By FIDEL V. AGCAOILI
Spokesperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Atty. Alexander Padilla, Chairperson of the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH, formerly designated as the GRP), has the penchant for blaming the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of among others prolonging the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations supposedly for 25 years since 1986.
What are the facts as reflected in the time line study of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations?
There were no peace negotiations during the Cory Aquino regime. There were merely ceasefire negotiations which resulted in a short-lived Ceasefire Agreement. The negotiating panels of both sides were still trying to hammer out an agenda for peace negotiations when the massacre of peasants calling for genuine land reform occurred on 22 January 1987 and the ceasefire broke down. The massacre was followed by the “unsheathing of the sword of war” by Mrs. Aquino in March 1987.
It took more than five (5) years and six (6) months after March 1987 before The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) was signed on 1 September 1992. This should have led to further preparations for the opening of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations but Ramos in self-contradiction created the National Unification Commission to prevent such preparations.
It was only in 1994 when the GPH formed its negotiating panel to engage its NDFP counterpart in further preliminary talks and forge, among others, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs).
These agreements, together with The Hague Joint Declaration, paved the way for the opening of the formal peace negotiations on 26 June 1995 in Brussels, Belgium upon the facilitation of the Belgian Government. Strictly speaking, the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations started sixteen years ago, not 25 years ago.
From 1 September 1992 (signing of THJD) to 15 February 2011 (opening of the formal talks under the Benigno Aquino III regime), there were only 34 interface meetings in formal and informal talks between the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels which involved a total of 128 days. There were also the normal recesses in between rounds of formal talks which totaled around eleven months.
On the other hand, there have been 12 interruptions, all of which were at the instance of the GPH except for one by the NDFP. This was in August 2004 when the NDFP postponed the formal talks scheduled on that month to give time for the GPH to comply with its obligations under THJD, the JASIG, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the 2004 First and Second Oslo Joint Statements. 2
Among the major interruptions initiated by the GPH from 1992 to 2011 were:
The nearly two (2) years of interruption (1 September 1992 till June 1994) imposed by the Ramos regime after the formation of the National Unification Commission (NUC) on 16 September 1992.
After the appointment of Howard Dee as the GPH negotiating panel chairperson, he caused further interruptions by unilaterally making declarations of suspension, indefinite recess and collapse which totaled almost two (2) years, including a one year suspension (June 1995 to June 1996) because Gen. Renato de Villa refused to release Sotero Llamas, a Document of Identification (DI) holder under the JASIG.
The more than two (2) years of interruption instigated by the Joseph Estrada regime when it suspended the peace negotiations on 24 February 1999 and officially terminated these on 31 May 1999 and declared all-out-war against the revolutionary movement (the termination ended in March 2001).
A total of more than eight (8) years of suspension (from September 2001 to September 2003 and from December 2004 to December 2010) by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime when it tried to defeat and/or render irrelevant the revolutionary movement by carrying out military suppression campaigns in the countryside and urban areas, accompanied by widespread and systematic violations of human rights against residents of communities and members of legal democratic organizations, through Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.
These four major interruptions come to a total of 14 years (excluding the five years and six months during the Cory Aquino regime). Together with other GPH interruptions, more than 21 years were wasted by the GPH since 1987 in attempting to resolve the armed conflict in the country militarily and to impose its will on the NDFP across the negotiating table.
The GPH should comply with all signed agreements in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations instead of raising irrelevant issues to avoid obligations under, or worse, negate these agreements. Only for the second time in June 2011 did the NDFP call for the postponement of formal talks between the negotiating panels because the GPH failed to fulfill its obligation to release all or most of the 17 JASIG-protected individuals before said month. The recurrent problem is that the GPH does not fulfill its obligation and comply with agreements.
The NDFP has no interest in prolonging the peace negotiations. It recognizes the military superiority of the GPH in terms of personnel and resources and the harm that such power has been wreaking on the people in the countryside and urban areas. But the Filipino people must continue to defend themselves against the violence of the reactionary state, hold their destiny in their own hands, and fight for an independent, democratic, just, progressive and prosperous Philippines.
The GPH must exercise strong political will in addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It must agree to carry out basic social, economic and political reforms in the country. The GPH must exhibit patriotism, if it has any, and must respect the national and democratic rights and interests of the Filipino people, especially in these times of grave crisis which goads the people to resist. It should formally reply to the proposal of the NDFP for a round of formal talks in Oslo in September 2011 and to the offer of truce and alliance on the basis of the ten-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace.