Prospects for Genuine Peace Agreements

Rey Claro Casambre
Philippine Peace Center
2nd Anniversary EDSA 2
January 17, 2002
Shalom Center, Manila

At the height of our campaign to oust the immoral, corrupt, and warmongering Erap, wepeaceforum presented to then Vice President GMA the “People’s Agenda” which is basically identical to what we are challenging her with now. We recall that even then, GMA had hedged and hawed on the issues of national and economic sovereignty. And it was only on the issue of the peace that she categorically, emphatically and unequivocally committed herself to “reverse the Estrada policy of all-out-war” and embark on the road to all-out-peace. Specifically, she would resume the peace negotiations with the NDF and the MILF which had both been terminated during Estrada’s time.

Indeed, when GMA assumed the presidency, we were dismayed, but not surprised, that she would retain, continue to pursue and even reinforce the same anti-national and anti-people and anti-national economic policies and foreign policies of previous administrations. On the other hand, she did keep her promise of resuming talks with the NDF and MILF.

But not for long. Formal talks with the NDF were unilaterally recessed by the government in June 2001 and have never been resumed since then.

From June 2001 up to the present, instead of undertaking confidence and building measures to pave the way for the resumption of formal talks, the GMA government put up one obstacle after another and made the resumption virtually impossible.

First, it expanded Cabinet Cluster E (which oversees the peace negotiations with armed the NDF, MILF and MNLF) into a Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) with the addition of top defense, military, police and intelligence officials, thereby allowing the hawks and militarists to dominate and control government policy and decisions on the peace process.

Second, it emasculated the GRP Negotiating panel’s mandate to negotiate by requiring it to clear everything and anything with the COC-IS before it signs anything – be it an agreement, a joint communique, implementing guidelines, or even a one-page press statement, by suspending formal negotiations (in March 2002) and ordering backchannel talks in its stead, and adding a new layer of authority — special emissaries for backchannel talks with the power to negotiate and sign agreements with both the NDF and MILF.

Third, in several backchannel talks, the GRP proposed ,a “final peace agreement” that departed from the previous framework set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 by providing for the end of hostilities and disarming and demobilization of the NPA even without comprehensive agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict, and providing that the Agreement be implemented in accordance with the GRP Constitution and its legal processes . Thus, instead of paving the way to the resumption of formal talks, the GRP succeeded, through backchannel talks, in making the resumption of formal talks virtually impossible.

Fourth , the GMA government, at the instance of the hawks and militarists, collaborated with the warmongering US Bush government in using the so-called “war against terror” as a pretext to promote the line of employing superior military force to crush armed opposition groups and end the armed conflict. The US and GMA governments attempted to blackmail both the NDF and MILF into laying down their arms and rejoining the mainstream of society under the government’s terms or run the risk of being tagged terrorist and facing the full force of the gobal “counterterrorist war”. Indeed, the CPP-NPA and Prof Jose Ma Sison were eventually branded “foreign terrorists” by the US, Canada, Australia, and the European Union including The Netherlands and Belgium.

The terrorist tag now presents the single biggest obstacle to the resumption of the formal talks. The NDF points to the GRP’s campaign to have the CPP-NPA and JMS named “terrorist” as a gross violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG, and declared that it cannot negotiate with the GRP while the NDFP negotiators and personnel are under duress.

(Note: if there is time, cite similarities or parallels in GRP-MILF peace talks)

“Healing the divisiveness in our society” — this is the second item in GMA’s avowed priorities after she had announced her withdrawal from the 2004 presidential derby.

What “divisiveness” was she referring to? Is it the divisiveness between her political party and that of the opposition? Or could she be referring to the deepest divides in our society — between the haves and the have-nots, the oppressors and the oppressed, the exploiters and the exploiters?

So far we have not seen signs of her addressing these deepest divides, only attempts at conciliation and rapproachment with the opposition. But if, as she claims, she is withdrawing from the 2004 race precisely to be freed from the distractions of politics, then one would think that her avowed new priorities and goals includes resolving the armed conflicts that have been raging in our country for the last 30 plus years – the armed conflict between the government and the NDF, and the armed conflict between the government and the Moro separatist movements.

As many have already pointed out, there can be no true reform without an objective and sincere appraisal and admission of shortcomings and faults. Without correct diagnosis, there can be no correct prescription and cure. Or, as Christians would say, without an act of contrition, there can be no penance, reform, nor forgiveness.

With respect to the armed conflicts, there can be no genuine peace — no healing of divisiveness — without the parties agreeing on what are the causes of the armed conflict and how these can be uprooted and removed. That is why the agenda of the formal peace talks (between the government and the NDF and the MILF) properly conisist of negotiations on basic social, economic and political reforms

We now hear about the GRP accelerating the draft of its “final peace agreement” with the NDFP, and a so-called “package” for the MILF, in preparation for the resumption of formal talks with both parties. This morning, in Today, Secretary Reyes is reported to have announced the “National Internal Security Plan”, which has a “holistic approach” and aims to minimize if not end the threat of insurgency in five years’ time. Is there anything new here? Is this any different from the holistic, total war approach of Marcos, Aquino, Ramos and Estrada?

Will the GMA government reverse herself and remove all the abovementioned obstacles to the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the NDF and MILF?

Learn from the Mindanao experience. There have been two “final peace agreements” in the past 20 years: the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the GRP-MNLF Peace Accord of 1996. The Tripoli Agreement led to the formation of the ARMM as well as the formation of the MILF and eventually the continuation, intensification and expansion of armed conflict in Mindanao, including with the MNLF which subsequently rejected the ARMM. The 1996 Accord led to the formation of the SPCPD and the installation of MNLF Chair Nur Misuari as the governor of ARMM. As we very well can see, the two peace agreements did not resolve the armed conflict and Mindanao and Nur Misuari himself is behind bars for rebellion.

To conclude, what is needed is a Genuine Peace Agreement, not a “Final Peace Agreement” that, by its design, intent and content, is anything but final. Genuine because it will lead to genuine peace, genuine because it is genuinely agreed upon by two forces with mutual respect and with the common goal of seeking peace by upholding national freedom, genuine democracy and social justice.

The road to freedom, democracy and social justice is long, winding and tortuous. There are no shortcuts in the genuine quest for genuine peace. #