By FIDEL V. AGCAOILI
Chairperson, NDFP Human Rights Committee
The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government must comply with existing agreements on the framework and modalities of the peace negotiations if it truly wants to resume the formal talks. It should not set preconditions that violate said agreements. It should not precondition the resumption of formal peace negotiations with a “ceasefire” that prejudices the sequence of the substantive agenda and that is calculated merely to stop the armed revolution.
One more strong reason why the regime should not be making preconditions: The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government is abhorred by the people because it has aggravated the social problems. It callously insists on increasing the people’s tax burden, while it unleashes the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the people in a murderous rampage to quell social protest. Like her corrupt predecessors, Arroyo is bent on enriching her own family. The broad masses of the people do not believe that she won the 2004 elections. Thus she is vulnerable to being overthrown by a popular uprising similar to those that brought down Marcos and Estrada or a coup by the military.
The NDFP has explained so many times why it cannot agree to any prolonged or indefinite ceasefire in advance of negotiations of socio-economic and political issues as required by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. The latest GRP proposal for “interim or limited ceasefire” is nothing but a tricky phrase to sugarcoat the prolonged or indefinite ceasefire that it has been maneuvering to secure in order to obtain the pacification of the revolutionary forces and lay aside the economic, social and political issues that must be addressed immediately.
If the NDFP were to agree to a protracted ceasefire like that proposed by the GRP, this would automatically render the Hague Joint Declaration null and void. The NDFP will not be a party to the violation of the Hague Joint Declaration which has already produced a major achievement in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL. Thus in raising again the question of ceasefire, now in the guise of an “interim or limited ceasefire,” the GRP is indicating that it is no longer interested in peace negotiations to address the root causes of the armed conflict in the Philippines.
It would be wise for Mrs. Arroyo not to be overconfident and arrogant in demanding that the NDFP agree to a ceasefire. Joseph Estrada too refused to face the NDFP in formal negotiations and imagined that an “all-out war” would force it to capitulate. Mrs. Arroyo faces even more unfavorable conditions and a higher level of popular outrage than Estrada and it is not unlikely that she will share the fate suffered by Estrada in 2001.