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Paper for Pilgrims for Peace National Peace Conference

Miriam College,   12 Sept. 2003

 

 

Genuine Peace or Pacification?

Status of and Current Trends in the Peace Talks

 

By Rey Claro Casambre

Philippine Peace Center

 

 

Introduction

 

A year has passed since we first gathered  to commemorate the 10th anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration and renew our commitment to advance the struggle for genuine  peace. 

 

We called ourselves Pilgrims for Peace as we pledged to embark on a journey that would take us, with our people, to a new land where freedom, democracy and social justice reign.

 

In unison we called for the resumption of peace negotiations on the basis of The Hague Joint Declaration, that one-page framework agreement that laid the ground for the holding of formal GRP-NDFP peace talks. Most of us here today understand the basic importance of this document.

 

The Hague Joint Declaration set the following for the formal peace negotiations:

 

Ø  objective – “resolve the armed conflict”…”attainment of  a just and lasting peace”

Ø  framework – “in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice…no preconditions shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations

Ø  process – “negotiations shall take place after the parties shall have reached tentative agreements on substantive issues in the agenda”

Ø  substantive issues:

-          human rights and international humanitarian law

-          socio-economic reforms

-          political and constitutional reforms

-          end of hostilities and disposition of forces

 

Today, as we look back over the past year, we cannot help but consider the gains, shortcomings, problems and prospects in the peace negotiations with The Hague Joint Declaration as our yardstick or as our own framework.

 

 

The Status of the Peace Negotiations

 

The GRP-NDFP formal talks have remained recessed since June 2001.  In March 2002, President Macapagal-Arroyo  unilaterally suspended formal talks and replaced them with “backchannel talks”   Thus, the talks on Socio-Economic Reforms -- the second substantive agenda after CARHRIHL – are on hold. 

 

The US, Canada, Australia and The Netherlands tagged the CPP-NPA and Prof. Jose Ma. Sison as terrorists  last August 2002.  The European  Union followed suit, putting  the NPA and JMS in its terrorist list two months later.

 

Last February 2003, the GRP proposed to the NDFP  a “new tack”, a “new approach”, or an “enhanced process” which would collapse the entire negotiations on the four substantive agenda into a single final peace agreement  within a maximum period of 6 months. 

 

The GRP has in fact submitted to the NDFP a 29-page draft “Final Peace Accord” (FPA).  It  provides that the CARHRIHL and all other prior agreements shall be reviewed and renegotiated, along with the negotiations for social, economic and political reforms “in accordance with the Philippine Constitution”.  It provides further that whatever agreements are reached on these agenda can only be implemented once the NDF agrees to the disbandment of  the New People’s Army or to the laying down of arms of the  entire NDFP within five months of the signing of the FPA..  Thus, the proposed  “enhanced process” is a departure from the prior agreement and process of crafting the agreements one at a time in the sequence stated in The Hague Joint Declaration, with each agreement considered binding and effective upon approval by the principals of both parties.

 

The FPA shall “supercede and modify” all prior agreements that are not mentioned in the document or are inconsistent with its provisions. Even a cursory study of the document reveals that no basic reforms are included, with the really sensitive or contentious, because basic, issues relegated to further study or  review.  But this will require a separate paper. Suffice it to say now that the final article in this  draft “Final Peace Accord” -- Article III, Chapter VI Totality Clause --  leaves no doubt that it contradicts the spirit and letter of the Hague Joint Declaration:

 

Art. III. Any conflict in the interpretation of the Accord shall be resolved in the light of the Philippine Constitution and existing laws.

 

 

The GRP-MILF talks, on the other hand, resumed last June 2001 in Tripoli, Libya, resulting in an “Agreement on Peace Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front”.  The talking points (substantive agenda) which had been trimmed to six  (see Appendix 2) from the original nine were further compressed to three: (1)  security (ceasefire),  (2) rehabilitation and development, and (3) ancestral lands. 

 

Talks were suspended by GMA in March 2002 before formal talks could be held on the most important and key agenda, ancestral lands.  Backchannel talks between  technical committees have resulted in an agreement on security and an agreement on rehabilitation and development. Both agreements have not been implemented substantively.

While the technical committees on security and ceasefire go through the motions of meeting and issuing joint statements and communiqués, fighting goes on unabated.  The GRP has continually launched offensive military operations in  MILF areas under the guise of pursuing criminal elements and groups such as the Pentagon group and the escaped terrorist suspect Al Ghozi.  Ironically, one of the most recent “agreements” reached by the reciprocal technical committees of both parties is an agreement to cooperate in going after bandits, terrorists and criminals. 

 

In more than one instance, the AFP launched an offensive in one area a day after it had agreed to a ceasefire with the MILF in that area .

Just the other day, the GRP and MILF announced that they would resume formal peace talks in Malaysia next month.  The GRP has expressed confidence that the two parties will sign a “GRP-MILF Final Peace Accord” in time for the visit of US Pres. George Bush. But MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu quickly dismissed this as impossible.

 

Why have GRP-NDFP formal talks not resumed?

 

The GRP’s claims that formal talks have not resumed because the NDFP is demanding as a precondition the delisting of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison from the terrorist lists of the US and the European Union.  This is not true.  What the NDF is insisting on is that the GRP recognize or admit that its collusion with foreign powers in including the CPP, NPA and Prof Sison in their terrorist lists is a violation of The Hague Joint Declaration and the JASIG  and should therefore undertake measures to remedy this violation.

 

In the final analysis, formal talks have not resumed because there is a basic disagreement between the GRP and the NDFP on whether or not The Hague Joint Declaration should remain as the framework for the talks.

 

The NDFP insists that it should.   It is asking for the GRP’s reiteration of their March 9, 2001 joint statement reaffirming the validity of The Hague Joint Declaration and nine  other major bilateral agreements which also include the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.  Thus its insistence that the violations first be recognized before talks are resumed.  

 

Is the NDFP imposing a precondition for the resumption of the talks?  No, it  is merely reminding the GRP to honor its own signatures on The Hague Joint Declaration and other bilateral agreements.  Another way of looking at it is:  the NDF is seeking an assurance that the rules of the game remain the same, just as in boxing, where the referee routinely recites the rules to the protagonists before the bell rings and the fight begins. 

 

The GRP says yes, they affirm the validity of the Hague Joint Declaration. But no, there are some points that must be reviewed and reconsidered, especially the issue of sovereignty and the process by which agreements on the substantive agenda shall be reached and implemented. 

 

First, the GRP insists that it is the sole sovereign power in the land. Therefore it cannot agree to anything that would state or imply that there are two sovereign powers or political authorities.  This is the single biggest obstacle that has repeatedly bogged down the talks since it started 11 years ago:  the GRP insistence on placing the negotiations and agreements “within the framework of the GRP Constitution and legal processes”. This is the reason cited by the GRP for its refusal to implement the CARHRIHL.

 

Secretary Bello, head of the GRP Panel explains:

 

“Senator Franklin Drilon headed a small backroom team in October 1998 that reasserted the GRP’s exclusive right to prosecute, try and apply sanctions against the violators of human rights in the implementation of the CAR-HRIHL. The NDF rejected this and insisted that its judicial and legal systems be allowed to co-exist with that of the GRP. Senator Drilon told the NDF that this position was unacceptable to the GRP as this infringes on the sovereignty of the Republic which is indivisible. The non-resolution of this fundamental issue led to the impasse in the talks in the months that followed….(emphasis mine).

 

“On May 1999, the NDF terminated the talks in view of the government’s ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The GRP argued that it was ironic that the NDF raised the issue of national sovereignty because its claim to sovereign powers under a self-proclaimed “people’s democratic government” had posed a direct threat to the republic’s national sovereignty and is violative of the Constitution”.

 

If this is the case, if the GRP is adamant on being the “sole sovereign power” in the Philippines and in not allowing any other entity to exercise political authority,

the GRP should explain why:

 

Ø  In May 1999, in violation of the 1987 Constitution and Philippine sovereignty, the GRP ratified the Visiting Forces Agreement which provides that the GRP waive its territorial jurisdiction over US servicemen who commit crimes while in the Philippines, whether or not they are on duty, and its right to quarantine and inspect incoming US air and seacraft, equipment, munitions and personnel,

Ø  Last year, in violation of the 1987 Constitution and Philippine sovereignty, the GMA administration allowed US troops to engage in combat operations under the guise of the Balikatan 02-1 joint military training exercises. (Our sources in the AFP have confirmed that indeed, US Special Forces joined them in combat operations in Basilan. The only limiting factor was the discomfort in the jungle and when they run out of their special rations of chocolates and packed bacon).  It also colluded with the US military in covering up the involvement of US troops in the shooting of a Moro civilian alleged to be an Abu Sayyaf supporter.

Ø  In violation of the 1987 Constitution and Philippine sovereignty, the GMA administration allowed the US government, last May 2002, to whisk away from investigation and prosecution by Philippine courts a terrorist bombing suspect, a US citizen named Michael Meiring, after he had accidently detonated high explosives in his own hotel room

Ø  In violation of the 1987 Constitution, Philippine sovereignty and international law, the GMA administration entered last July into a bilateral agreement with the US exempting US servicemen from prosecution for human rights violations under the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court which the Philippine government had earlier ratified.

 

In addition, the GRP should also explain why it has not lifted a finger to implement the provisions in the CARHRIHL which have nothing to do with the sovereignty issue.  In particular: 

 

Ø  the release of political prisoners, 

Ø   the indemnification of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos martial law regime,

Ø  review and repeal of repressive laws and other instruments such as  laws that criminalize political offenses, and

Ø  the suspension of offensive military operations.

 

Furthermore, the NDFP accuses the GRP of colluding with  foreign powers, especially the US and the European Union to intervene in the peace negotiations in its favor.  In particular it has campaigned for the listing of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison as terrorists, thinking that this would pressure the NDF into signing the FPA in order to remove the terrorist tag.  At the same time, the Arroyo administration has collaborated with the US to increase US military aid, presence and intervention in the armed conflicts under the guise of counterterrorism.

 

Aside from the sovereignty issue, as has been pointed out above, the GRP has also proposed an “enhanced process” that deviates from the process set by the Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the RWCs.

 

Current Trends

 

1.  More than ever, the current global and local political and economic crisis is pushing the GMA administration to resort to peace talks to create the illusion of  political stability.  If it cannot get the NDF and the MILF to sign the “Final Peace Accord”, it would try to get them into formal talks under its own terms.  If still that fails, then it will try to give the semblance of ongoing talks by holding so-called backchannel talks with them.

 

2.  At the same time the GRP is using diplomatic and military means to pressure the NDF and the MILF to accede to its “Final Peace Agreement”.

 

This is what the terrorist tag on the CPP- NPA and Prof. Sison is all about.   Many are wondering why the US has quickly named and targeted the CPP-NPA and Prof. Sison as terrorists, whereas the MILF nor its leaders have not been labeled a terrorist.   We venture two reasons.

 

First, as has been pointed out, the US and GRP hope that the terrorist tag will put enough pressure on the NDF so that it will agree to sign the Final Peace Agreement in exchange for the delisting of the CPP, NPA and Prof Sison from the terrorist list.  On the other hand, the US and GRP still consider it possible to entice the MILF into signing the Final Peace Agreement (or Accord) with promises of huge sums of economic and development aid.  The US has announced that the US Institute for Peace, a quasi-NGO,  will send a team consisting of former ambassadors to the Philippines to “assist” in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.  They evidently believe at this stage that the MILF is more compliant and flexible than the NDF since they have agreed to an interim ceasefire as a condition for the formal talks to resume. Thus the US and GRP have not resorted yet to the terrorist tag as a means of pressuring the MILF.

 

The second reason is that the GRP risks scaring away foreign investments if it names the MILF a terrorist organization and creates the image of the entire country being a terrorist haven.  

 

3.  It has become more evident that what the GRP wants is pacification, not genuine peace based on justice, democracy and freedom. It is not interested in peace that results from addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

 

The GRP’s concept of peace is the neutralization of the NPA and Bangsa Moro armies, period. 

 

In a dialogue between peace advocates and the DND last December,  a DND undersecretary fired the first salvo of the exchange with the appallingly  oversimplistic statement: “The root cause of the armed conflict is that these rebel groups -- the NPA, the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf – continue to engage in terroristic activities.  If only they lay down their arms and rejoin the mainstream of society, then there will be peace in our country.”

 

We recall that in his first SONA in July 1993, then President Ramos proudly declared, “Our peace initiative has succeeded beyond expectation.  We have persuaded the military rebels to rejoin the mainstream, we are conducting negotiations with the Muslim separatists, and we have split the leadership of the communist insurgency to the core.”

 

4.   On the other hand, the NDFP and the MILF are alert to the dangers of capitulation and are sticking to the objectives of resolving the armed conflict by addressing its roots.

 

As pointed out above, the NDFP continues to insist on The Hague Joint Declaration as the framework for the talks and will never negotiate with the Philippine Constitution as the framework.

 

We can also expect the MILF to do the same. We recall that the MILF broke away from the MNLF after the Misuari leadership gave in to the pressure of the OIC countries which declared that the Moro problem is an internal Philippine question and should be resolved within the framework of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, and after the MNLF acceded to the 1976 Tripoli agreement which provided for regional autonomy for Mindanao and Palawan, but within the framework of the GRP constitution.

 

5.  As advocates of genuine peace, we should collectively raise our voice of concern, even of alarm, over the so-called “Final Peace Accord”.  As shown above, this translates into a scheme to circumvent the most basic and substantive issues that are at the root of the armed conflict and entice the NDF and the MILF to first lay down their arms and “work for reforms” within the framework of the present system. 

 

We know only too well that there can be no “final peace agreement” and no genuine peace until the social ills of oppression, exploitation that breed armed conflict are eliminated. 

 

MILF Chair Salamat Hashim observed of the 1996 GRP-MNLF “Final Peace Accord”:

 

Ø  The agreement considered side issues only and never touched the core of the Bangsamoro problem which is the illegal and immoral usurpation of their ancestral homeland and the barbarous usurpation of their legitimate rights to freedom and self-determination.

Ø  The agreement is devoid of justice and freedom for the Bangsamoro people and peace without justice and freedom for the aggrieved party is another form of colonial suppression

Ø  The agreement is a solution to the problem of the GRP only but not the Bangsamoro problem

 

For these reasons, as predicted by the MILF, the 1996 “FPA” did not bring lasting peace to Mindanao.  The Bangsa Moro people continued their armed struggle for freedom and self-determination under the leadership of the MILF.  Eventually, even  the MNLF  resumed their armed struggle against the Manila regime.

 

The July 27 Oakwood Mutiny of young AFP officers and men underscores this truth even in the case of military men who do not question the sovereignty of the GRP.  The signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the GRP and the military rebels under the RAM-SFP-YOU  in December 1992 temporarily quelled the restiveness within the military establishment.  But this only served to perpetuate, rather than remove, the corruption and other iniquities that bred discontent.  Twenty years later, that same restiveness would erupt once more into open rebellion.

 

As genuine peace advocates, we should go beyond calling for the resumption of peace negotiations.  We should join hands with those other sectors and classes of Philippine society who likewise clamor and struggle for those basic reforms  that will bring freedom, democracy and social justice to our people.###

 


 

 

Appendix 1.  The Hague Joint Declaration

 

 

We, the undersigned emissary of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the undersigned representative of the National Democratic Front (NDF) have held exploratory talks at The Hague, The Netherlands on August 31 ‑ September 1, 1992 and have agreed to recommend to our respective principals the following:

 

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

 

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

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Preparatory to the formal peace negotiations, we have agreed to recommend the following:

 

    1. Specific measures of goodwill and confidence‑building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations; and

 

    1. The substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations shall include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio‑economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

 

 

Signed on September 1, 1992 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

 


 

  

 

Appendix 2.   Talking Points, GRP-MILF Peace Negotiations

 

Original 9 Talking Points

1)  Ancestral Domain

2)  Displaced and Landless Bangsamoro

3)  Destruction of  Properties and war  Victims

4)  Human Rights

5)  Social and Cultural Discrimination

6)  Corruption of mind and the Moral Fiber

7)  Economic Inequities and Widespread poverty

8)  Exploitation of Natural Resources

9)  Agrarian Related Issues

 

Regrouped into 6 Clusters with a Technical Working Group assigned to each cluster.

 

 1. Ancestral domain and Agrarian Related Issues.

 

 2. Destruction of Properties and Victims of  War, and the Displaced and Landless Bangsa Moro.

 

 3. Human Rights Issues.

 

 4. Social and Cultural Discrimination and  Corruption of the Mind and Moral Fiber.

 

 5. Economic Inequities and Widespread Poverty.

 

 6. Exploitation of Natural Resources.

 


 

 

 

Appendix 3.  The 7-point proposal presented by GRP to the NDFP in the Feb 19 2003 talks:

 

  1. an enhanced process whereby a single, comprehensive document in the form of a final peace agreement will be the outcome at the end of the negotiations.

  2. a reiteration of the agenda that shall be contained in the fpa and shall be subject to negotiations, namely:

    1. human rights and international humanitarian law

    2. social and economic reforms

    3. political and constitutional reforms

    4. end of hostilities and disposition of forces

  3. an affirmation that the end-goal of the process is the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict, leading to a permanent cessation of hostilities and renunciation of violence, national unity and reintegration of rebel forces into mainstream society in accordance with the Philippine Constitution

  4. a mutually agreed upon work plan aiming for completion of the negotiations within a maximum period of six months

  5. the immediate setting-up (sic) of four reciprocal working committees by the respective negotiating panels – with one rwc assigned to one agenda item – to simultaneously review the pertinent portions of the proposed drafts and come to agreement on each agenda point.

  6. as a confidence-building measure, the issuance of both parties of a unilateral declaration of suspension of military operations (SOMO) during the six-month negotiation process

  7. issuance of a joint statement by the negotiating panels from time to time during the course of the negotiations to give an update report on the progress of the talks, when deemed necessary

 


 

 

Appendix 4.  Salamat Hashim interview, on the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Accord:

 

Ø  The agreement considered side issues only and never touched the core of the Bangsamoro problem which is the illegal and immoral usurpation of their ancestral homeland and the barbarous usurpation of their legitimate rights to freedom and self-determination.

Ø  The agreement is devoid of justice and freedom for the Bangsamoro people and peace without justice and freedom for the aggrieved party is another form of colonial suppression

Ø  The agreement is a solution to the problem of the GRP only but not the Bangsamoro problem

Ø  The GRP-MNLF agreement is a violation of the Tripoli Agreement which is now nowhere due to that agreement…

 

 

 

 

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