by Luis Jalandoni
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
21 February 2011
Ambassadors Ture Lundh and Knut Solem, and other member of the Royal Norwegian Government facilitation team, Ida Marstein, Fredrik Steen, Lisa Golden and Aina Holm, Atty. Alexander A. Padilla, Chairperson of the GPH Negotiating Panel, members of the GPH Negotiating Panel Atty. Pablito Sanidad, Mr. Edgar Dayanghirang, Ms. Maria Lourdes Tison, Ms. Jurgette Malonzo, and the other members of the GPH delegation.
There is no doubt what we, the Negotiating Panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), together, have achieved this past week. We have moved the peace negotiations forward, breaking the 6-year impasse and inertia caused by the previous Arroyo administration’s unilateral and prolonged suspension of the talks, and grievous violations of the bilateral agreements entered into by the two Parties.
But it has been a roller coaster ride all the way, so to speak, and until a few moments ago, no one could be quite sure whether the talks would end up on a high or a low point, or whether it might stall once more.
Such is the nature of negotiations.
The Joint Communique which we will sign in a few moments is eloquent proof of what the two Panels have achieved:
We have reconvened the Joint Monitoring Committee which is tasked to oversee the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The Reciprocal Working Committees for Socio-Economic Reforms have resumed their work.
We have agreed on the formation of working groups on Political & Constitutional Reforms (PCR) in order to pave the way for the eventual negotiations on PCR by the RWCs.
We have agreed on appropriate measures to be undertaken by the GPH to address the issues on compliance with JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and the release of political prisoners.
A general timetable synchronizing all the above mentioned processes for completion of agreements leading to a comprehensive political settlement has been set.
We have drawn on common aspirations and principles in order to overcome inherent contradictions and contrasting perspectives. Each party has bent over backwards from previous hard positions in order to find common ground.
One of the major stumbling blocks that has been removed is the previous attempt by the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines) under the Arroyo administration to use the “terrorist” listing of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army) and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Professor Sison as leverage in alternately enticing and coercing the NDFP into signing a document of capitulation.
We welcome the declaration of the GPH that the CPP, NPA and NDFP are not terrorist organizations and therefore peace negotiations with us are possible and appropriate. However, much more has to be done in ensuring that all GPH departments and agencies, especially the military and police forces, understand, respect and abide by this position. We note that the PNP (Philippine National Police) Suspension of Operations Order in relation to the ongoing unilateral reciprocal ceasefire declarations by both Parties still refer to the CPP-NPA-NDF forces as “CTs” (communist terrorists) or simply “terrorists”.
Similarly, the GPH backtracked from its previous attempt to impose an indefinite or prolonged ceasefire as a precondition to the resumption of formal talks. The unilateral ceasefires both Parties entered into to mark the resumption of the formal peace talks after more than six years clearly served as reciprocal confidence-building measures.
However, we have received reports from our field units in various areas all over the country that GPH security forces have conducted offensive operations in violation of the current ceasefire, under the guise of civil-military operations (CMOs), defensive and police operations. We would like to stress that while our principals and NPA forces have specifically demanded that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) ceasefire include CMOs and other operations that are used as a cover for offensive operations, the AFP SOMO (suspension of military operations) declared the opposite, excluded these very operations, and provided wide latitude for such ceasefire violations.
We have no illusion that the road ahead will be a smooth and easy one. Both Parties declare that the just and lasting peace which is the common aspiration and avowed end goal of the negotiations can only be the result of fundamental and structural socio-economic and political reforms that will benefit the people. However, powerful vested interests, domestic and foreign, stand in the way, and continue to weigh down the peace negotiations.
As the global and domestic economic and political crises intensify, our task of negotiating bilateral agreements that address the roots of the armed conflict becomes more urgent and compelling. We must muster all our political will, continue to find common ground, build principled unity and creatively craft mutually acceptable terms to forge these agreements.
We once more thank the Royal Norwegian Government for ably and patiently hosting and facilitating the peace negotiations, and for this round of formal talks in particular. The success of this round of talks would not have been possible without them.
We put this fruitful and constructive round of formal talks to a close with a note of confidence, guarded optimism and hope, as well as a realistic appraisal of the difficult road that lies ahead. The Filipino people demand and will continue to struggle, by all means possible, for nothing less than a just and lasting peace.