of formal talks were held  in Oslo, Norway from June 10-13, 2001, But this was recessed by the GRP  in protest of the June 11 NPA ambush on Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, one of the most notorious torturers and human rights violators under the Marcos dictatorship and even afterwards as governor and then congressman of Cagayan province.

 

The formal talks were supposed to resume in September 2001, but this was called off by Arroyo reportedly on the behest of  Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes after the 9/11 New York City bombings.  The GRP subsequently used the US-led “war on terror” and the terrorist listing of the CPP-NPA and Prof Jose Maria Sison by the US and its allies, including The Netherlands and the European Union, to pressure the NDFP into signing a final peace agreement short of addressing the roots of the armed conflict through basic social, economic and political reforms.  Formal peace talks were suspended by the Arroyo government from September 2001 to February 2004. 

 

On November 30-Dec 1, 2001 back channel talks were held in The Netherlands between a high-level GRP team and the NDFP panel.  The GRP team was composed of Speaker Jose De Venecia, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Gen. Eduardo Ermita, GRP Panel Chair Bello and Presidential Management Staff Head Silvestre Afable. 

The GRP team proposed a three-page draft  Final Peace Agreement  with the promise that it would help convince the US not to put the CPP-NPA and Prof Sison on its terrorist list if the NDFP immediately signs the  FPA.  The NDFP rejected the draft as a “document of capitulation” and presented a draft  counterproposal for a : Document of  Understanding to Accelerate the Peace  Negotiations Between the GRP and the NDFP.  The GRP team and NDFP panel worked on the draft and arrived at an agreement but this was vetoed by the GRP’s Cabinet Cluster on Security.

 

 

On March 16, 2002,  Malacanang issued a press statement calling on the NPA and MILF to “lay down your arms…(and)  join the mainstream of society.  Formal negotiations were suspended and instead “backchannel talks” would  be pursued to arrive at “a settlement within the framework of the (Philippine) Constitution”.

 

On August 5, 2002, shortly after the visit of US State Secretary Colin Powell to the Philippines, President Macapagal-Arroyo announced the redeployment of troops involved in the just-concluded "Balikatan 02-1" to various NPA-controlled areas throughout the country, virtually declaring "all-out war" on the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

 

On August 9, 2002,  US State Secretary Powell announced the inclusion of the CPP-NPA in the US list of "foreign terrorist organizations"

 

On August 10, 2002,  Prof. Sison issued a statement condemning the US and Philippine governments as "in cahoots with each other in the designation of the CPP and NPA as terrorists in a futile psywar attempt to intimidate and push them towards capitulation. ...“

 

On August 12, 2002  the  US Treasury Department announced financial sanctions including freezing of assets on the CPP-NPA and Professor Jose Ma. Sison, who was also listed by the US as an international terrorist.   The Royal Dutch Government, at the US government's instance, followed suit on August 13, 2002 , declaring the CPP-NPA and Prof. Sison as "terrorists" and imposing the same financial sanctions on them, especially on Prof. Sison whose bank account containing allowances received from the Dutch government as a recognized political refugee.

 

On October 28, 2002,  following a campaign by a GRP special mission headed by  Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople, the European Council of Ministers announced its decision to include the NPA and Prof. Sison in its list of terrorists.  Ople announced in a press statement on October 31 that the special mission he headed  had successfully campaigned among European Union member countries to include the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison in the European Council's list of terrorists. The team also included as members PAPP Secretary Ermita, Norberto Gonzales, PMS Head Afable and Undersecretary Abraham Purugganan.

 

Secretary Ople practically confirmed the NDFP's charges of using the terrorist listing as leverage to force the NDFP to capitulate when he announced that "the purpose of the diplomatic initiative was to bring pressure on the Communists to agree to go back to the negotiating table and discuss a comprehensive peace settlement that could lead to the end of the decades-old armed struggle to overthrow the Philippine state by force of arms... We want them to lay down their arms and transform themselves into a peaceful political party capable of competing in the constitutional arena, in peaceful and democratic elections."

 

On January 30, 2003, the GRP panel transmitted to the NDFP through the Royal Norwegian Government its proposed "Final Peace Accord".  The NDFP rejects the draft proposal as a document of capitulation and a violation of the framework agreement, the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration.

 

The GRP delegation declared an indefinite recess of the talks after an impasse was reached on the question whether or not the GRP violated bilateral agreements in campaigning for the terrorist tag on the CPP-NPA and Prof. Sison, and putting the NDFP under duress in order to pressure it into negotiating and accepting the GRP's "Final Peace Accord".

 

On February 21, 2003, the GRP delegation issued a press statement announcing that  exploratory talks with the NDFP broke down due to the NDFP's insistence on the delisting of the CPP-NPA and Prof. Sison from the terrorist lists as precondition to the holding of formal talks.

 

On January 2004, exploratory talks resulted in the signing by both panels of a Joint Statement for the Resumption of Formal Peace Negotiations.

 

Formal talks resumed in February 11-14, 2004, resulting in the First Oslo Agreement containing:

            1. The Framework of the Negotiations

            2. The Role of the Third Party Negotiator

            3. Effective Measures Regarding the

                        “Terrorist’ Listing

            4.  NDFP Proposal for Accelerated

                        Work/GRP Proposal of an Enhanced Process

            5.  Formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee in line with CARHRIHL

            6.  Indemnification of Victims of Human Rights  Violations under the Marcos Regime

            7.  Work of the Reciprocal Working Committees  on Social and Economic Reforms

            8.  Confidence Building Measures

            9.  Exchange of Information and Complaints

            10. Date, Venue and Agenda of the Next Round of Formal Talks.

 

 

A second round of formal talks was again held in Oslo, Norway from March 28 to April 3, 2004.This resulted in the Second Oslo Joint Statement:

 

            1. On Effective Measures Undertaken to Resolve the Issue of “Terrorist” Listing

            2.  On the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC)

            3.  On the Work of the Reciprocal Working      Committees on Social and Economic Reforms

                 (RWCs- SER)

            4.  On the Release of Prisoners and Detainees

            5.  On the Indemnification of Victims of Human Rights Violations of the Marcos Regime

            6.  On Other Issues and Concerns

            7.  On the Date, Venue and Agenda for the Next Round of Formal Talks

 

On June 23-27, 2004 a third round of Formal Talks was held in Oslo, Norway but din not result in an agreement or Joint Statement.  The GRP Panel explained that they could not present their draft for the Joint Statement as they were in a “transition” pending the results of the GRP Presidential Canvassing of Votes.

 

On August 2004, the NDFP postponed the formal talks “to give the GRP time to comply with agreements”, specifically the two Oslo agreements of February and April 2004

 

From December 2004 to June 2005, the  GRP proposed indefinite or prolonged ceasefire as a precondition to the resumption of formal talks.  

 

In August 2005, the GRP unilaterally suspended the JASIG.  This was objected to by the NDFP as a violation of the JASIG, since the agreement does not provide for unilateral suspension, and this would expose the participants to the peace negotiations to danger.  At the same time, the GRP turned down the NDFP’s calls to convene the Joint Monitoring Committee, arguing that there was no point in convening the JMC while the formal talks are suspended.

 

In response to the GRP’s insistence on a prolonged ceasefire as precondition for the resumption of formal talks, the NDFP proposed in August 2005 a “Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace” that would result in an immediate truce and alliance with the GRP “on the very day that it is signed”.  Hereunder is the 10-pt NDFP proposal

 

1.  Unite the Filipino people through a broad alliance of patriotic and progressive forces and a clean and honest coalition government for genuine national independence and democracy against any foreign domination or control and against subservience.

 

2.  Empower the toiling masses of workers and peasants by respecting their democratic rights and providing for their significant representation in organs of the coalition government and for assistance to the organizations, programs and projects of the toiling masses.

 

3.  Uphold economic sovereignty, carry out Filipino-owned national industrialization and land reform and oppose imperialist plunder and bureaucratic and military corruption in order to develop the national economy.

 

4.  Cancel the foreign debt and reduce the appropriations for the military and other armed organizations of the incumbent state in order to provide adequate resources and savings for economic development, improvement of the means of livelihood, the alleviation of poverty, the realization of gender equality, promotion of children’s rights and welfare and healthy environment.

 

5.  Promote and support a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture through the educational system, mass media and mass organizations, cherish the cultural heritage of the Filipino nation and all the ethno-linguistic communities in the countries.

 

 6.  Recognize the right to self-determination and autonomy of national minorities, ensure proportionate representation in organs of the coalition government and institutions and provide for affirmative action to countervail longrunning discrimination and wrongs.

 

7.  Investigate and try government officials who are liable for treason, corruption and human rights violations.

 

8.  Carry out a truly independent foreign policy for world peace and economic development, oppose imperialist acts of plunder and foreign aggression and intervention, and prevent the basing and stationing of foreign troops and weapons of mass destruction in the country.

 

9.  Maintain normal trade and diplomatic relations with all countries and develop the closest of relations with other ASEAN countries, China, South and North Korea, Japan and Russia, emphasizing equable exchange of goods, acquiring goods for industrialization and guaranteeing energy supply.

 

10.       Inaugurate a truce between the warring forces of the GRP and NDFP for the purpose of alliance and other constructive purposes as stated above.

           

The GRP did not respond to this proposal.

In January 2006, Arroyo formed the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), one of its main functions was to file criminal charges and cause the arrest, prosecution and detention of CPP-NPA-NDFP personnel, including and especially the NDFP negotiating panel and consultants and others involved in the peace negotiations.

The NDFP list of holders of documents of identification under the JASIG, or JASIG-protected persons, was turned over by the OPAPP to the DOJ and PNP and was turned into an arrest list. All those in the list were charged with continuing rebellion and with criminal offenses.

 

On April 3, 2006, NDFP consultant and member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Human Rights was assassinated in his home province of Albay.

On August 21, 2008, in reaction to the flaring-up of armed hostilities over the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain fiasco, Arroyo announced a major shift in the GRP’s policy on peace negotiations. In a speech at the Opening of the 2nd Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS)  at the World Trade Center, Pasay City, she said:

 

“These recent developments in the South lead to a change in the basic premise of our peace efforts -- the focus of our talks shall shift from the armed groups to the communities. The parameters governing our negotiations shall be a balance between constitutionality and public sentiment.

 

“The objective of our peace processes shall be the end of all forms of armed rebellion in the country. Translated, this shall mean a national rejection of armed struggle as a means of achieving political and societal change and re-affirming our commitment to democracy.

 

“Our engagements with all armed groups shall be about disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation or DDR. From negotiations, our focus shall shift to dialogues with the communities, or government conducting authentic conversations or dialogues with the people. All armed groups must account for all of their actions not only to the government but most especially to the people. The force of arms does not entitle any armed group to represent the people.  DDR is about the people and government telling armed groups to give up armed struggle. Change shall be defined primarily by the people and the government”. (emphasis ours)

 

The NDFP pointed out that the GRP’s policy shift to DDR, if applied to the GRP-NDFP negotiations, would violate The Hague Joint Declaration and the agreements on the sequence of agenda, since it would place the end of hostilities and disposition of forces on top of the agenda and postpone,  if not totally eliminate the negotiations and agreements on the basic reforms needed to address and eradicate the roots of the armed conflict.

 

The GRP eventually backtracked on “frontloading” DDR and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, and reiterated its conformity with the sequence agreed upon in previous bilateral agreements.

 

Efforts to resume formal peace talks were made in informal talks held in 2009 but these got bogged down in the GRP’s continuing insistence on a prolonged ceasefire and its refusal to withdraw criminal charges against NDFP consultants and other JASIG-protected persons, and release those under detention even as the GRP announced in July 2009 the lifting of its unilateral suspension of the JASIG.

 

Resumption of formal talks under the Benigno C. Aquino III government

 

Preliminary talks were held on January 14-18, 2011 in Oslo, Norway between the Government of the Philippines (GPH, formerly known as the GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panels with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks. This resulted in the June 18, 2011 Joint Communiqué announcing the resumption of formal talks and its agenda,  The Communiqué further stated:

 

“The GPH Panel agreed to work for the expeditious release of detained NDFP consultants and other JASIG-protected persons in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and in the spirit of goodwill.

 

“Both Panels agreed to recommend to their respective principals ceasefire from February 15 to 21, 2011 as reciprocal goodwill measure to mark the resumption of formal talks after so many years.”

 

Formal talks were  held on the said dates, also in Oslo, Norway with the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government,, and resulted in the following:

 

- reaffirmation by both parties of the validity and binding effect of all previous bilateral  agreements

- reconvening of the JMC

- initial discussions by the RWCs on Social and Economic Reforms

- formation of working groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms

- timetable for finishing and signing the agreements on the remaining substantive agenda and arriving at a negotiated political settlement  by June 2012

- discussions on compliance with JASIG, particularly on the GPH (formerly GRP) taking effective measures to release JASIG-protected persons in its custody.

 

A ceasefire declared unilaterally by both parties went into effect for the duration of the talks.

  

In a letter dated June 2, Luis Jalandoni, NDF chief negotiator, proposed to his counterpart in the GPH, Alex Padilla, that the talks be postponed “until such time that the releases of NDFP consultants and JASIG-protected [persons] are carried out in compliance with the JASIG,.” This is also in accordance with the agreements at the January preparatory talks and the February formal talks for the GPH to release most if not all of the 17 consultants and other JASIG-protected persons as claimed by the NDFP. . For its part, the government, through the Department

of National Defense, has refused to release these persons  and argued  that the NDFP should not use the formal talks to demand and effect the release of the said JASIG-protected persons. This has caused the postponement of the formal talks.

 

 

 

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