Part III: The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations
Question 1: What is the position of the NDFP on the question of resuming the formal talks in the peace negotiations with the GRP? What is the key step towards overcoming all the impediments?
Prof. Jose Maria Sison: The NDFP is always ready to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations with the GRP in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements, especially the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (Joint Agreement on RWCs), the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Oslo Joint Statements I and II.
The NDFP and GRP must address the roots of the armed conflict through negotiations and agreements on economic, social, political and constitutional reforms in accordance with the agenda and methods set by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on RWCs. The two negotiating parties and their principals succeeded in forging the CARHRIHL. If they muster the needed political will, they can make the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms (SER), on political and constitutional reforms (PCR) and on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EHDF).
Q2: Why does the NDFP consider as impediment the demand of the GRP for a permanent or indefinite ceasefire? The NDFP calls this an impermissible precondition. But is not the NDFP making its own preconditions.
JMS: The GRP demand for a permanent or indefinite ceasefire as precondition to the resumption of formal talks is an impediment because it violates The Hague Joint Declaration which stipulates that there shall be no precondition whatsoever which negates the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations. Supplanting the peace negotiations on substantive issues with ceasefire negotiations simply to pacify the revolutionary forces is a blatant violation of The Hague Joint Declaration. The GRP is seeking a ceasefire agreement that kills the negotiations on the substantive agenda of economic, social and political reforms. The issue of ending the armed hostilities is the fourth and last item of the agenda.
Unlike the GRP, the NDFP is not setting any precondition. It is simply telling the GRP to comply with the agreements that it has signed with the NDFP. What is the point in negotiating with the GRP if it can refuse to comply with agreements already made and even violate these so flagrantly. What the GRP cannot win in the battlefield, it seeks to win across the table by pushing a permanent or indefinite ceasefire that amounts to the pacification and capitulation of the revolutionary forces and the people and therefore the end of the peace negotiations without any substantive agreement on basic reforms.
Q3: It has long been bruited about that the NDFP has set as precondition to the resumption of formal talks the removal of the names of the CPP, NPA and yourself from the US list of terrorists so called. How true is this? What exactly is possible and acceptable to the NDFP by way of overcoming the “terror” list as an impediment to peace negotiations? How are Oslo Joint Statements I and II related to the question of “terrorist” listing?
JMS: Since the last week of November 2001 the NDFP has known for a fact from then Speaker Jose de Venecia that it was the Arroyo regime that had requested the US to list the CPP, NPA and myself as so-called terrorists. It should be necessary and appropriate for the GRP to request the US to delist the CPP, NPA and myself for the sake of promoting the peace negotiations. But shamelessly the Arroyo regime has declared that it is the sovereign right of the US to impose its political and legal categories and presumptions on Philippine events that are strictly within the jurisdiction of the sovereign Filipino people.
Knowing the extent of puppetry of the Arroyo regime to the US, the NDFP has frankly told the GRP several times that the NDFP cannot expect a puppet regime to tell its imperialist master to delist the CPP, NPA and myself. Instead, the NDFP has proposed that the GRP and NDFP sign together a declaration upholding national sovereignty and territorial integrity against foreign interference in the internal affairs of the Philippines. The Hague Joint Declaration declares national sovereignty as one of the mutually acceptable principles guiding the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
The Oslo Joint Statements I and II call on the GRP to be proactive in seeking the delisting of the CPP, NPA and myself. But the GRP has consistently said that it is the sovereign right of the US to interfere in Philippine affairs and that the way out of the “terrorist” list of the US and other foreign governments is for the CPP, NPA and NDFP to capitulate and submit themselves to a sham peace accord, that is obviously drafted by the US Central Intelligence Agency and its Philippine assets like executive secretary General Eduardo Ermita and national security adviser Norberto Gonzales.
Q4: Do you consider the US and the Arroyo regime as the biggest impediments to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations? How do you propose to overcome US military intervention and the US-instigated war on terror, the human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya and the false charges in the “legal offensive” under the Inter-Agency Legal Assistance Group (IALAG), including the charge of rebellion, multiple murder in Leyte and the current charge against you of inducing the murder of Kintanar and Tabara?
JMS: Indeed, the biggest impediments are the US and the Arroyo regime itself. At the highest level, these have agreed on unleashing US military intervention in line with the US global war of terror. This has taken the form of Oplan Bantay Laya I and II and has resulted in gross and systematic human rights violations of the worst proportions since the Marcos fascist dictatorship. Progressive legal activists have not been spared from extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and false charges to stigmatize and imprison them.
The state terrorism that is going on in the Philippines is a matter of policy taken at the highest level on the GRP side upon the instigation of the US. Arroyo cannot be expected to change policy and course. She still daydreams that she can destroy the armed revolution or inflict a strategic defeat on it before she steps down or is ousted. She is in fact compelling and challenging the revolutionary forces and people to intensify the armed revolution. Her appointment of General Esperon as presidential advisor on the peace process is widely regarded as a provocation for the furtherance of the civil war in the Philippines.
The advocates of just peace and human rights in the Philippines and abroad have done well in exposing the gross and systematic human rights violations of the Arroyo regime. The UN special rapporteur Philip Alston has pointed out that the extrajudicial killings and disappearances are connected with the design of the “counter-insurgency” scheme and has called for the abolition of IALAG. It would be good if the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee can function fully in accordance with CARHRIHL and the JMC Operating Guidelines.
It is fine that the Supreme Court has ordered the dismissal of the rebellion charge against me and 50 other opposition leaders. But IALAG continues to oppress opposition leaders, including myself, with trumped up murder charges in Leyte and elsewhere. The tentacles of the IALAG have also reached The Netherlands. I continue to face the false charges of inducing the murder of military assets like Kintanar and Tabara.
Q5: What led to the suspension of the JASIG by the GRP? Was the GRP justified in suspending it? How do you overcome the suspension of JASIG and the use of the list of holders of documents of identification (DOI) as wanted list, the murders, disappearances and imprisonment of NDFP consultants?
JMS: At one point in the second half of 2004, the NDFP postponed the formal talks in order to give the GRP the chance to comply with the Oslo Joint Statements I and II, regarding the “terrorist” listing. The GRP reacted by “suspending” the JASIG. The provisions of the JASIG do not allow “suspension”. They allow only either continuing validity or termination after a 30-day notice in advance. The NDFP's position is that JASIG remains valid and binding in effect in the absence of any notice of termination.
The real and malicious intent of the Arroyo regime in the illegal suspension of the JASIG became indubitably clear when it converted the list of holders of NDFP documents of identification into a manhunt list (with a great deal of guessing the real identities behind the alternative names). At any rate, the manhunt list resulted in the murder, disappearance, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and grave threats to NDFP consultants and staffers.
To resume the formal talks, the GRP needs to declare unconditionally the continuing validity and effectivity of the JASIG. The negotiators, consultants and staffers must be assured of safety and immunity guarantees. The GRP must give an accurate account of those NDFP consultants and staffers who have been victimized by the illegal suspension of the JASIG. Justice must be rendered for the benefit of the victims. Those who have violated their human rights must be held to account under the JASIG, CARHRIHL and pertinent laws.
Q6: In what way does the Anti-Terrorism Law impede the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations? What will happen to the peace negotiations if the Supreme Court recognizes its validity and allows its operationalization?
JMS: Should it be considered valid by the Supreme Court and operationalized by the GRP executive, the Anti-Terrorism Law (alias Human Security Act of 2007) would certainly kill the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations once and for all. The floodgates to human rights violations would open to an extent and in a manner as to outstrip the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The Anti-Terrorism Law is a license for unbridled fascism.
Even without the Anti-Terrorism Law, gross and systematic human rights violations have been perpetrated. They would certainly become more rampant if the Anti-Terrorism Law were allowed. In the course of their constant struggle for power, the rival reactionary groups themselves would not be safe from the overbroad and vague definition of terrorism and from its draconian punitive measures.
It is fine that constitutional questions have been raised before the Supreme Court by a broad range of highly responsible associations and institutions. Many people expect the Supreme Court to invalidate the Anti-Terrorism Law as entirely unconstitutional. Like the Anti-Subversion Law of the past, the Anti-Terrorism Law would not discourage but would inflame the armed revolution against oppression and exploitation.
Q7: According to some reports, the Arroyo regime used for electioneering purposes in 2004 the money recovered from the Swiss bank account of Marcos. How can the victims of human rights violations under the martial rule of Marcos be indemnified after the reported misappropriation and squandering of the money by the Arroyo regime? In what way is the failure to indemnify the victims an impediment to the resumption of formal talks? How can this be overcome?
JMS: There are indeed reliable reports that the Arroyo regime misappropriated and squandered the money intended to indemnify the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos fascist dictatorship. At the same time, the GRP Negotiating Panel informed the NDFP Negotiating Panel in 2004 that such money was still available if a law would be enacted to amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. But every year the Arroyo-controlled Congress fails to pass that amendatory law.
The GRP has to indemnify the aforesaid victims, who were winners in the human rights litigation against Marcos in the US. The indemnification is in accordance with CARHRIHL. Continuing failure to indemnify the victims exposes the bad faith of the GRP in co-signing agreements with the NDFP. It shows that the GRP has utter disregard for human rights and for rendering any measure of justice to the victims of human right violations. As soon as possible, the GRP should negotiate and agree with the representatives of the victims.
Q8: What can be done to overcome the prolonged failure of the Arroyo regime to fulfill its promise to release political prisoners in 2001 and 2004?
JMS: This is a matter of the GRP keeping its word in order to build good will and confidence. In comparison to the Ramos regime, the Arroyo regime has promised so little to show a measure of goodwill to the political prisoners but has failed to deliver. Some of those political prisoners who were supposed to be released in 2001 and 2004 are still in prison. Others have won their freedom through difficult legal struggle.
Instead of undertaking goodwill and confidence-building measures, the Arroyo regime has gone into an orgy of human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya I and II. After taking over the peace negotiations on the side of the GRP, fascists like Generals Reyes and Ermita and longtime CIA asset like Norberto Gonzales have merely used the illusion of peace negotiations as one of the minor tactics in their vain attempts to deceive the people and destroy the armed revolution through sheer military force.
Q9: How do you evaluate the localized peace talks and offers of amnesty and rehabiltation as well as the payment for weapons surrendered?
JMS: Real peace negotiations between two conflicting forces like the GRP and NDFP can be carried out only through negotiating panels created and directed by their respective principals who ultimately sign and approve the comprehensive agreements on economic, social and political reforms. The Arroyo regime has maliciously used so-called localized peace talks and offers of amnesty and rehabilitation and payments for arms surrendered in a futile attempt to supplant the negotiations at the proper level, deceive the people and split the ranks of the revolutionaries.
The GRP has long failed in these tactics. In so-called localized peace talks, the GRP talks with a handful of renegades and its own underlings and therefore with its own shadow for psywar purposes. The offers of amnesty are not believed because those who make the mistake of taking the bait are soon murdered by death squads of the regime. To pocket the money for themselves, corrupt military officers and bureaucrats collude in drawing up the lists of ghost beneficiaries of amnesty, rehabilitation and rewards for the surrender of arms.
Q10: What are the chances for resuming the peace negotiations while Arroyo is still in power?
JMS: It is doubtful whether the formal talks can be resumed while Arroyo is still in power. That is because the Arroyo regime is not making any move to meet the demands of the NDFP for doing away with the impediments that the GRP has put up. The impediments can be overcome if analyzed one by one and if what is just and reasonable is aimed at within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration and the succeeding agreements.
The NDFP is willing to go further into exploratory talks towards overcoming the impediments and resuming the formal talks. If these exploratory talks do not lead to formal talks during the Arroyo regime, they can probably lead to formal talks during the next regime. In this regard, good sense and energy will not be wasted. At the same time, reality beyond the negotiating table does not stand still. The crisis of the ruling system is ever worsening. And the revolutionary forces of the people are growing in strength and advancing. [End of three-part interview]
First published in slightly edited form in MRZine of the Monthly Review http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/sison010708c.html