By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines
February 9, 2017
The recent third round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) from January 19 to 25, 2017 has been successful and has scheduled the fourth round on April 2-6 in Oslo.
What are the achievements of the third round?
There was a fair exchange of views and agreements on efforts to comply with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) concerning the release of all political prisoners, justice for and indemnification of victims of human right violations under the Marcos regime, allegations of human rights violations under Oplans Bayanihan, Tokhang and Kapayapaan, and approval of the supplementary guidelines of the Joint Monitoring Committee. There was also an initial discussion of the bilateral ceasefire agreement to replace the unilateral ceasefire declarations.
The biggest achievements in moving forward the peace process are the exchange of 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 complete drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) by the reciprocal working groups. I estimate that it is possible to unify these drafts within 2017. The NDFP has formally offered to GRP to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines on the basis of the CAPCR.
In my view it is possible to implement the CASER and CAPCR through GRP executive actions, legislation and constitutional amendments before the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF) in 2020-21. Before then, a bilateral ceasefire agreement is possible, especially after the signing of the CASER and the CAPCR by the negotiating panels in 2017.
However, the clear significant success of the third round of the formal talks has been overshadowed by the reaction of President Duterte to the announcement of the termination of the unilateral ceasefire by the CPP and NPA, effective on February 10, and to the self-defense actions already begun by the NPA in accordance with the terms of its unilateral ceasefire declaration.
I can understand the role of President Duterte in reacting as GRP president and Commander-in-Chief. It is his duty to speak and act in the interest of the GRP and express concern for his troops. But there should have been a measure of restraint in his reaction in order to preserve the GRP-NDFP peace process.
President Duterte’s announcements to consider the CPP, NPA and NDFP as terrorist organizations and to terminate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) have the effect of terminating the entire GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. I believe that President Duterte’s reaction should not have gone this far.
I propose to him to consult thoroughly with his negotiating panel and the peace advocates in his own cabinet and others outside of his government, and encourage and allow back-channeling efforts to clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problems. The third party facilitator deserves a briefing from each negotiating party and may also help to enable the continuance of the peace process.
Even if the armed conflict between the armed forces of the two Parties has resumed, peace negotiations can and must continue precisely to continue with the forging of the CASER, CAPCR and the bilateral ceasefire agreement and effecting the amnesty and release of all political prisoners within 2017. More than 10 major agreements were made during the Ramos regime while fighting went on.
The CPP, NPA and NDFP remain committed to the peace process in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and further agreements. They wish to pursue with the GRP the bright prospects that started with the first round of formal talks in August 2016 and overcome the peace spoilers that run counter to the progress that has been achieved in the third round of formal talks.
We must respond to and strive to fulfill the Filipino people’s demand for a just and lasting peace! ###
Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel