The GRP and NDFP negotiating panels must meet first to solve certain problems and agree on coordination

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) makes it appear that it has cancelled the fifth round of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) because the latter has not withdrawn the order of the Communist Party of the Philippines to the New People’s Army to intensify tactical offensives against the AFP, PNP and armed auxiliaries of the GRP.

The GRP is culpable in the first place for waging a nationwide all-out war policy of aerial bombardments and artillery attacks against the revolutionary forces and people since last year and has aggravated this policy by proclaiming martial law all over Mindanao, far beyond Marawi and the bailiwicks of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist groups.

To accomplish ceasefire, coordination and cooperation between the forces of the GRP and the NDFP within Marawi against the aforesaid terrorist groups, the GRP must at best unilaterally withdraw its all-out war policy and martial law declaration or at least allow its negotiating panel to meet with the NDFP negotiating panel to start discussing coordination and cooperation in Marawi and subsequently on a wider scale.

The NDFP has already instructed the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO) inside Marawi to assume home defense tasks against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. It has also directed units of the New People’s Army close to Marawi to redeploy for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations.

The MRLO and the NPA can coordinate and cooperate with the AFP by keeping a safe distance, maintaining independence and initiative and avoiding problems of getting mixed up with the AFP and PNP units. The localized ceasefire, coordination and cooperation can be agreed upon if the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels meet first and discuss matters in detail.

It is not too late to have such a meeting of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels because the terrorist attack on Marawi might still be prolonged or if suppressed soon, might recur in other parts of Bangsamoro. The US, anti-Duterte sections of the AFP and PNP and local anti-Duterte parties and groups have already begun a campaign of destabilizing the Duterte regime for the purpose of overthrowing this with a coup.

According to latest reports, there is yet no protocol between the MNLF and the AFP for their coordination and cooperation against the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi, contrary to the claims of President Duterte himself.###

Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, Negotiating Panel
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
June 7, 2017

NDFP sets the record straight on political prisoner releases

NDFP Media Office
Press statement
June 4, 2017

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) would like to make the following factual clarifications in the face of repeated claims by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) that the majority of the political prisoners listed by the NDFP have already been released.

The NDFP submitted a list of 411 political prisoners to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in May 2016 for release on various grounds or through amnesty (as proposed by him) in connection with the agreement to resume peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP upon his formal assumption to office in June.

Of this number, only nineteen (19) or barely 5% were released on bail in August 2016. Of these, 17 were covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and two (2) were freed for humanitarian reasons in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

They are Tirso Alcantara, Concha Araneta, Ariel Arbitrario, Renato Baleros, Kennedy Bangibang, Alexander Birondo, Winona Birondo, Pedro Codaste, Renante Gamara, Eddie Genelsa, Alan Jazmines, Ernesto Lorenzo, Loida Magpatoc, Alfredo Mapano, Ruben Saluta, Adelberto Silva, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon and Porferio Tuna.

Three (3) other JASIG-protected persons were not released then and are still in detention now. They are Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza.

In the 9 October 2016 Oslo Joint Statement signed by the parties after the second round of formal talks, the GRP agreed and committed to expedite their release through pardon. Therefore, their continued detention is both a blatant violation of the JASIG and in betrayal of trust and the GRP’s express commitment.

After August 2016, sixteen (16) more political prisoners were released from detention based on the merits of their respective cases, including one who should have been automatically released for having overserved his sentence.

Four (4) additional political prisoners were pardoned in December 2016, namely, Dindo Absalon, Rico Bodino, Bonifacio Suyom and Martin Villanueva. Their applications for pardon were initially approved during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but were only signed by the current regime with the revival of the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, and Pardon (PCBReP).

In the meantime, one ailing political prisoner, Bernabe Ocasla, died in jail last November.

Thus, out of the list of 411 political prisoners submitted to President-elect Duterte in May 2016, only a total of 39 or less than 10% have been released: 19 in consideration of JASIG and CARHRIHL and 20 based on the merits of their respective cases and through grant of pardon.

Not only has President Duterte failed to deliver on his promise to release all political prisoners. His regime has, in fact, added 39 more political prisoners to the roster! This includes three JASIG holders of Documents of Identification signifying that they are consultants of the NDFP. They are Ferdinand Castillo, Rommel Salinas and Promencio Cortez.

This now brings the number of political prisoners to 410—almost the same figure the NDFP started with in May last year. ###

Fidel V. Agcaoili
NDFP Panel Chairperson
Contact No. 0031-64-1324348

STATEMENT OF THE NDFP NEGOTIATING PANEL

We, the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) urge the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to come back to the negotiating table and realize the fifth round of formal talks as soon as possible.

The GRP and NDFP must act in consonance with the Filipino people’s clamor for peace negotiations and their demand for social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

The GRP and NDFP must stand together to oppose and fight terrorism, terrorist groups and acts of terrorism.

We must condemn and must be resolved and determined to counteract the Maute group and Abu Sayaff which are wreaking havoc in Marawi City. These are terrorist groups linked to local reactionary forces, affiliated with ISIS and supported by US-CIA and other foreign entities.

By terrorism we mean actions that intimidate, terrorize and harm civilians solely or mainly in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The level of counteraction against terrorism, as well as the nature, scope and duration must be appropriate and proportional to the degree of danger and threat and/or harm by the terrorist group concerned in Marawi City. Upon the success of the counter-terrorist measures, these must cease to allow normalcy and full respect for human rights as soon as possible.

In specific areas of cooperation and coordination, the armed forces of the GRP and NDFP shall be bound by a ceasefire agreement between them, pending the issuance of ceasefire declarations that are unilateral but simultaneous and reciprocal.

Preparations for the fifth round of formal talks must be undertaken through bilateral teams of the GRP and NDFP so that precious time is not lost. In this connection, all panelists, legal and political consultants and other personnel in the peace negotiations must be allowed to return to the Philippines and subsequently attend the fifth round of formal talks.

Signed in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands on June 1, 2017.

On behalf of the NDFP Negotiating Panel:

Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson

Peace negotiations are still on, safety and immunity guarantees remain in effect

NDFP Media Office
Press statement
May 29, 2017

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are ongoing despite the fact that the 5th round of formal talks did not take place as scheduled due to the decision of the GRP panel not to participate. All the bilateral agreements that lay down the framework, processes and conditions for the entire peace negotiations, including the JASIG, remain binding, operational and in effect.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel has received assurances from Sec. Silvestre Bello, head of the GRP panel, that JASIG remains operative. This means that all the NDFP consultants who are involved in the ongoing peace negotiations are guaranteed (1) free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in traveling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the negotiations; and (2) immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.

Because the peace negotiations are still on, the bilateral consultations between the working groups of the GRP and NDFP can continue to be held in the Philippines to prepare for the eventual resumption of the formal talks. All the NDFP panel members and consultants involved in the work of the different bilateral teams of the RWCs-SER (Reciprocal Working Committees-Social and Economic Reforms) and of the RWGs-PCR (Reciprocal Working Group-Political and Constitutional Reforms) are covered by JASIG and should remain free and unhindered to go about their work.

We deem it necessary to underscore the continuing effectivity of the JASIG in order to prevent any misreading or misinterpretation that would lead prosecutors to move for, and for the courts to cancel, the bail bonds of NDFP consultants still facing charges and for the police and military to arrest NDFP consultants who are set to return to the Philippines following the GRP’s cancellation of the fifth round of formal talks.

The JASIG-protected NDFP consultants currently in The Netherlands flew out of the country in good faith and the GRP is duty-bound under JASIG and other pertinent agreements to ensure that they will not be harassed, surveilled, searched, arrested or detained after they set foot in the Philippines.###

Reference:
Fidel V. Agcaoili
Contact No. 0031-64-1324348

On cancellation of fifth round of peace talks and worsening state of martial rule

Communist Party of the Philippines | May 29, 2017

The cancellation of the fifth round of peace talks is the sole responsibility of the GRP. Its negotiating panel imposed unnecessary, last-minute and unacceptable preconditions for talks to proceed. The talks could have been an opportunity to attain substantial progress in discussing and forging the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). The GRP cancellation of the fifth round of peace talks has effectively derailed and set back the CASER.

The CPP and all revolutionary forces in the Philippines are united with the NDFP Negotiating Panel in urging their counterparts GRP to resume the fifth round of formal talks to discuss the substantive agenda of socio-economic reforms.

There are two key reasons why the GRP did not want to proceed with the fifth round of negotiations. Firstly, it stubbornly insists on their demand for the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement prior to negotiations on any other substantive agreement. Such a demand has become increasingly counterproductive.

Secondly, the GRP wants the Party leadership to recall its declaration to the NPA to carry out more and more tactical offensives in the face of the GRP’s all-out war and imposition of martial law in Mindanao. Such was a foul attempt by the GRP to hostage the peace talks in order to pacify the NPA, while it continues to intensify armed offensives against the people, consolidate its military rule and lay the ground for the nationwide imposition of martial law.

The Party received the recommendation of the NDFP Panel and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison for the Party to reconsider its earlier declaration to the NPA. The revolutionary forces also heard the retraction by Defense Secretary Lorenzana that martial law in Mindanao is not directed against the NPA, however empty and self-contradicted by his consequent order for the military to go against the NPA for its “illegal activities”.

Heightened AFP offensives under martial law all over Mindanao, however, do not encourage such a reconsideration at this time. The Filipino people clamor for the NPA to wage more and more offensives amid aerial bombardments, artillery shelling and machine gun strafing and worsening abuses of human rights committed by the AFP.

In the final analysis, the cancellation of the fifth round of NDFP-GRP formal talks was brought about by the GRP’s all-out war and martial law and its demand for the NPA to silence its guns while the din of the AFP’s cannons, bombs and heavy gunfire thunder against the people.

The Party calls on the Filipino and Moro people to unite firmly against the Duterte regime’s martial law. The Duterte government and its military and security officials are fanning the flames of Islamophobia by raising the bogey of “Islamic radicalism”, imposing martial law restrictions against Moro communities and subjecting the people to “profiling”.

The Party denounces Duterte and the AFP for the complete disregard of the Moro people in Marawi City whose communities and homes have been subjected to all-out shelling, bombing and strafing. As a result of all-out bombardment, tens of thousands have sought refuge outside the city. People who could not leave have been forced to become refugees in their own homes. Their movements are being severely restricted by checkpoints. Aid, relief and human rights workers are being prevented from entering the city being ravaged by aerial bombardments in the pretext of pursuing the so-called Maute terror group.

The Party joins the people in denouncing the creeping nationwide martial rule. Even as the martial law declaration covers only Mindanao, all military units and police forces have gone on red or full alert in North Luzon, Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Bicol Region, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Negros and Panay. They have imposed their threatening armed presence in public places, parked tanks in government offices and roadsides. Checkpoints have been set up as well in Tacloban City on the utterly ridiculous reason of “solidarity with martial law in Mindanao.”

The Filipino people must strongly protest the authoritarian threat of Duterte to defy any possible action of the GRP’s Supreme Court and Congress and extend the effectivity of his martial law declaration to as long as he and the military wants. They must demand the immediate lifting of martial law.

Reply to the Opening Statement of Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza dated May 27, 2017

May 27, 2017

NDFP Negotiating Panel chair Fidel Agcaoili and Senior Adviser Luis Jalandoni talk to the media after the GRP finalized decision not to participate in the fifth round of talks.

Reply to the Opening Statement of Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza dated May 27, 2017 by the Negotiating Panel, National Democratic Front of the Philippines

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) vehemently deplores the GRP Panel’s decision not to participate in the fifth round of formal negotiations.

The GRP’s persistent demand for the immediate signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement as precondition to the continuation of the formal talks is an outright violation of the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration. The NDFP stands by its position, priorly acknowledged and concurred with by the GRP, that the implementation of CARHRIHL and the forging of the CASER should take precedence over the crafting of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

In what would have been his opening statement, NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili urged for a return to the framework agreement which eloquently defines the proper sequence in forging the comprehensive agreements on human rights, social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms as the solid bases for the comprehensive agreement on ending the hostilities. Implementing social, economic and political reforms is the only way to enduring peace.

OPAPP Secretary Dureza’s assertion that the CPP order to the NPA to launch more tactical offensives in response to the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao “puts in great jeopardy” the quest for peace totally obscures the fact that the GRP has been waging an “all-out-war” against the NPA, conducting offensive operations and aerial bombings of communities regardless of “collateral damage” — all on the direct and standing orders of President Duterte.

Contrary to the GRP allegations, the NPA operations cannot be attributed to the failure of the CPP-NPA-NDFP leadership to control their ground forces. Rather, they are defensive and counter-offensive responses to the AFP provocative actions and offensive operations.

Contrary to its declared purpose, the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao, with threats to extend this throughout the archipelago, is bound to further escalate the armed conflict, aggravate the human rights situation and exacerbate the suffering of the people. It bestows a veneer of legality to justify the escalation of warrantless arrests, searches and seizures as well as indefinite detention targeting entire civilian communities suspected of supporting rebel and other armed groups. It further emboldens the AFP, PNP and other state-sponsored armed groups to perpetrate extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, forced evacuation, filing of trumped-up charges, threats, intimidation and other human rights violations with impunity. The revolutionary movement is therefore completely justified in calling on the people and its forces to defend themselves against these intensifying attacks.

The GRP completely glosses over the fact that undeclared martial law has long been existing in vast areas of the countryside. As of February 2017, at least 500 barangays in 146 towns in 43 provinces have been subjected to various kinds of offensive military operations.

The NDFP has acknowledged the role played by President Rodrigo Duterte in resuming the peace talks, affirming previously signed agreements and bringing the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) to its current unprecedented level. The NDFP considers these as important confidence-building measures as well as acknowledgement of the GRP’s obligations under previously signed agreements and its duty to uphold human rights, social justice and the people’s welfare.

However, there is no truth to the claim that the GRP has complied with all of its obligations and commitments, especially the release of political prisoners who are unjustly detained.
There is no basis for the GRP’s claim that there is a sudden and perceptible erosion of public support to the peace talks. The marked progress in the talks in the past months has in fact heightened the people’s interest and confidence that the negotiations could lead to social and economic reforms that would improve their lives. President Duterte himself has gained political capital emanating from the people’s support for the peace talks.

There is likewise no basis for the supposed clamor for localized peace talks given its inherent inability and historical failure to achieve overarching reforms. Localized peace talks have been used to fragment revolutionary groups and enable military intelligence and offensive operations. Especially under Martial Law, localized peace talks facilitates tight surveillance, including the use of drones with GPS, and motorcycle-riding death squads.

The GRP’s decision not to participate in the 5th round of formal talks threatens to squander the goodwill and the gains that have already been achieved in the peace negotiations in the past nine months, especially in the crafting of a substantive agreement on social and economic reforms.

The NDFP has pursued the negotiations with the Duterte government in good faith, and in a non-adversarial fashion, likewise presuming the other Party’s good faith. However, it has been continually besieged by conflicting, contradictory, and cross-purpose statements and actions that have beclouded the real intentions of the GRP.

The people’s interest, immediate and long term, is the paramount consideration in the NDFP’s engagement in negotiations to resolve the armed conflict and achieve a just peace.
The NDFP is ready to resume the fifth round of formal talks on the substantive agenda of social and economic reforms when the GRP is willing to do so.###

Substantive agreement on social and economic reforms conducive for achievement of peace

The Reciprocal Working Committee on Social Economic Reforms of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP RWC-SER) said the most “enabling environment conducive for the achievement of a just and sustainable peace” is the presence of much-needed social and economic reforms that is the objective of the discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The GRP panel announced today that it has decided not to participate in the fifth round of talks.

“We came prepared and ready for the fifth round of talks. We came here with the sincere intention of finishing the discussions on agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and starting deliberations on the next two important sections of the CASER draft — national industrialization and economic development (NIED) and environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation,” said Randall Echanis, member of the NDFP RWC-SER.

“We consider the bilateral meetings in Manila on ARRD and NIED held between April to May as productive concerning the participation and commitment of both reciprocal working committees on SER to achieve an agreement that will address the long-standing issues of landlessness, poverty and unemployment. In fact, we have reached key unities with regards to the contentious provisions on ARRD,” said RWC-SER member Alan Jazmines.

The recent developments and GRP’s dogged insistence on its unreasonable demands to the NDFP could pose debilitating effects on the negotiations,” Echanis said.

“This undue delay that was single-handedly caused by the GRP will impact the momentum of the discussions on CASER but it will not diminish the clamor of the Filipino people for genuine social and economic reforms,” Echanis said.

According to a statement issued by the NDFP Panel, the GRP has been insisting on its demand that the Communist Party of the Philippines rescind its order to the New People’s Army for intensified tactical offensives which are in fact in response to the AFP’s widespread military operations and aerial bombings targeting peasant communities that intensified after the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and the signing of a joint ceasefire agreement without reaching a significant agreement on CASER.

Echanis said the NDFP RWC-SER will continue with its scheduled work. “We are ready to resume discussions on CASER as soon as the GRP is committed and ready,” Echanis said. ###

GRP unreasonable demands disrupt fifth round of talks

PRESS RELEASE, 27 May 2017
Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands

NDFP Panel Chair Fidel Agcaoili answers questions from the media on developments on ongoing 5th round of peace talks in the Netherlands. [Photo: Altermidya]

The NDFP and its delegation came to The Netherlands ready and willing to proceed with the fifth round of talks to work on the draft of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms). Once more, the GRP succeeded in sidelining the substantive agenda on social and economic reforms by raising unreasonable demands.

Even before the fifth round could start, Jesus Dureza told the NDFP panel that the GRP panel would not “participate in the scheduled fifth round of talks unless there were clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail.”

This seemingly vague statement was actually an ultimatum served on the NDFP to collapse the talks unless it submitted to the following demands: 1) that the CPP rescind its order to the NPA that was in the main responding to the intensified AFP military operations nation-wide before and after Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao and, 2) that the NDFP immediately sign a joint ceasefire agreement even without the necessary agreements on social, economic and political reforms in place. These unreasonable demands have disrupted the fifth round of formal talks.

The CPP order was in response to the intensified AFP operations and widespread human rights violations preceding and following the declaration of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao. Duterte justified his action by citing as reason the terrorist actions of the Maute Group in Marawi City. But Lorenzana declared that the NPA was also a target of AFP military operations. Silvestre Bello made a subsequent clarification that Duterte had said that the Mindanao martial law was not aimed against the NPA.

However, the facts on the ground belie the clarification made by Bello. We quote from the NPA report sent to the NDFP panel:

“On May 24, AFP units carried out shellings and indiscriminate firing against peasant communities in Barangay Colon Sabak, Matanao, Davao del Sur.

On May 25, on the second day of Duterte’s Mindanao Martial Law, hundreds of elements of the 39th IBPA dropped bombs, shelled and indiscriminately fired 50 caliber machine guns at dominantly Moro civilian communities in Barangay Salat and Barangay Tuael in President Roxas, North Cotabato and Barangay Tangkulan and Barangay Anggaan in Damulog, Bukidnon.

A resident of Barangay Salat, was killed as a result of the aerial bombardments. Several other residents, Norhamin Dataya, Cocoy Dataya, Nasordin Maman and others suffered severe injuries. At least 1,600 residents of the affected barangays were forced to evacuate their communities.

These areas are at least 100-180 kilometers away from Marawi City.

Just this morning, we have received information from NPA units in South Mindanao, Far South Mindanao and parts of North Central Mindanao that search and destroy operations, strike operations, shellings and occupation of peasant communities are currently being carried out intensively by the AFP against the NPA and the peasant masses in the following provinces: 1) Compostela Valley, 2) Davao City, 3) Davao del Sur, 4) South Cotabato, 5) Saranggani, 6) Sultan Kudarat, 7) North Cotabato, and 8) Bukidnon.

Hundreds of people are being rounded up. People are being detained or stopped from travelling for having no identification cards. The military are threatening people against issuing statements that may be deemed anti-government. Military and bureaucrats have issued guidelines restricting people’s rights to assemble and prohibiting them from staging protest actions.

In light of these out and out attacks against the people and their revolutionary forces, NPA units are left with little choice but to undertake more and more tactical offensives in order to defend the masses and the people’s army by stopping the reactionary state armed forces from carrying out their onslaught.”

The second demand for an immediate ceasefire is unreasonable because there are no agreements on reforms in place but also because it one-sidedly demands from the NPA to stop fighting while the AFP continues its all-out war against the NPA and the people. There is impunity in carrying out atrocities against the masses in the rural areas and the ensuing widespread human rights violations under martial law. The GRP also has to comply with long standing agreements on release of political prisoners.

What is even more objectionable to the GRP demand to rush the NDFP into signing an immediate ceasefire agreement is the fact that it is imposed as a precondition to moving ahead with negotiations on CASER the main item scheduled for the fifth round and considered as the meat of the whole peace negotiations. This, in effect, delays the forging of urgently needed social, economic and political reforms which could provide the most enduring basis for peace and social justice.

The NDFP is ready to resume the fifth round of formal talks on the substantive agenda of social and economic reforms when the other side is willing to do so. #

Reference:
Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson
NDFP Negotiating Panel

Opening remarks at the Fifth Round of Formal Talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at Noordwijk Aan Zee

[This is the full text of the remarks that should have been delivered at the opening ceremony of the fifth round of peace talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee on May 27, 2017. Unfortunately, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the GRP Negotiating Panel cancelled the fifth round of talks on short notice.]

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines
May 27, 2017

Her Excellency Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum,
Honorable Jesus Dureza of the OPAPP,
Honorable Silvestre Bello III
Comrade Fidel Agcaoili,
Beloved compatriots in the Panels and Delegations of both the GRP and NDFP,
Distinguished guests and friends,

We in the NDFP thank the Royal Norwegian Government and its special envoy for facilitating the Philippine peace process. We thank all of you who are present at this opening ceremony. We heartily welcome each other today with confidence that we shall continue to move forward towards a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

We are riding on the momentum set by four successful rounds of talks and by unilateral meetings and bilateral consultations between rounds. We in the NDFP appreciate once more that President Duterte recently received and conversed with the Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel Fidel Agcaoili, Panel member Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

To stay on course in the peace process, we must firmly adhere to the major agreements that the GRP and NDFP have reaffirmed since the first round in August last year. We must follow the substantive agenda set by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.

We must assure all the openly known participants in the peace process of both sides and the holders of documents of identification that they are entitled to, protected by and enjoy safety and immunity guarantees under JASIG. It is highly desirable and necessary that all the participants in the peace process are not subjected to any kind or degree of duress, such as surveillance, harassment or threats of arrest or even worse.

We must resolutely comply with and diligently implement the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The hundreds of political prisoners listed by the NDFP must be released in the most expeditious manner. Even while in the mode of carrying out its all-out war policy, the GRP and its armed forces, police and paramilitary auxiliaries must be guided and bound by CARHRIHL. Likewise the NPA and the people’s militia must comply with CARHRIHL as they engage in self-defense and counter-offensives.

Frankly speaking, the NDFP is unwilling to engage in any kind of prolonged and indefinite ceasefire agreement before there are substantive agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms which are significantly beneficial to the people. The NDFP does not wish to fall into the trap of capitulation and pacification, betraying the trust of the oppressed and exploited masses of the people. It also does not wish to preoccupy the peace process with accusations and counter-accusations of ceasefire violations and put aside the people’s demands for basic social, economic and political reforms.

The Filipino people and both the GRP and NDFP are aware of the fact that on February 5, 2017 GRP Secretary of National Defense Lorenzana declared an all-out war policy against the NPA. In this connection, President Duterte terminated the JASIG and in effect the entire peace negotiations. He also issued on March 7 the order to the AFP to use artillery fire and aerial bombing against the NPA on a nationwide scale. Despite the March 11 backchannel agreement for the GRP and NDFP to resume peace negotiations and to issue simultaneous and reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declarations, President Duterte did not order the issuance of the GRP declaration of unilateral ceasefire, according to a public statement of Lorenzana. The NPA has had no choice but to engage in self-defense and counter-offensives.

The cause of intensified fighting between the armed forces of the GRP and NDFP is the GRP all-out war policy and threat of martial law. It is wrong for anyone to blame the NPA and claim that it has gone out of the command and control of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NDFP. The NPA maintains high fighting morale and iron discipline under the absolute leadership of the CPP. It is even more absurd to claim that the NDFP negotiating panel has lost its authorization from the NDFP to negotiate with the GRP negotiating panel and to make recommendations to the NDFP principal.

If the objective of the intrigue is to justify the GRP all-out war policy and extract a bilateral or joint ceasefire agreement ahead of any substantive comprehensive agreement on basic reforms, the GRP is practically terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations or daydreaming that it can destroy the NPA by force of arms in the course of the peace negotiations. The NDFP Executive Committee has already informed the NDFP Negotiating Panel that the NPA is intensifying the people’s war under the absolute leadership of the CPP to resist and defeat the all-out war policy of the Duterte regime and the scourge of martial law for Mindanao and possibly for the entire Philippines.

However, in so many examples of successful peace negotiations in various countries, it is possible to negotiate while fighting goes on in the battlefield. We were able to forge the CARHRIHL in only six months in 1998, even as the civil war went on between the belligerent forces. It is possible to continue to accelerate the negotiations and forge the CASER within the current year and the CAPCR within the first quarter of the next year on time for the framing and ratification of a charter founding the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

It is preferable to accelerate the peace process rather than overburden or lay this aside with what the NDFP cannot accept: the negotiation of an interim Joint Ceasefire Agreement in violation of the substantive agenda set by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. While the civil war continues, the GRP and the NDFP can demonstrate their respective causes and fighting capabilities within the framework of CARHRIHL. The battles ought to prove that the peace negotiations are necessary.

A prolonged and indefinite interim joint or bilateral ceasefire agreement may be negotiated and drafted in advance but should not be signed and approved by the principals of the GRP and NDFP ahead of any of the substantive agreement even by a split second. We in the NDFP do not wish such a ceasefire agreement to preempt the substantive agreements, especially CASER. The NDFP also considers it desirable and necessary that the basic reforms are being implemented for at least two years before the permanent truce can be formalized in the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

It might be relatively easy for the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels to forge the CASER as a policy agreement. But it might be more difficult to obtain from GRP as annexes to the agreement the executive orders, legislation and constitutional amendments needed to implement CASER in view of the predominance of pro-imperialist and reactionaries within the different branches of the GRP and in view of their priorities which run counter to genuine land reform and national industrialization and which divert economic and financial resources from these.

The security cluster of the Duterte cabinet is interested only in the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary movement through a combination of all-out war policy, martial law and a lopsided joint interim ceasefire agreement. The economic development cluster of the Duterte government is dominated by the neoliberals who oppose social and economic reforms. We refer to the problems in order to solve them.

If used by the Duterte regime to aggravate its all-out war policy against the revolutionary forces, martial law will increase the power of the pro-imperialists and reactionaries within the regime and will incite the revolutionary force and the broad masses of the people to intensify the people’s war. The only conceivable instance when the NDFP can agree with the Duterte regime on the proper use of martial law is when there is an alliance to combat the armed collaboration between US imperialism and local reactionary forces. Otherwise, the regime has to reckon and contend with a broad united front against a Marcos-type martial rule.

They are peace spoilers within and outside the Duterte regime who wish to impugn the credentials of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and the NDFP Chief Political Consultant. The fact stands that the principal of the NDFP Negotiating Panel is the NDFP National Council and its Executive Committee. These include the representatives of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, with the former having command and control over the latter. They make their consensus on whatever policy and course of action to take in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by relying on the reports and recommendations of the NDFP Negotiating Panel to the NDFP National Council.

The major points that I have presented and stressed in these opening remarks come from the latest appraisal of the situation and the instructions that the National Executive Committee has given to the NDFP Negotiating Panel. The NDFP Negotiating Panel has no command and control over the NPA, just as the GRP Negotiating Panel has no such command and control over the AFP and PNP. But it provides to its principal the reports and recommendations as basis for decision-making.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel through its Chairperson will elucidate to its counterpart the latest instructions that it needs to know.

Thank you. ###

Opening speech for the Fifth Round of the Formal Talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

[This is the full text of the remarks that should have been delivered at the opening ceremony of the fifth round of peace talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by Fidel V. Agcaoili, at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee on May 27, 2017. Unfortunately, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the GRP Negotiating Panel cancelled the fifth round of talks on short notice.]

Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands
27 May 2017

By Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

Your Excellencies of the Royal Norwegian Government, Special Envoy Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum and her team of facilitators,

Compatriots in The Netherlands and the Negotiating Panels and Delegations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),

Esteemed guests,

We in the NDFP Negotiating Panel have received a Directive from its Principal, the NDFP National Executive Committee.

Firstly, we have been directed to firmly adhere to The Hague Joint Declaration as the framework agreement for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. This Declaration sets forth the substantive agenda which aims to result in one comprehensive agreement after another on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The Declaration is reinforced by the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. Thus, the subject of any prolonged and indefinite ceasefire or cessation of hostilities cannot be negotiated and agreed upon before the GRP and NDFP principals have signed and approved the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR). The proper time to discuss a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire is when we reach the point of negotiating and agreeing on the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).

If the NDFP agrees to put the subject of a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire ahead of CASER and CAPCR, it would fall into the trap of capitulation and pacification and it would be abandoning the substantive agenda which are aimed at addressing the roots of the armed conflict through agreements on social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

Secondly, the NDFP must demand compliance with Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) – an already existing comprehensive agreement, especially in the face of certain violations. If the GRP does not comply with this comprehensive agreement, there would be no point in making further agreements.

In this regard, the NDFP raises the following prejudicial questions in demanding compliance with CARHRIHL.

1. Why are the political prisoners listed by the NDFP still being kept in prison in violation of the CARHRIHL and its provision on the Hernandez political offense doctrine as well as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)? There are expeditious remedies to set aright what is wrong.

2. Why is the GRP carrying out an all-out war policy, occupying communities, taking over civilian functions and using aerial bombs and artillery fire, against the people and revolutionary forces in violation of the CARHRIHL? The use of disproportionate force victimizes most the civilian population rather than the highly mobile guerrilla forces of the NPA.

3. Why are the NDFP Panel member and consultants to the peace talks continuously threatened and harassed?

4. Fourth, it must be pointed out that in raising these prejudicial questions, the NDFP is in no way attempting to hinder the peace talks. We must remember that the NDFP has no record of terminating the peace negotiations. A number of times, it was the GRP, under the Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte regimes that has scuttled the peace negotiations, sometimes even without bothering to terminate the JASIG with the proper notice of termination given 30 days in advance.

At this point, the NDFP is faced with two possible reactions from the GRP.

One is that President Duterte may terminate the JASIG and the peace negotiations as he did last February 5 even before he could consult with his Negotiating Panel on February 20. In this event, the responsibility for the further escalation of the civil war will rest squarely on the GRP.

In truth, an all-out war has long been waged by the GRP against the revolutionary forces and people, despite the fact that there were unilateral ceasefire declarations.

As to the release of the hundreds of political prisoners, more than a year of negotiating with the Duterte government has thoroughly convinced the NDFP that the regime has no intention of releasing even the very small number of 15 it last mentioned. Instead, it is increasing the number of political prisoners and the concomitant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. As of May 15, 2017 there are 403 political prisoners, 37 of them were arrested under President Duterte. There have been 59 cases of politically-motivated killings under President Duterte. In addition, there are tens of thousands of displaced persons all over the country as a result of military operations.

The recent martial declaration in Mindanao will surely lead to a burgeoning in the number of political prisoners and human rights violations.

The other possibility is that the GRP and NDFP continue to negotiate peace even while fighting continues in the battlefield. If this be the case, the NDFP remains willing to accelerate the peace negotiations and forge at the soonest time possible the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and constitutional reforms before the end of 2017 and early part of 2018, respectively.

Subsequently, the GRP and NDFP can discuss such subjects as the expeditious release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP and a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire related to the implementation of all comprehensive agreements and the prospective end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In any case, it is unacceptable to the NDFP for the GRP to insist on putting its demand for any joint or bilateral prolonged and indefinite ceasefire ahead of CASER and CAPCR in order to obtain the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people, and lay aside the substantive agenda and the ever urgent demands of the people for social, economic and political reforms necessary for achieving a just and lasting peace.#