Rotary InternationaI District 3800, District Training Assembly (DISTAS)
April 25, 2015, Saturday, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
On behalf of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison and the entire NDFP Negotiating Panel, I would like to thank the organizers and participants of this Rotary International District 3800 District Training Assembly for this opportunity to share with you some updates on the GPH-NDFP negotiations, our view of the present political situation and its implications on the peace process with both the MILF and the NDFP.
The NDFP entered into peace negotiations with the GRP (now GPH) in 1992 when we signed the Hague Joint Declaration as the framework and foundation agreement for negotiations. Twenty-three years of talks with four administrations have resulted in ten major agreements, mostly under Ramos’ term, and seven? other agreements under subsequent regimes.
The NDFP is willing and ready to negotiate peace with any GPH administration that respects and complies with the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration and all other previous bilateral agreements which the GRP/GPH has signed with us. We are willing to resume negotiations with this Aquino administration if it has the political will to abide by the Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Unfortunately, under the Aquino administration OPAPP Secretary Deles and GPH Panel Chair Padilla had called The Hague Joint Declaration a “document of perpetual division”, refused to honor the JASIG or reconstitute it as provided for in the Agreement, and refused to convene the Joint Monitoring Committee to review the thousands of formally filed complaints of HR and IHL violations. In mid-2013, they declared that they were no longer willing to return to the negotiating table.
Despite these and in the absence of a formal notice of termination from the GPH, the NDFP remained open to resumption of talks if the GPH showed a willingness to comply with its obligations under the agreements. Contrary to the GPH claims, we did not withdraw our proposal for an alliance and truce which we offered the GPH in January 2011. This “special track” would have ran parallel to the “regular track”, or simultaneous to continuing discussions until successive agreements are reached on social economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms. These agreements would in turn pave the way to the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.
Informal talks on the “special track” began in late 2012 but collapsed in February 2013. These later resumed in September 2014 through a new special team from the GPH (supposedly mandated by Aquino) to explore with us how to resume the formal talks. By December last year, we had agreed on the timetable for the discussions and agreements on both the special and regular tracks, as well as for the implementation of CARHRIHL (eg , the reconvening of the JMC and the release of falsely charged and illegally detained political prisoners). The draft tentative agreement also included the reconstitution of JASIG and the release of illegally detained consultants and other JASIG-protected persons.
Unfortunately, the Mamasapano fiasco and the resultant backlash against the GPH-MILF peace process in general and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in particular have also adversely affected the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. In the first place, Aquino administration officials themselves admit that they could not handle two peace talks at the same time, what with their hands full saving the BBL and preventing the collapse of the entire GPH-MILF peace process. In the second place, the attempts by Aquino and his allies in Congress to cover up the truth, point the blame on Napeñas and the MILF and shield the President from any responsibility and accountability for the fiasco blocks any serious effort to identify what caused the fiasco, repair the damage done, draw lessons to prevent renewed eruption of armed hostilities and to ensure that the peace talks are back on their proper tracks.
We deem the following points useful and important for understanding the situation and direction of both the GPH-MILF and GPH-NDFP peace processes:
(1) Peace agreements – big or small — need to be honored and complied with, lest they lead to the loss of confidence between the Parties, which is essential to any negotiation. Treaties between states, business contracts, marriages and engagement, and even compacts among “Bff’s” (best friends forever) are bound by this same principle. For the GPH, this means that any administration must commit itself to the agreements signed by its predecessors, otherwise negotiations will revert to square one with each new administration.
(2) Interim peace agreements such as ceasefires are fragile and cannot be trifled with or treated in a cavalier fashion. Once broken, they may create problems worse than if there had been no ceasefire at all. They may serve as goodwill and confidence-building measures if properly used to pave the way to substantial agreements that address the reasons for the armed conflict. But they can also serve to provide a semblance of peace and turn into a disinsentive for pursuing agreements on reforms that would address the roots of the conflict.
(3) Peace agreements are not the end-all of the peace process. The 1976 and 1996 GRP-MNLF Tripoli peace agreements clearly demonstrate that a Peace Agreement per se cannot guarantee a just and lasting peace. The peace agreement first of all must be one that addresses the root causes of the armed conflict. Peace agreements that do not identify and address the roots of armed conflict will only serve counterproductively to obscure, perpetuate and aggravate these root causes, thus laying the ground more fertile for the resumption or continuation of armed conflict. It is by this yardstick that the prospective BBL, for example, must be evaluated.
(4) The Bangsamoro are fighting for their right to self determination. We in the NDFP are fighting for national freedom and genuine democracy against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. In both cases, we have risen up in arms to end the oppression and exploitation of our peoples. In both cases, the GRP/GPH have agreed with us on the substantial agenda of reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict.
(5) Such reforms are likely to involve Constitutional amendments, since the Constitution is the basis for the laws and norms which govern the current social, economic and political system—the ruling status quo. At the outset, GRP/GPH had agreed in principle to accommodate such amendments, even including it as one of the substantive agenda in the GPH-NDFP talks. The GRP has in fact stipulated in its Executive Orders (#125 under Ramos, #3 under Arroyo) that its comprehensive peace process may include amending the constitution.
(6) A firm political will especially on the part of the principals of the Parties, is essential to persevere and overcome difficulties in order to forge peace agreements that will truly address the roots of the armed conflict. This is a difficult, tedious, protracted and complicated task, especially in the face of spoilers and saboteurs — those who deliberately aim to derail the process because they benefit from the status quo and wish to prerve it.
(7) The GPH-MILF and the GPH-NDFP peace processes, are both now floundering because of Aquino’s lack of political will to negotiate agreements that will alter the status quo to the peoples’ advantage and benefit. Instead of pursuing the GPH’s avowed comprehensive peace program, it is carrying out an internal security plan called Oplan Bayanihan. This is basically a pacification campaign patterned after the US Counterinsurgency Guide of 2009, that includes using the peace process to either coopt the revolutionary armed movements or force them into a negotiated capitulation.
We reiterate that under this situation, the NDFP is nonetheless open and ready to negotiate peace with the GPH having all the above considerations in mind, even as it continues to pursue all other forms of struggle to bring about freedom, justice and genuine democracy in our land.