The NDFP’s Stand on Peace Talks with Aquino Regime

by Luis G. Jalandoni
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
11 – 12 November 2010

Dear Friends in the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform,

On behalf of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, I warmly greet and thank you for your invitation to join in this workshop of PEPP Luzon-NCR.
Let me first present some basic points about our standpoint on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
The NDFP takes a long-term view of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. We consider its fundamental aspects and look forward to what can be achieved.
Both the GRP and the NDFP have forged in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 the basic framework for a well-founded and sustained process of peace negotiations. This was 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 (RWC Agreement) of June 1995 and its Supplemental Agreement 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 in accordance with the CARHRIHL of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and its Joint Secretariat (JS) with an office in Quezon City which operates with the support of the Royal Norwegian Government.
Principle of Mutual Respect and Reciprocity in The Hague Joint Declaration
The NDFP stresses 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 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 in the course of the armed conflict.
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 revolutionary 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, as well as the modalities for conducting the peace negotiations.  The RWC Agreement of 1995 and its Supplemental Agreement of 1997 spelled out the concrete details on how to tackle these agenda items in proper sequence.
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 agreed to bring into the framework of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations internationally recognized human rights and international humanitarian law conventions. Such instruments as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocols additional thereto, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and other UN Conventions are referred to 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, and so-called localized peace talks – have been firmly opposed by the NDFP as a violation of the principles enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration.
We must point out 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, indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombings of communities, and uprooting of millions of civilians in Mindanao and other areas in the country, etc. The illegal arrest last February 6 of 43 health workers, the Morong 43, their torture and continued illegal detention, 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 of both Parties involved in the peace negotiations, have been made targets for abduction and murder, arrest, torture, detention, surveillance, harassment and threats and other punitive actions by the GRP.
NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms member Sotero Llamas was killed by motorcycle-riding assassins in 2006.  Abducted and disappeared by state agents were NDFP consultants Prudencio Calubid and Rogelio Calubad in 2006 and Leo Velasco in 2007, among others.  NDFP Consultants and JASIG-protected persons arrested and still detained are Angie Ipong, Eduardo Sarmiento, Alfredo Mapano, Maria Luisa Pucray, Glicerio Pernia, Jovencio Balweg, Eduardo Serrano, 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 Monitoring Committee and its Joint Secretariat has been hampered by the refusal of the GRP to allow the JMC to meet, as well as its continuing submission of false and nuisance complaints against the NDFP.
Firm Foundation for Moving Forward
Despite the various declarations of suspensions, collapse and even termination 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, the Royal Norwegian Government remains committed to act as Third Party Facilitator. There is also the Joint Secretariat (JS) of the JMC holding office in Metro Manila. The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations have twice received the endorsement of the European Parliament. And we have your support and that of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform, the Pilgrims for Peace, the Philippine Peace Center and other peace advocates in our country and abroad to continue with the peace negotiations.
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 that after the May elections 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 resuming the formal 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 GRP regime regarding peace talks. President Aquino’s demand for a “malawakang tigil-putukan” before holding peace talks is a precondition that violates The Hague Joint Declaration. It is reminiscent of the stand of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino, who demanded a ceasefire agreement before negotiations on social, economic and political reforms would be held. 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 eighteen 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 Secretary Teresita Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, do not speak of basic reforms in Philippine society but only of destroying the revolutionary movement by making the reactionary GRP credible in governance, providing basic services, pursuing economic development through foreign borrowings and neoliberal globalization, and strengthening the military capability of the state security forces.
Only last week, Aquino has directed his defense and security advisers to draft a national security plan based on these four points.
Aquino’s declaration in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to increase the budget of the military because the population has doubled since the Marcos dictatorship also confirms his adherence to the US Counter-Insurgency Guide. The budget for the military has been increased by 81 %. This is scandalous when we consider the drastic cuts in the budgets for migrant workers, education, health and other basic services. This budget shows disrespect for the people while it follows the US Counter-Insurgency Guide. The US grant of $434 million is in line with the anti-people US-Aquino counter-insurgency plan.
Perpetuating the Culture of Impunity
Aquino gave fulsome praise to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in his first address to the military.  Absolutely no mention was made of the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and other human rights violations which UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and international and national organizations have condemned and imputed to the AFP. The declaration extending Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) until January 2011 practically upheld the AFP’s counter-insurgency plan which led to gross and systematic violations of human rights during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) regime.
In his SONA, Aquino also made no mention of the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Thus the culture of impunity among the GRP military and police is allowed to continue and prevail.  Even in the impotent Truth Commission, the investigation of human rights violations by the GRP military, police and paramilitary forces has been excluded from its avowed field of concern.
Publicity Campaign to Fight Corruption
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. His avowed crusade to eradicate corruption in government is exposed as nothing more than a publicity and campaign stunt because, after four months in office, not a single case of corruption has been filed against GMA and he has been silent on corruption in the AFP and PNP, which has led to rebellion and mutiny from within their own ranks. Aquino has clearly signalled the generals that they can steal as much as they want in exchange for their loyalty to his regime.
Allowing the Military to Derail the Prospects for Resuming the Peace Talks
Aquino has emphasized to his military subalterns the priority of pursuing the AFP’s so-called counterinsurgency program. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has declared that the New People’s Army (NPA) 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 GMA to destroy the revolutionary movement or render it inconsequential by June 2010.  Then, on September 9, the AFP announced a five-year battle plan against the New People’s Army.
Trumped-Up Charge against NDFP Panel Members and Consultants
The Aquino government filed on 21 July 2010 in Hilongos, Leyte, the trumped-up charge of murder 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 again is a gross violation of the JASIG.
The filing of false charges is by itself a violation of human rights and of the CARHRIHL.  It is aimed at persecuting those falsely accused and setting them up for violent acts by the reactionary state.
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 makes no reference at all to 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. The NDFP has given the GRP since 1998 the NDFP Draft for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) containing concrete analyses and proposals on land reform, national industrialization, foreign trade, financial and monetary system, national patrimony, rights of the working people, etc.
Extreme Slowness in Resuming the Formal Talks in the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations
The Benigno Aquino regime has shown extreme slowness in moving for the resumption of the formal talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. It took nearly four months after its inauguration before the GRP could form its negotiating panel with the NDFP. It has publicly announced that it intends to give priority to the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but, even here, there has been not much movement and some disturbing developments like the arrest of an MILF leader imbued with safety and immunity guarantees and the deliberate attempt by the military to link the MILF to the Cotabato bus bombing.
The GRP has also shown a certain measure of unreasonableness and hostility to the NDFP by failing so far to release as goodwill measure the 388 political prisoners, while ordering the release of 400 military prisoners.  Mr. Aquino is really much unlike his mother and President Ramos who ordered the release of all if not most of the political prisoners in 1986 and 1992, respectively, upon their assumption into office.
The GRP also takes a negative attitude towards my proposed courtesy call on Aquino, following precedents with the Ramos, Estrada and GMA regimes, in the course of a visit to the Philippines for a one-on-one meeting with Atty. Alex Padilla, the newly appointed Chairperson of the GRP Negotiating Panel, in order to discuss the resumption of the formal talks.
One hopeful note is the appointment to the GRP panel of personalities who appreciate the Filipino people’s struggle for national independence and democracy. The appointment of these personalities encourages the belief that there will be serious negotiations towards mutually satisfactory agreements.
PEPP Letter of 16 October 2010 to President Benigno Aquino III
We thank you for your excellent 16 October 2010 letter to President Benigno Aquino III, urging both the GRP and the NDFP to immediately resume the formal talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in accordance with previously signed agreements, implement the CARHRIHL, negotiate an agreement on social and economic reforms, carry out confidence building measures to create a goodwill atmosphere, and bring an end the culture of impunity.  We earnestly hope that President Aquino would heed your letter.
We thank you most of all for adopting in your letter the concrete measures that we had proposed earlier like the release of all political prisoners, especially the Morong 43, Angelina Ipong and Maria Luisa Pucray, and the need to address the increasing US military intervention in the country.
NDFP Ready for Serious Peace Talks and Determined to Carry on Revolutionary Struggle
Despite the negative indications and attitude of the Aquino administration, the NDFP is prepared to resume peace talks based on The Hague Joint Declaration and other agreements.  We remain committed to enter into serious peace talks aimed at addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through fundamental social, economic, political and constitutional reforms.  Under the current conditions of severe and worsening economic crisis and intensified suffering of the people, negotiations and agreements on social and economic reforms, such as land reform and national industrialization, are urgently necessary, together with implementation of the CARHRIHL.
The NDFP also makes it very clear that should the Aquino regime refuse to address the roots of the armed conflict in the peace negotiations, if it insists on following the US counter-insurgency plan in an attempt to defeat the revolutionary movement, the revolutionary forces are determined to carry on their struggle for national and social liberation to achieve a just and lasting peace.  We are convinced that this is 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.  We call for your solidarity and support in the pursuit of this liberation struggle to achieve a just and lasting peace in our country. ###