Opening speech for the Fifth Round of the Formal Talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

[This is the full text of the remarks that should have been delivered at the opening ceremony of the fifth round of peace talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by Fidel V. Agcaoili, at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee on May 27, 2017. Unfortunately, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the GRP Negotiating Panel cancelled the fifth round of talks on short notice.]

Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands
27 May 2017

By Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

Your Excellencies of the Royal Norwegian Government, Special Envoy Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum and her team of facilitators,

Compatriots in The Netherlands and the Negotiating Panels and Delegations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),

Esteemed guests,

We in the NDFP Negotiating Panel have received a Directive from its Principal, the NDFP National Executive Committee.

Firstly, we have been directed to firmly adhere to The Hague Joint Declaration as the framework agreement for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. This Declaration sets forth the substantive agenda which aims to result in one comprehensive agreement after another on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The Declaration is reinforced by the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. Thus, the subject of any prolonged and indefinite ceasefire or cessation of hostilities cannot be negotiated and agreed upon before the GRP and NDFP principals have signed and approved the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR). The proper time to discuss a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire is when we reach the point of negotiating and agreeing on the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).

If the NDFP agrees to put the subject of a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire ahead of CASER and CAPCR, it would fall into the trap of capitulation and pacification and it would be abandoning the substantive agenda which are aimed at addressing the roots of the armed conflict through agreements on social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

Secondly, the NDFP must demand compliance with Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) – an already existing comprehensive agreement, especially in the face of certain violations. If the GRP does not comply with this comprehensive agreement, there would be no point in making further agreements.

In this regard, the NDFP raises the following prejudicial questions in demanding compliance with CARHRIHL.

1. Why are the political prisoners listed by the NDFP still being kept in prison in violation of the CARHRIHL and its provision on the Hernandez political offense doctrine as well as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)? There are expeditious remedies to set aright what is wrong.

2. Why is the GRP carrying out an all-out war policy, occupying communities, taking over civilian functions and using aerial bombs and artillery fire, against the people and revolutionary forces in violation of the CARHRIHL? The use of disproportionate force victimizes most the civilian population rather than the highly mobile guerrilla forces of the NPA.

3. Why are the NDFP Panel member and consultants to the peace talks continuously threatened and harassed?

4. Fourth, it must be pointed out that in raising these prejudicial questions, the NDFP is in no way attempting to hinder the peace talks. We must remember that the NDFP has no record of terminating the peace negotiations. A number of times, it was the GRP, under the Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte regimes that has scuttled the peace negotiations, sometimes even without bothering to terminate the JASIG with the proper notice of termination given 30 days in advance.

At this point, the NDFP is faced with two possible reactions from the GRP.

One is that President Duterte may terminate the JASIG and the peace negotiations as he did last February 5 even before he could consult with his Negotiating Panel on February 20. In this event, the responsibility for the further escalation of the civil war will rest squarely on the GRP.

In truth, an all-out war has long been waged by the GRP against the revolutionary forces and people, despite the fact that there were unilateral ceasefire declarations.

As to the release of the hundreds of political prisoners, more than a year of negotiating with the Duterte government has thoroughly convinced the NDFP that the regime has no intention of releasing even the very small number of 15 it last mentioned. Instead, it is increasing the number of political prisoners and the concomitant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. As of May 15, 2017 there are 403 political prisoners, 37 of them were arrested under President Duterte. There have been 59 cases of politically-motivated killings under President Duterte. In addition, there are tens of thousands of displaced persons all over the country as a result of military operations.

The recent martial declaration in Mindanao will surely lead to a burgeoning in the number of political prisoners and human rights violations.

The other possibility is that the GRP and NDFP continue to negotiate peace even while fighting continues in the battlefield. If this be the case, the NDFP remains willing to accelerate the peace negotiations and forge at the soonest time possible the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and constitutional reforms before the end of 2017 and early part of 2018, respectively.

Subsequently, the GRP and NDFP can discuss such subjects as the expeditious release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP and a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire related to the implementation of all comprehensive agreements and the prospective end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In any case, it is unacceptable to the NDFP for the GRP to insist on putting its demand for any joint or bilateral prolonged and indefinite ceasefire ahead of CASER and CAPCR in order to obtain the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people, and lay aside the substantive agenda and the ever urgent demands of the people for social, economic and political reforms necessary for achieving a just and lasting peace.#