In pursuit of their mission as advocates and “bridge builders for peace”, a delegation of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) held a dialogue with the Negotiating Panel and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) last 2 September 2008 in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
The PEPP delegation was composed of co-convenors Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, and members Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Bishop Efren Tendero, Sister Cres Lucero and Ofelia Cantor. Fr. Michel Beckers of the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform joined the PEPP delegation.
The NDFP side was composed of Luis Jalandoni, Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and panel members Fidel Agcaoili, Julieta de Lima and Coni Ledesma. Also present were Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison, member of the NDFP Monitoring Committee Danilo Borjal and Ruth de Leon, head of the NDFP Panel Secretariat.
Archbishop Ledesma and Ms. Ruiz-Duremdes presented the role of the PEPP as one of bridge building for peace between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP. On behalf of the NDFP, Luis Jalandoni welcomed the visit of the PEPP and the role it has assumed.
The PEPP and the NDFP held frank discussions on peace negotiations, ceasefire, vision of the NDFP, land reform and national industrialization, and revolutionary taxation.
Jalandoni reiterated the position of the NDFP that the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are ongoing because neither side has terminated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and that what needs to be done is the resumption of formal talks upon the overcoming of the 13 impediments which had been presented by the NDFP to the GRP in the presence of the Norwegian third party facilitator.
The PEPP and the NDFP agreed that there is an urgent need to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations and such resumption must be based on prior agreements between the two parties. They also agreed that a just and lasting peace in the Philippines could only be attained by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.
Jalandoni said that the NDFP is willing to hold informal talks in order to prepare the resumption of formal talks as soon as possible in accordance with the existing agreements between the GRP and NDFP. He declared that informal talks should not become indefinite and paralyze the substantive agenda already set by previous agreements.
He pointed out that negotiations on social and economic reforms should be resumed immediately and should be followed by negotiations on political and constitutional reforms. He further pointed out that the question of prolonged ceasefire should not precede the question of substantive reforms and that surrender or even ceasefire negotiations should not replace peace negotiations as defined by The Hague Joint Declaration.
He informed the PEPP delegation that the NDFP had proposed to the GRP a 10-point concise agreement on the principles for immediate peace, but unfortunately, the GRP did not respond. He defined briefly the vision of the NDFP for a just peace as the realization of national independence and empowerment of the people in the political field and national industrialization and land reform in the economic field.
Prof. Sison pointed out that all the impediments to the peace negotiations can be resolved by complying with the existing agreements. He said that the GRP and NDFP can overcome the terrorist blacklisting of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People's Army (NPA) and the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, in accordance with the Oslo Statements I and II, by simply making a joint declaration that no foreign government should breach Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity by interfering with legal and political matters that are strictly internal to the Philippines.
The NDFP panel requested the PEPP to call on the GRP to comply with the JASIG and release NDFP consultants Angie Ipong, Elizabeth Principe and Randall Echanis, the surfacing of consultants who have been involuntarily disappeared and the lifting of false charges against the NDFP Negotiating Panel Chairperson and consultants like Vicente Ladlad and Rafael Baylosis.
Agcaoili, Chairperson of the NDFP Monitoring Committee, said that the NDFP had been calling for the meeting and operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee but the GRP never responded positively. Commenting on the reported criticism of the GRP Panel that the JMC was becoming a “scoreboard” of complaints, he deplored the GRP’s submission of hundreds of false and invalid complaints with the obvious intent of inflating the number of incidents against the forces of the NDFP, thereby mocking the integrity of the Joint Monitoring Committee and proving the attitude of impunity by the GRP.
Prof. Sison said that the basic problem in pushing the resumption of formal talks is the lack of interest of Ms. Gloria Arroyo in the peace negotiations, and the heavy hand of militarists like Eduardo Ermita and Norberto Gonzales on the GRP Negotiating Panel. He observed that Arroyo had apparently closed the door to peace negotiations by demanding demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation as preconditions. He noted that this latest of the GRP preconditions aggravated the previous precondition of prolonged ceasefire which was already a gross violation of The Hague Joint Declaration.