The Forces of Change Must Prevail- Peace Negotiations in the Philippines

by Rey Claro Casambre
Philippine Peace Center

Introduction: The armed conflicts in the Philippines

There are two major armed conflicts that have been raging in the Philippines for over threepovertyphilippines
decades now. One is the civil war between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) a broad united front fighting for national and social liberation under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and with the New People’s Army (NPA) as its armed force. The other is the war between the Manila government and the Muslim secessionist movement initially led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and currently by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It is no coincidence that the CPP and the MNLF were both founded in the late 1960s and early 1970s amidst the social crisis and turbulence that embroiled Philippine society then. Half a century of colonial rule and two decades of neo-colonial rule has stunted the economy in its backward pre-industrial and semi-feudal state. The economic and political crisis had reached a point where significantly large segments of the population, especially the toiling peasants and workers, were prepared to take up arms against foreign, mainly US, domination and the central political authority. The ruling classes could no longer rule in the old way.

The suspension by President Marcos of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in August 1971 and his subsequent imposition of martial rule in September 1972 indeed demonstrated that the ruling class could no longer rule in the old way, and the country was ripe for revolution. In one stroke of a pen, martial law rendered all dissent and opposition to the Marcos regime illegal, including that of the factions of the ruling class not in power. For fourteen years, the Marcos dictatorship threw its entire apparatus and arsenal of deception and force to suppress the people’s resistance, and especially against the revolutionary forces fighting for national democracy and the Moro liberation movement fighting for self-determination.

Martial law brought about massive human rights violations, intensified social inequities and opened up the nation’s wealth to plunder by foreign monopolists and their local big comprador partners led by the Marcos fascist clique. The intolerable economic hardships and political repression wrought on the people merely drove them to fight the dictatorship even more resolutely and in ever greater numbers. Rather than be intimidated and stifled, both the legal democratic struggles and the armed movements grew in strength and scope. From a few rifles and handguns in a single district in Central Luzon in 1969, the NPA grew to force of a few thousand high power rifles and was deeply rooted among the peasantry in all regions throughout the archipelago by 1986.

As for the Moro secessionist movement, the Marcos regime succeeded in drawing the MNLF into signing the 1976 Tripoli Agreement whereby the Moro people would supposedly be granted regional autonomy in the thirteen southern provinces that consist the island groups of Mindanao and Palawan, but in accordance with the GRP Constitution and legal processes. This resulted in the partial and temporary neutralization of the MNLF.

Partial because in 1977, a significant fraction of the MNLF that rejected the Tripoli Agreement, led by no less than it Vice-Chairman then, Hashim Salamat, broke away and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Temporary because it soon became clear that the Manila government had no intent to grant outright regional autonomy to all 13 provinces of Mindanao and Palawan, instead subjecting the question to a referendum, purportedly in accordance with the GRP constitutional and legal processes. The Manila-controlled referendum resulted in a token autonomous region of only four provinces.

The sham GRP referendum and autonomy raised the credibility and standing of the MILF among the Moro people. On the other hand, to maintain its following and to regain lost prestige, the MNLF was compelled to condemn the GRP for reneging on the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The MNLF eventually resume its call for armed struggle.

In 1996, the MNLF once again signed a peace agreement with the GRP, resulting in the formation of a Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development headed by MNLF Chair Nur Misuari but under the GRP. Again, regional autonomy was promised, this time with substantial funds for administration and development. Clearly, this “Final Peace Accord, as it was optimistically, if deceptively called fully coopted and effectively neutralized the MNLF. But it did not finally bring peace to Mindanao and the Moro people, and in no sense at all could it be called “final”.

The MILF on the other hand persisted in armed struggle even as engaged the Manila government in peace negotiations. Learning from the GRP-MNLF peace talks, the MILF resisted the adoption of the GRP constitution as framework for negotiations. While the MILF entered into interim cease-fire agreements with the GRP for the duration of talks, sporadic fighting continued, flaring up in an all-out war initiated by the Estrada government in 1999. This resulted in the dismantling of large MILF camps in Central Mindanao but not in any significant decimation of MILF armed forces.

Peace negotiations between the GRP and MILF have more or less run a parallel course with the GRP-NDFP negotiations. The MILF have likewise been following closely the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and are known to have drawn valuable lessons from this. This makes for an interesting comparison, but a comprehensive study is beyond the scope of our discussion now. We shall only refer to some salient points regarding the GRP-MNLF and GRP-MILF talks insofar as they will help clarify and amplify the points we shall raise with regard to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

Peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP first became possible in 1986 with the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship and the installation of the Aquino government through a combined people’s uprising and military rebellion. However, the peace talks which began in December got bogged down in issues on safety and immunity guarantees and monitoring the cease-fire. Before any discussion on substantive issues could be undertaken, the talks were scuttled in January 1987 after government troops fired on a demonstration of thousands of peasants clamoring for genuine land reform, killing more than a dozen, and ultra-rightist military elements plotted to assassinate the NDFP negotiators to destabilize the government as part of a coup plot.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations that have been going on for the past ten years was initiated by then GRP President Fidel Ramos as soon as he assumed the presidency in 1992. Ironically, it was Ramos who, as Defense Secretary in the Aquino government, stood as the main obstacle to having peace negotiations with the NDFP by insisting that the NPA first lay down their arms, that the talks should be held under the framework of the GRP Constitution, and that local-level talks (i.e., regional and provincial) should be held rather than on the national level, in order to divide the armed movement.

In his inaugural address, Ramos explained that he was calling for peace negotiations with all armed opposition movements (i.e., the CPP-NPA-NDF, the MNLF, the MILF and the RAM-YOU-SFP military rebels) to improve the political atmosphere and thereby attract and retain foreign investments. This is partly true and can be considered among the GRP’s minimum objectives in entering into peace talks with the NDFP and the Moro liberation movements. (In several instances where talks have been recessed or suspended by the GRP, the GRP would return to the negotiating table whenever foreign investments were being driven away by the deteriorating business infrastructure, or by revelations of scandalous cases of graft and corruption.)

What Ramos did not say then was that he wanted peace negotiations because he could ill afford to face armed opposition from several flanks, having been elected by a small 23% minority. . Indeed, engaging the armed opposition in peace talks promptly brought Ramos clear dividends when the military rebels under the RAM-YOU-SFP signed a peace accord with the GRP on December 22, 1992. This is not surprising since, unlike the other armed groups, the military rebels had no problem in recognizing the sovereignty of the GRP and accepting the GRP Constitution as the framework for a peace accord, including its provision that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is the sole legitimate military force in the country.

In fact, the larger and principal objective of Ramos’ offer for peace talks in 1992 was to neutralize the armed opposition by inducing it to capitulate or at the least by sowing confusion, dissension and demoralization among their ranks and their supporters. The peace talks are aimed at driving a wedge deeper between those who firmly advocate armed struggle on one hand and those who are demoralized and tend to prefer parliamentary struggle as the main if not the only form of struggle on the other. They are meant to divert the revolutionary forces and the people as a whole away from revolutionary solutions to the age-old problems of foreign domination, feudal exploitation and oppression, and bureaucrat capitalist graft, corruption and plunder.

In his first State of the Nation address on July 1, 1993, Ramos crowed that “our peace initiative has succeeded beyond expectation… we have split the leadership of the communist insurgency to the core…” The boast turned out to be premature and empty, and the Ramos government was soon compelled to resume talks with the NDFP. Nonetheless, neutralizing the revolutionary movement would remain the overriding GRP goal in the negotiations that would determine and explain the GRP’s positioning, maneuvering and its entire conduct in the peace talks up to the present. What the GRP could no longer achieve through military means in the battlefield, it sought to accomplish over the negotiating table through peace talks.

The key to achieving this objective lies in enticing the armed opposition groups into subordinating themselves to the GRP sovereignty or political authority. This is expressed through the following basic preconditions or stipulations which the GRP would time and again attempt to spring if not impose on these groups in the negotiations:

  • That the peace negotiations would be held with the GRP constitution as the framework, and corollarily, that all agreements shall be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the GRP constitution and legal processes.
  • That the armed opposition groups lay down their arms first before peace talks are held or, in cases of termination, suspension or recess, before they are resumed.
  • That nothing in the negotiations and agreements shall confer to the other party (NDFP, MNLF or MILF) a status of belligerency.

The NDFP is keenly aware of all these objectives of the GRP. Why then had it entered into peace negotiations and continued to engage the government in this form of struggle?

NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Ma.Sison, in two major articles that discussed the historical circumstances and basic principles that would guide the NDFP’s conduct in the peace negotiation, clearly discussed the opposing objectives and frameworks of the GRP and the NDFP in peace negotiations, while pointing out the conditions under which these contradictory aspects could be brought together and contend with the negotiating table as the arena.

First of all, the NDFP recognizes that despite the GRP’s objectives and the resources at its command, any ruling government cannot fully do as it wishes insofar as the negotiations are concerned. The very nature of the negotiations allows the NDFP to consider or weigh whatever terms are being set, and simply reject any precondition that will undermine and destroy its revolutionary integrity. If vigilant and firm enough, the NDFP can always refuse to negotiate under conditions that will lead or amount to its capitulation or surrender

Moreover, any GRP president may be compelled to negotiate by the growing intensity of the social and economic crisis and the growing all-round opposition to its rule or to the entire ruling system. As pointed out earlier, the GRP negotiating panel had unilaterally recessed and suspended the talks several times, but always returned to the negotiating table whenever there was a critical need to improve the political climate. Even the deposed President Estrada, who terminated peace talks with the NDFP before his first year in office was over, seriously and urgently sent emissaries to the NDFP negotiating panel in The Netherlands, offering to resume peace talks at the height of the people’s campaign for his ouster, in a futile attempt to mitigate the increasing attacks on his self and his administration.

The minimum objective of the NDFP in accepting the Ramos initiative to hold peace talks is to show the people that it is the NDFP, and not the GRP, that is genuinely interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and attaining a just and lasting peace. By engaging the GRP in peace talks, defining and standing firm on what constitutes a reasonable framework and modalities for the talks, the NDFP challenges and frustrates any GRP administration’s attempt to project itself as seriously seeking social reform to bring genuine peace, and compels it to reveal its real reactionary intentions.

Properly and skillfully handled, the peace negotiations are an important and useful platform for propagating the NDFP’s programme for a people’s democratic revolution based on its analysis of the problems that beset Philippine society. The NDFP programme for a genuinely free, democratic and just society is reflected in its proposals for social, economic and political reforms which form a major part of the substantive agenda of the talks. The NDFP line for achieving a just and lasting peace is no other than the revolutionary line of fighting for national freedom and genuine democracy.

The peace negotiations are also an arena in which the NDFP articulates and demonstrates its firm and principled adherence to international norms, principles and policies such as on human rights, international humanitarian law, and other international social covenants and instruments. In this regard the NDFP is placed on equal footing as the GRP in the eyes of the international community as a legitimate and responsible political authority.

The NDFP goes as far as demonstrating its political and moral superiority over the GRP as a revolutionary force fighting for the interests of the Filipino people. In negotiating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), for example, the NDFP consistently applied revolutionary principles on the concrete Philippine human rights situation and adamantly pushed specific provisions for giving redress to and alleviating the plight of human rights victims. Likewise, the principles and instruments of international humanitarian law were applied by the NDFP to the armed conflict in the Philippines to propose concrete provisions that could mitigate the human cost and suffering from war.

The NDFP aims to forge with the GRP bilateral agreements that benefit the people immediately and in the long term. Again the CARHRIHL is an excellent example of how the people are provided a potentially powerful instrument for safeguarding and upholding the their human rights, especially now that both the GRP and NDFP principals have approved it, making it binding and effective on both parties and with both having joint and separate responsibilities in implementing it.

The CARHRIHL by itself and thru its implementation also serves as a confidence-building measure for the continuance of the peace negotiations. That the GRP and NDFP have been able to forge such an agreement was beyond literally everybody’s expectations. It thus provides confidence in and brightens up the prospects for achieving similar agreements on the more contentious issues of social, economic and political reforms.

Viewed in this light, branding the CPP, NPA and Prof Sison terrorists to isolate, stigmatize, demonize and criminalize them is ridiculous, absurd and grossly unjust.

How has the NDFP escaped the trap of capitulation, surrender, or the spread of confusion and dissension in its ranks and among its supporters? How has it preserved and enhanced its revolutionary integrity through ten years of negotiating with the GRP?

First, by clearly establishing that the objective of the negotiations is the resolution of the armed conflict and the attainment of a just and lasting peace. The latter qualification is a safeguard against any attempt merely to attain a cessation of hostilities by whatever means without addressing the social and historical roots of the armed conflict.

Second, by firmly rejecting and resisting the GRP scheme of using the GRP constitution as the framework for the peace negotiations, or corollarily, of interpreting and implementing all agreements in accordance with the GRP constitution and legal processes. The GRP had tried to impose this as a precondition to holding the talks, but the NDFP had always rejected this as absolutely unacceptable and made it clear that it would never negotiate under this framework, in much the same way that the NDFP does not expect the GRP to agree to negotiate with the NDFP constitution as framework.

Third, by firmly rejecting and resisting GRP attempts to subordinate the NDFP legally or politically by various means, such as in the modalities or conduct of the talks and in the formulations of provisions in the agreements on the substantive agenda. These include issues on safety and immunity guarantees, the venue and ground rules for the formal talks, the formation, sequence and operationalization of reciprocal working committees that do preparatory work on each substantive agenda for the negotiating panels.

It would be quite informative and helpful to examine how these safeguards and guidelines are instituted or, in computer parlance, “installed” (in the same way one installs an anti-virus shield in one’s computer) and reflected in a number of major bilateral agreements so far achieved by the GRP and NDFP.

The Hague Joint Declaration of September 1, 1992 is the landmark framework agreement that sets the basic parameters, principles, conditions and guidelines under which the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations can and must take place. It is a one-page document that clearly states the following:

    1. Formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP shall be held to resolve the armed conflict.
    2. The common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
    3. 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 NDFP.
    4. 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.
    5. Preparatory to the formal peace negotiations, we have agreed to recommend the following:a. Specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations; and
      b. The substantive agenda of the formal negotiations shall include human rights, international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

        We note that items (1) and (2) commit both parties to the goal of resolving the armed conflict and achieving a just and lasting peace. Coupled with item (5), we see that the underlying logic in having the end of hostilities and disposition of forces as the final item in the substantive agenda is that these can only be considered when there are agreements signed and sufficient guarantees in place on substantive reforms that address the roots of the armed conflict.

The Hague Joint Declaration does not explicitly set this sequence, and the GRP not surprisingly attempted to “refine” the substantive agenda by inserting capitulation-related items such as amnesty and rehabilitation and by jumbling the sequence so that cessation of hostilities comes on top. But the NDFP objected to the proposal of adding superfluous and capitulation-oriented items, and insisted on the logic behind the sequence in which they are expressed The Hague Joint Declaration.

This would subsequently be firmed up in the “Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs)” signed by both panels on June 26, 1995, and the “Supplemental Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWC Agreement) “ signed on March 18, 1997. The latter agreement stipulates that each agreement on the substantive agenda shall be effective and binding on both parties, with each party having joint as well as separate responsibilities in implementing the agreement, and that the third agenda item will only be.

The importance of the proper sequence is underscored by the fact that throughout the ten years of talks, the GRP had constantly attempted to push for an “adjustment”, proposing one or another variation of a scheme wherein agreements can be crafted and signed by the panels and even their respective principals but the implementation of these are reserved or deferred until the agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces is achieved. Currently, the GRP has been pushing for a “final peace agreement” using this formula of “3-in-1”, i.e., three comprehensive agreements in one “final peace accord”.

Item (4) of The Hague Joint Declaration establishes as the framework of the negotiations “mutually acceptable principles including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice…” thus preventing either party from imposing on the other any framework that is not mutually acceptable, especially its own constitution. The NDFP has repeatedly invoked this principle to parry and frustrate all GRP attempts to impose its constitution as framework for the talks.

Furthermore, the NDFP has had to be constantly on the alert against GRP attempts to insert specific provisions stipulating that the agreements, partly or entirely, must be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the GRP constitution and legal processes. The GRP justifies these by equating “national sovereignty” with its claim to being the “sole sovereign power”, therefore implying that the NDFP must submit to its political authority.

But this argument falls flat on its face when “mutually acceptable principles including national sovereignty” is understood in the context of the entire sentence in which it is found. The sentence concludes with “…no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”. This phrase at once precludes the precondition that the NDFP recognize the GRP as the “sole sovereign power”. The very reason why negotiations have become necessary is not merely the NDFP’s own claim to being a sovereign power, but that it wields in fact political authority over a significant portion of Philippine territory and population, and a people’s army that defends and enforces that political authority.

Another clear example of such a precondition which the NDFP considers non-negotiable is the GRP’s prior insistence that the NPA first lay down its arms before talks are held. Again, the NDFP has had to be on the alert for other variations of preconditions that effectively subordinate the NDFP to the GRP’s political authority, negating the inherent character and purpose of the negotiations. A not-so-subtle precondition is the proposal of the GRP to have an “interim cease-fire for the duration of the talks”. With this proposal, the GRP can stretch the negotiations indefinitely and preside over a de-facto end of hostilities without a single substantive reform in place. In the negotiations for the CARHRIHL a more innocuous precondition is the proposal to place the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Office of the President of the GRP, effectively subordinating the NDFP members of the JMC under the authority of the GRP.

The GRP time and again has proposed and insisted on holding the negotiations in the Philippines and without any foreign third party. This notwithstanding JASIG, Section III, No. 6 which provides, “The venue of the formal talks shall be Brussels, Belgium, unless both parties mutually agree on another neutral venue. For this purpose, both parties shall separately make arrangements with the host country concerned..”

The GRP argues simplistically that the armed conflict is a domestic and internal problem and should be resolved bilaterally between the GRP and the NDFP, in Philippine territory. Or, it argues that holding negotiations abroad is much more expensive than holding them locally. The NDFP on the other hand insists on holding the talks in a neutral foreign venue, since it will always be under duress if the talks are held in the Philippines, unless they are held in territory controlled by the NDFP, with the NPA providing security to the GRP panel and staff. The GRP, of course, will never concede on paper that the NDFP controls any part of Philippine territory, although in practice they do so whenever they arrange for a safe and expeditious release of prisoners of war held by the NPA.

In this regard, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) plays an important role not only in safeguarding the security of NDFP personnel and others involved in the negotiations but not necessarily members of the NDFP, but also in establishing equality, mutuality and parity between the GRP and NDFP on questions of safety and immunity. The JASIG unequivocally states: “Each party has the inherent right to issue documents of identification to its negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel and such documents shall be duly recognized as safe conduct passes as provided in this Joint Agreement.” (I. Safety, No. 2)

The bilateral agreements are replete with examples of how, in negotiating and crafting these agreements, the NDFP has taken care to establish and uphold the fundamental principles of equality, parity, mutuality and reciprocity and thereby maintain its integrity as a revolutionary organization.

On several occasions that the GRP stalled the talks after the NDFP had refused to accept its preconditions and impositions, the GRP charged the NDFP with using the peace negotiations to attain a status of belligerency. The NDFP’s response to this charge is that it has neither the intention nor the need to gain a status of belligerency from the GRP through negotiations or by any other means. The NDFP avers that it already has a status of belligerency, and this has been achieved over years of hard struggle and sacrifice in the battlefield and other arenas of struggle.

The current impasse

Formal peace negotiations were resumed in April 2001, three months after the overthrow of Estrada and the assumption into the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But this was recessed indefinitely and unilaterally by the GRP in June 2001. Formal talks were suspended by the GRP in March 2002 and remain suspended till now.

The current impasse was brought about principally by the GRP’s collaboration with the US and other foreign powers such as the Royal Dutch Government and the European Council of Ministers in naming the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, as terrorists.

The demonization and criminalization of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison by the US, Canadian, Australian and Dutch governments and by the Council of Ministers of the European Union by naming them terrorists has seriously jeopardized the peace negotiations, if it had not yet in fact been scuttled. The CPP and NPA are major organizations in the NDFP, with the NPA as its main armed force and the CPP in turn wielding absolute leadership over the NPA.

The inclusion of Prof. Sison in the terrorist list is absolutely without any factual, legal or moral basis. It is a grave injustice and violation of his democratic rights. Prof Sison is not only a key participant in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as the Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP, he is also the prime mover behind the NDFP’s participation in the peace talks. As pointed out earlier, it was Professor Sison who clearly laid down the principles, guidelines and safeguards on the conduct of the NDFP in peace negotiations with the GRP. Prof. Sison’s role in the actual negotiations is aptly described by UN Justice Romeo Capulong when he said that Prof. Sison is the main architect of the ten GRP-NDFP bilateral agreements. It is grotesque irony for one who has contributed that much to the pursuit of peace, to be internationally branded a terrorist.

Beyond doubt, and some of the highest GRP officials themselves have declared as much publicly, the GRP has intended and is now using this terrorist tag as a negotiating lever to intimidate and pressure the NDFP into signing a “final peace accord” which in fact bears all the features of a negotiated surrender or capitulation.

This so-called “final peace agreement” proposes to go through the motions of forging agreements on substantive socio-economic and political reforms. But its real aim is to make the NDFP agree to end hostilities and disarm and demobilize the New People’s Army even without any assurance that such reforms are in place or will even be implemented at all. There is in fact a proviso that practically kills all reforms even before the ink on the agreement dries. In the last part, the proposed document states that all agreements shall be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and its legal processes.

The NDFP cites several violations by the GRP of the bilateral agreements, notably the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees and the Supplementary Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.

The NDFP points to the collaboration of the GRP with the US and other foreign powers in allowing them to encroach on the jurisdiction of the two parties in their negotiations as itself a grievous violation of the bilateral agreements, notably The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 providing that negotiations must be held in accordance with the principle of national sovereignty, the JASIG which stipulates that none of those involved in the peace negotiations must be put under duress, and the CARHRIHL which provides that the GRP respect the Hernandez doctrine in its own jurisprudence, disallowing the criminalization of alleged political offenses.


The road to genuine peace is no doubt long and tortuous, full of twists and turns, detours,. obstacles and traps. Peace negotiations are no exception. Preserving one’s revolutionary integrity over the negotiating table requires as much clarity in objectives, correct analysis of concrete conditions, correct strategy, alertness, perseverance, firmness in principle and flexibility in tactics as in the battlefield. When those in power realize they could no longer defeat the forces of change in the battlefield, they will attempt to do so over the negotiating table. As much as each party could gain over the negotiating table that they would not in the battlefield, so too are the losses they could incur.

Those who turn to peace negotiations as an alternative path because they are tired of armed struggle, or are enticed by the apparent relief from and mitigation of hardships and sacrifice offered by the prospect of a cessation of hostilities will be vulnerable to succumb to a formula for capitulation and pacification rather than a just and lasting peace.

The capitulation or surrender of an armed group fighting for a legitimate cause may result in a cessation of hostilities and relative calm or peace. But armed conflict is bound to flare up again so long as its roots are not addressed. We have the clear example of the Mindanao conflict, where two peace accords, the second one named a “Final Peace Accord”, coupled with the continuing and intensifying war between the GRP and the MILF, bear witness to the futility of ending war without removing the problems that cause it..

Genuine peace cannot be achieved through peace negotiations alone. The various forms of struggle are interrelated and can complement each other when properly wielded . The strength of a negotiating position arises from one’s strength in the battlefield and in other arenas, including legal protest actions and mass movements. The peace negotiations, in turn, can support the armed struggle and other forms of struggle including legal protest actions and mass movements.

The bottom line is that peace negotiations must contribute to the attainment of a just and lasting peace. They must serve to address and resolve the roots of the armed conflict. In backward third world countries such as the Philippines, peace negotiations must contribute to bringing about the radical social, economic and political changes that are needed to end foreign domination and eradicate poverty, social injustice and inequity.

The forces of reaction will always strive to crush the forces of change. Genuine peace is achieved when the forces of change prevail. #