Prospects and Challenges for Genuine Peace

Paper for NEPP-PEPP Luzon Workshop
Rey Claro Casambre
Philippine Peace Center
Subic Bay, 11 October 2007

Four months ago, in June 2007, a faint glimmer of hope shone amidst the seemingly nepp_peppimpermeable darkness and uncertainty that had shrouded the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations for the past three years.

For the first time since the formal talks were postponed and then suspended indefinitely in 2004, both the GRP and the NDFP appeared to be seeking a way out of the impasse, both sides displaying a willingness to compromise and bend from erstwhile hardline positions in order to find a mutually acceptable formula for the declaration of a ceasefire and the resumption of formal peace talks. The government proposed a ceasefire for a number of months for the duration of talks, a departure from its prior precondition of a prolonged or indefinite ceasefire that the NDFP had always before rejected. The NDFP responded by saying it was open to a limited ceasefire for the duration of the formal talks, preceded by a joint agreement in accordance with a proposed ten-point “Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace”, with all prior bilateral agreements.

The optimism would be reinforced by the positive intervention of the Supreme Court that unequivocally spoke against the evident pattern and state policy of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the Supreme Court called for an unprecedented national summit to address these problems and formulate new legal procedures that would help deter and minimize, if not eradicate, the incidence of these human rights violations.

All that now seems so far away. The glimmer of hope has not only faded, it has been violently extinguished

There is no doubt that the recent arrest of Prof. JMS and the raids on the office and residences of the NDFP panel members and staff in Utrecht, The Netherlands have drastically changed the situation for the worse, perhaps irreversibly.

What is the impact of arrest on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations?

  • At a time when the peace negotiations badly need gestures of goodwill and confidence-building measures, the arrest of JMS and raids on offices and residences of NDFP negotiating panel members and staff have dealt the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations a severe blow, that threatens to extinguish what little hope is left for the resumption of the formal talks and the advance in the negotiations.
  • As expected, the NDFP condemns the attacks, sees these as a sign of negotiating in bad faith, and declares it will not negotiate with a government that violates, rather than complies with the bilateral agreements.
  • Mauunawaan natin ang NDF kung iisipin nitong wala nang intension ang GRP sa ilalim ni Macapagal-Arroyo at pursigido itong gamitin ang buong marahas na lakas ng estado para durugin ito. While it initially denied any participation in the move of the Dutch government, documents released by the Dutch prosecution show that the Dutch action was in response to a request by the GRP to extradite Prof. Sison (26 Jan 2005). Eventually, Sec. Norberto Gonzales, Sec. Raul Gonzales, PNP Director Calderon and Deputy Director Razon all admitted, or rather claimed, that they had provided the Dutch government evidences and assisted the accusers of Prof. Sison in filing the case in the Netherlands.
  • The US likewise professes not to have been involved, and offers its assistance if the Dutch government requests it, but in fact the testimonies of some of the witnesses were taken by the Dutch investigators at the US embassy.
  • It is also clear that NDFP will not give in to GRP pressure to sign a “final peace accord” that does not address the roots of the armed conflict, or that is tantamount to its capitulation or surrender.
  • Despite this, neither party has terminated the negotiations nor declared the agreements are no longer binding. This is the proverbial silver lining that gives us, peace advocates, the objective basis for persevering in our calls for the resumption of formal talks and for pushing the negotiations forward in accordance with the bilateral agreements both parties had forged.

What can and should peace advocates do in a situation where both sides appear to be unwilling to resume formal talks?

  • We cannot remain passive in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Rather, these only mean we must work harder to keep the peace negotiations alive and exert utmost effort to push it forward.
  • Join hands in common struggle, seek common principles, aspirations and goals, and work on these together and present a stronger voice.
  • Our advocacy cannot be a function of our perception of how “sincere” or “willing” either or both parties are in seeking a genuine peace, but from our faith and conviction that a just and enduring peace is possible and necessary.
  • Our quest for a genuine peace has as its main content the advocacy for basic or fundamental reforms that address the roots of the armed conflict. (Note: learn from the experience of the Moro people, or from the peace negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF and the MILF).
  • Here are some concrete proposals to address the roots of the armed conflict:
    o Genuine land reform and national industrialization
    o Empowerment of masses through genuine representation
    o Economic sovereignty
    o Independent foreign policy
    o Indictment, investigation and prosecution of plunder, corruption
    o Normal trade and diplomatic relations with other countries
    o Patriotic, scientific and mass culture through education, mass media and mass organizations, cherish the cultural heritage of the Filipino nation and all the ethno-linguistic communities in the country
    o Recognition of right to self-determination of minorities
    o Cancellation of unjust, onerous foreign debts
    o Truce for the purpose of alliance and other constructive purposes

(These are the items in the NDFP’s “Concise Proposal for an Immediate and Just Peace, presented to the GRP in August 2005)

  • Take a long view of the peace process
    • Tactically, what to do under conditions that Arroyo government has no intention of proceeding with an agenda that will address the roots of the armed conflict;
      • Study the process, especially the bilateral agreements (see The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations). Pay special attention to The 1992 Hague Joint Declaration, on p.1)
      • Call for the resumption of the formal talks
      • Absent the resumption, call for the operationalization of the JMC (to address the complaints vs EJKs and other violations of both sides.)
      • Take a position on the problems and issues, eg the recent arrest and raids, and political
    • Strategically or in the long term, view the peace process beyond GMA whether or not she remains de-facto president before, up to or beyond 2010. Peace negotiations has spanned and can continue to span different administrations (Ramos, Estrada, GMA), and will certainly outlive GMA


From Chapter 9, Searching for Peace in Asia-Pacific – An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities (edited by Annelies Heijmans, Nicola Simmonds, and Hans van de Veen; a project of the European Center for Conflict Prevention):

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[i]. 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)[ii], 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”.

(This has taken a turn for the worse with the collaboration of the US and Dutch governments in the recent arrest of Prof Sison and the raids on the office and residences of the NDFP negotiating panel members and staff.)


The Philippine experience in conflict resolution validates the criteria for an efficacious approach prescribed by Miall, Ramsbotham and Woodhouse in “Calling for a Broad Approach to Conflict Resolution”[iii]. The GRP-NDFP negotiations and the agreements reached show that progress is possible so long as (1) the parties enter into the negotiations without preconditions or any imposition from either side or outside parties, (2) the agreements are crafted in precise language that strikes a balance between commitment and flexibility (3) there is mutuality and reciprocity in the provisions, and (4) they deal with the core issues and bring about basic changes in society, “in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice[iv].”

1. The most difficult but essential thing to “justpeace-building” is to ensure that the peace process “deals with the core issues” – i.e., it is aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, especially the social and economic ones. With respect to bilateral peace negotiations, conflict resolution and prevention means ensuring that agreements identify and address the root causes of conflict, prevent their perpetuation and aggravation, and thereby avert the recurrence of violent conflict.

2. Addressing the root causes of armed conflict is invariably a long-drawn out and complicated process. Thus the peace process must be so designed as to generate immediate tangible gains that benefit the people in general, mitigate the adverse effects of the armed conflict, and serve to build confidence and goodwill as the negotiations advance towards the goal of a lasting peace.

This is the advantage in having the agreement on the respect for human rights and international humanitarian law as the first item of the substantive agenda. Its implementation could at once, in the absence of a settlement, mitigate the human cost of the armed conflict. The returns in terms of imbuing both combatants and non-combatants with greater respect for human rights are invaluable, if intangible. The forging of the CARHRIHL likewise helped build confidence in the capabilities of the two parties to move forward to the more contentious item on the agenda, the socio-economic reforms.

3. The peace process needs all the help it can get. Third party official intervention can be either positive (offers of good offices, hosting, facilitation) or negative (e.g., the “terrorist” listings). Intervention by other international organizations can be positive if they contribute to the identification, elaboration and resolution of the causes of armed conflict, and if they help the parties build on their bilateral agreements rather than try to impose their own ideas. Neutrality should mean not taking the side of either party. In the Philippine context, the kind of neutrality which is good, possible, and necessary makes the interests of the greater majority of the Filipino people the paramount consideration in determining what position to adopt vis à vis the twists and turns in the negotiations.

The GRP-NDFP armed conflict has never been purely an internal affair, with the US playing a dominant role in Philippine politics, economy and social-cultural life. September 11 has injected renewed US military activity in the country under the guise of “counter-terrorism”. The inclusion of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison in foreign “terrorist” lists underscores the negative impact of international geopolitics on the GRP-NDFP conflict and conflict-resolution.

4. The GRP and NDFP must uphold and comply with bilateral agreements that have proven to be effective in advancing the talks and achieving further substantial agreements. Foremost is The Hague Joint Declaration which serves as the framework and foundation of the negotiations.

5. There is a vast potential for building a strong peace constituency in the people’s movement clamoring for socio-economic and political reforms. To a larger extent, such potential lies in both the organized and still unorganized grassroots masses in the countryside, who are most directly affected by the armed conflict, and who stand to benefit most by its just resolution.

The NGOs, POs and other organizations and individuals in this people’s movement have presented sharp critiques of the present system, policies, etc., and clamor for basic reforms. But they still have to link their advocacy to the peace process, particularly the peace negotiations, and affirm their roles as true stakeholders.

There is a pressing need for further peace education and information work among the populace, the POs, NGOs and other sectoral and grassroots organizations, and for involving them into activities that directly support and enhance the peace process.

In the end it is the people’s conscious and sustained participation in the peace process that will push it forward in the direction of addressing the roots of the armed conflict. The Filipino people are the final arbiters on what will bring about genuine peace.

Realistically speaking, a just and lasting peace in the Philippines is still far beyond the horizon. The peace process has stretched out over many years. The ultimate resolution of the conflict will only come with much more painstaking work not only inside the negotiating room, but more decisively, outside its walls.



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

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

[iii]Hugh Miall, Oliver Ramsbotham & Tony Woodhouse, “Calling for a Broad Approach to Conflict Resolution”, in Searching for Peace in Central and South Asia, edited by Monique Mekenkamp, Paul van Tongeren and Hans van de Veen. Boulder, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 2002, p. 34.

[iv]Luis Jalandoni and Jose Yap, “The Hague Joint Declaration”. Signed and issued by Cong. Jose Yap and Luis Jalandoni representing GRP President Ramos and the NDFP, respectively, The Hague, 1 September 1992.

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