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Philippines: Status and obstacles to the resumption of peace negotiations

By Luis Jalandoni

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement by Luis Jalandoni, Chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel, on November 14, 2011.

Since 1969, for 42 years, there has been an armed conflict in the Philippines, between the armed forces of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the revolutionary forces represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

After the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in 1986, ceasefire talks were held in 1986 in Manila, resulting in a 60-day ceasefire agreement. Panels of the GRP and NDFP began talks to set an agenda for substantive peace negotiations. After the massacre of peasants marching for land reform in January 1987, these talks collapsed.

In 1992, preliminary talks were resumed to lay the ground for peace negotiations and gave birth to The Hague Joint Declaration. The formal peace negotiations began in Brussels in 1995. Since 1992, twelve bilateral agreements have been forged between the GRP and the NDFP.

The NDFP engages in peace negotiations in order to address the roots of the armed conflict. Land reform to benefit the peasantry, who comprise 75% of the population of 94 million; national industrialization to develop the backward agrarian economy and harness the rich natural resources; these and other basic reforms are aimed for by the NDFP in the peace talks.

The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 stipulates the substantive agenda of human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. It is the framework agreement, declaring that principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice shall guide the two Parties. Neither Party may impose its constitution. Capitulation may not be demanded.

In 1995, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) was signed. This is vitally important because it guarantees safety and immunity to all participants in the peace process from both Parties. The guarantees include safe and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines and immunity from surveillance, arrest, detention and other punitive actions.

In 1998, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was completed. This is the first of the four substantive agenda. This requires both Parties to observe the highest standards of HR and IHL, such as those contained in the Geneva Conventions. A Joint Monitoring Committee is mandated by the CARHRIHL to monitor the implementation of CARHRIHL.

All three agreements, as with other agreements, were approved by the respective Principals of both Parties.

In 2001 the Royal Norwegian Government came in as Third Party Facilitator.

Last February 2011, formal peace talks resumed in Norway after almost seven years of impasse under the Arroyo regime. Both Parties agreed that all or most of the 17 NDFP Consultants detained by the GRP/GPH in violation of the JASIG must be released.

GPH refusal to release them has been a major obstacle to resumption of peace talks because without compliance with JASIG, the panelists and consultants cannot function. Respect for JASIG is needed to build confidence.

The next talks aim to take up socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms.

An offer of the NDFP for alliance and truce, presented last January, has so far no adequate and concrete response from GPH President Aquino. The offer is based on a 10-point program expressing the fundamental aspirations of the Filipino people for land reform, national industrialization, genuine national independence and democracy.

A very serious obstacle is the GPH’s undermining of basic bilateral agreements. In February, the GPH Panel, for the first time ever, attacked The Hague Joint Declaration as a document of perpetual division. It has also declared that the JASIG does not require compliance. It is only at their whim that they shall release detained NDFP consultants covered by the JASIG. It refuses to release the 350 political prisoners in accordance with the clear directive of the CARHRIHL.

Instead of complying with basic agreements, the GPH engages in continuous, vicious, deceptive and even simplistic propaganda attacks against the NDFP and avoids or refuses to seriously sit down and tackle the questions and issues on social, economic and political reforms. It perpetrates widespread human rights violations and has not effectively staved off the climate of impunity.

A huge obstacle is the US government. Its Counter Insurgency Guide of 2009 is followed by the Aquino regime in its Internal Security Plan, Oplan Bayanihan. This aims to militarily defeat the New People’s Army through the triad concept of combat, intelligence and civil-military operations. Furthermore, the US stations interventionist troops in the Philippines.

The NDFP is firmly committed to pursue peace negotiations that address the roots of the armed conflict. It is determined to overcome the problems and difficulties with effective remedies. It is resolute in its decision to carry forward the people’s struggle for national and social liberation.

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