The NDFP’s stand on peace talks with the Aquino Regime

By LUIS G. JALANDONI
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

Dear Friends in the Ecumenical Bishops Forum and other participants in this EBF Forum on Peace,

We in the NDFP Negotiating Panel warmly greet you.  We thank you for your invitation to give a presentation in this peace forum.  We appreciate your commitment to strive for a just and lasting peace in our country.

May we present some basic points about our standpoint on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

We take a long-term view of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, consider its fundamental aspects and then look forward to what can be achieved.

We consider it of vital importance that the basic framework for a well-founded and sustained process of peace negotiations has been forged in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and reaffirmed and further strengthened in subsequent agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of February 1995, the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels of June 1995, the Supplemental Agreement thereto of March 1997, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of March 1998.

These were followed by the Oslo Joint Statement of February 2004 and the Oslo Joint Statement II of April 2004 which led to the setting up the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Secretariat (JS) with an office in Quezon City with the financial and moral support of the Royal Norwegian Government.

Principle of Mutual Respect and Reciprocity in The Hague Joint Declaration

We stress the vital importance of The Hague Joint Declaration because it contains the crucially essential principle of mutual respect and reciprocity in the wise provision agreed upon by both Parties, that is, the principle of non-capitulation.  This means that both Parties solemnly agree not to impose or demand capitulation, but rather to seek a just negotiated solution by addressing the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental social, economic, political and constitutional reforms while respecting human rights and international humanitarian law all throughout the process.

The wisdom of this principle enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration is clear when we look at the experiences of other peace negotiations.  Wherever the roots of the armed conflict are not addressed and resolved and one party wants to impose capitulation or merely maneuvers to either destroy militarily or split the resistance movement, no just and lasting peace is achieved.

The Hague Joint Declaration basically defined the agenda for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, namely, human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The RWC agreements of 1995 and 1997 spelled out the concrete details on how to tackle these agenda items in proper sequence.

The JASIG and the CARHRIHL

The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995 provides for the protection of all personnel of both Parties who participate in the peace negotiations.  They are guaranteed safe passage and immunity from punitive actions such as arrest, detention and surveillance.  The JASIG also stipulated that formal talks be held in a foreign neutral venue.

In the CARHRIHL, both Parties have achieved the bringing in of internationally recognized human rights and international humanitarian law conventions as a valuable and integral part of the framework of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.  Such instruments as the Geneva Conventions and Protocols additional thereto, the Convention against Torture and other UN Conventions are integrated in the CARHRIHL.

Lessons from Experience

It is important to learn concrete lessons from our experience.  We must avoid the pitfalls and overcome the impediments that obstruct the attainment of a just and lasting peace.

All attempts to derail the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations from the correct path — whether through a demand for general and prolonged ceasefire before fundamental reforms are agreed upon and carried out, a false amnesty program, or a so-called Social Integration Program, and the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) framework aiming for the capitulation of the  revolutionary movement — have been firmly opposed by the NDFP as a violation of the principles enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration.

We have to state that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), especially under the Arroyo administration, has put up serious and numerous obstacles to the implementation of CARHRIHL through more than a thousand extrajudicial killings of civilians, some two hundred enforced disappearances, numerous frustrated killings, torture, and uprooting of millions of civilians, etc.  The illegal arrest last February 6, the torture and continued illegal detention of 43 health workers, the Morong 43, is a blatant example.

These violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the GRP have also affected NDFP consultants, panel members and staff.  Those covered by the protection of JASIG, which protects all personnel from both Parties involved in the peace negotiations, have been made targets for abduction, arrest, detention, surveillance, threats and other punitive actions by the GRP.
Abducted and disappeared by state agents were NDFP Consultants Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, and Rogelio Calubad, among others. NDFP Consultants and JASIG-protected persons arrested and still detained are Angie Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, Eduardo Sarmiento, Alfredo Mapano, Jovencio Balweg, and Jaime Soledad, among others.  Victims of trumped-up charges and threatened with warrants of arrest are NDFP Consultant Vicente Ladlad, NDFP RWC for Socio-Economic Reforms Members Rafael Baylosis and Randall Echanis.  Moreover, the functioning of the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee has been hampered by the submission of thousands of false nuisance complaints against the NDFP.

Firm Foundation for Moving Forward

Despite the various illegitimate suspensions, declaration of collapse, and even termination, made by the GRP through the years, the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations have resulted in 12 bilateral peace agreements, which constitute a high standard and a good basis for working towards attaining a just and lasting peace in our country.  Furthermore, we have the consistent and firm support of the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator. We have the Joint Secretariat holding office in Metro Manila. We have twice received the endorsement of the European Parliament.  And we have your support and that of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform, the Pilgrims for Peace, the Philippine Peace Center and other peace advocates in our country and abroad.

We believe it is important to recognize the firm foundation that has been forged in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, learn the positive and negative lessons, and move forward. We were hoping after the May elections that the new GRP administration would share this view.

Prospects for Peace Talks with the Benigno Aquino III Administration

However, we have to be realistic and take note of the present prospects for peace talks with the Benigno Aquino III administration.

Aquino's Ceasefire Precondition

While the NDFP has declared its readiness to resume formal peace talks with the Aquino administration, we are deeply disappointed with the pronouncements of the new government regarding peace talks.  President Aquino's demand for a “malawakang tigil-putukan” before holding peace talks is a violation of The Hague Joint Declaration. It is reminiscent of the stand of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino which blocked the negotiations on social, economic and political reforms. After the Mendiola massacre of peasants marching to demand land reform in January 1987 and the collapse of the peace talks, Corazon Aquino “unsheathed the sword of war”.

US Counter-Insurgency Guide

We also take note of the 22 April 2010 speech of Benigno Aquino III on peace and security, just nineteen days before the elections.  The four main points he stated are completely in line with the US Government Counter-Insurgency Guide of 2009.  The four main points, also called “pillars” by Teresita “Ging” Deles, newly appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, are directed at destroying the revolutionary movement.  The four points are aimed at making the reactionary government credible in governance, providing basic services and economic development, and strengthen the military capability of the state's security forces.

Aquino's declaration in his SONA address to increase the budget of the military because the population has doubled since the Marcos dictatorship confirms his adherence to the US Counter-Insurgency Guide.  His address to the Armed Forces of the Philippines praises the AFP and absolutely no mention is made of the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and other human rights violations UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and other international and national organizations have condemned and imputed to the AFP.

Aquino made no mention of the extrajudicial killings and abductions in his SONA address.   His stress on the corruption of the previous regime as the main and even the only cause of poverty covers up the reality of foreign and feudal exploitation and oppression and the need for fundamental social, economic and political reforms.  The culture of impunity among the military and police is left untouched.  Even the impotent Truth Commission excludes human rights violations from its avowed field of concern.

Defense Secretary Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff David Pronouncements

Aquino has emphasized to his military subalterns the priority of counterinsurgency so-called, and has not risen above their mean impulses.  Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has declared that the New People's Army must first surrender before peace talks can start. Evidently, he is ignorant of The Hague Joint Declaration.  Furthermore, AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo David has announced that they would defeat the revolutionary movement in three years, reiterating the failed plan of Gloria Arroyo to destroy the revolutionary movement by June 2010 or render it inconsequential.

Trumped-Up Charge against NDFP Panel Members and Consultants

The latest negative move of the Aquino government is the filing of the trumped-up charge of murder on 21 July 2010 in Hilongos, Leyte against Prof. Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant, myself, NDFP Panel Member Julieta de Lima, NDFP Consultant Vicente Ladlad, NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms members, Rafael Baylosis and Randall Echanis and 48 others.  This is a gross violation of the JASIG.

The use of false charges is by itself a violation of human rights and is aimed at persecuting those falsely accused and setting them up for further violent acts of the state against them. 

We consider it necessary for all those who strive for a just and lasting peace, for all peace advocates who desire a resumption of formal peace talks, to take into account these serious negative indications of the position and attitude of the Aquino government regarding peace negotiations.

NDFP Concrete Proposals

Mr. Aquino also appears to be not adequately informed about the concrete proposals that the NDFP has made.  In his SONA address, he taunted the NDFP for not having any concrete proposals, even as he issued the precondition of a general ceasefire.

He totally ignores the repeated demands of the NDFP for accelerating the peace negotiations and the NDFP Proposal for Immediate Just Peace issued and hand-delivered to the GRP Negotiating Panel and the Norwegian facilitator in August 2005 in Oslo.

Moreover, the NDFP has declared that it is willing to receive an emissary or a team of emissaries from the Aquino administration to discuss the steps needed for the resumption of formal talks.  Such emissaries were sent by former Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Arroyo.

NDFP Ready for Serious Peace Talks and Determined to Carry on Revolutionary Struggle

Despite all these negative indications of the stand of the Aquino administration regarding peace talks, the NDFP stands ready to resume peace talks based on The Hague Joint Declaration and other agreements.  We are willing to go into serious peace talks aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through fundamental social, economic, political and constitutional reforms.

But the NDFP also makes it very clear that should the Aquino regime refuse or ignore the calls for peace talks to address the roots of the armed conflict, if it follows the US counter-insurgency plan and only wants ceasefire and surrender or aims for a militarist solution, the revolutionary forces are determined to carry on their struggle for national and social liberation to achieve a just and lasting peace for the benefit of the workers, peasants, women and youth, urban poor and indigenous people, all sectors of the oppressed, exploited and struggling Filipino people.

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