By J. de Lima
Chairperson, NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social & Economic Reforms
Comrades and friends,
It is widely recognized that the implementation of a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms is the lynchpin for achieving a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. It is the second and most important of the substantive agenda in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. However, it has proven to be the most difficult to negotiate.
Although the exchange of drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms took place at the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on March 16 1998, negotiations on the agenda could start only in 2001 due to the fact that the GRP tried to undermine CARHRIHL by demanding a renegotiation of two articles and an exclusive jurisdiction of the GRP office of the president over the joint monitoring committee.
The next GRP president, Estrada, called for an indefinite recess, a suspension of peace talks due to the NPA capture of four prisoners of war, including a general, and eventually terminated the peace negotiations in may 1999. The resumption of formal talks in the peace negotiations took place in March 2001 with CASER as the main agenda only after the mass movement toppled President Estrada in January 20, 2001.
Formal meetings of the RWCs on SER between 2001 and 2004 produced only a common draft of the Preamble and the Declaration of Principles, which however still contain a few unresolved terms and provisions even after exhaustive bilateral discussions. The RWCs have submitted these to their respective Negotiating Panels for resolution. The current 2017 NDFP Draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) takes off from the NDFP draft CASER published in 2009 and widely distributed nationally and internationally.
What can be construed as biggest achievement in moving the peace negotiations forward is the exchange of their respective full drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) by the reciprocal working committees of the GRP and the NDFP and the partial agreement on a common draft on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and on National Industrialization and Economic Development at the level of the technical working groups in November 2017; albeit with issues still to be resolved at the level of the two RWCs-SER.
The resumption of the formal meetings in 2016 has not significantly moved the negotiations on CASER to the level of the Negotiating Panels as these have had to deal with so many peripheral issues such as those demanded by the GRP on ceasefire (NDFP capitulation) and their violations of and /or refusal to honor obligations under such existing agreements as The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), especially since the presidency of Macapagal-Arroyo and down to the current presidency.
Three other presidents before the current one have passed up the opportunity of achieving a just and lasting peace and saving our country and its people from sinking into ever deeper conditions of crisis, underdevelopment and mass poverty. The current GRP president, after publicly announcing an intention to to be the first ”Left” and ”socialist” president of the Philippines, is the most blatant not only in refusing to negotiate but also in his drive to serve the US and other monopoly interests by intensifying the oppression and exploitation of our people and the plunder of our natural resources under an evolving US-sponsored and supported tyrannical and fascist dispensation.
Under the current situation in the Philippines, we need to pursue even more vigorously not just the campaign to resume the peace negotiations but more importantly and urgently the campaign to empower the people for accomplishing these reforms, while they must also act to stop the spread of tyranny and fascism in the land. These campaigns are inseparably linked and necessitate the building of the broadest united front of all classes and sectors, including sections of the exploiting classes and the bureaucracy.
The reform proposals of the NDFP draft CASER can serve as the basis of unity for building the broadest united front. In this regard, we need more than ever before to popularize this document as a tool for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people against the developing fascist tyranny in the service of domestic, US and other foreign exploiters, plunderers, and oppressors of the people.