Who does not share the vision of a Philippines freed from the fetters of economic crisis and political turmoil? A country where the majority of the people – the poor and working classes – do not suffer the yoke of poverty and exploitation. A country where the needs of the majority for education, health and housing are met; and there are countless opportunities for them and their children to develop their skills and gifts, and can create art and beauty even as they also build a self-reliant, independent and self-sustaining economy.
What we need, what we aspire to is a Philippines where the government is untainted by corruption, and its leaders are not greedy and power-hungry; where justice cannot be escaped by those who commit crimes that destroy hundreds of lives in a myriads of ways. What we work for is a country that does not exist in the shadow of foreign powers; a country not indebted or enslaved, and its territory cannot be taken over by foreign troops that their own nations’ economic, political and military interests to the extreme detriment of our nation’s sovereignty, internal security, and at the risk of the Filipino people’s safety.
This vision, this aspiration is far from being realized; but by no means are we willing to let goof them.
It’s unfortunate that there isn’t much of a buzz regarding the upcoming peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). I mean, considering that the aim of the talks is to bring to the negotiating table the roots of armed conflict in the country, shouldn’t everyone be in a bit of flurry over it? Not going nuts or anything; but at least talking about it; discussing it.Because the talks are important.
The talks began in March 1986 one month after the ouster of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and since then negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP have taken place on an intermittent basis, dependent on the willingness of the GRP to return to the table. Syempre, the GRP will deny this and say that it’s the NDFP that’s been less than enthusiastic; but hey, let’s trace everything is history, shall we? It would be great if someone could do his or her undergrad thesis on the peace talks. There’s already a wealth of materials, and because of the wonders of technology, it’s relatively easy now to interview the key personalities who participated in them or had a role in them.
Since 1992, FYI, six important documents and agreements have been the results of the negotiations: a) the Hague Joint Declaration signed on September 1, 1992; b) Breukelen Joint Statement signed on June 14, 1994; c) Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed on February 24, 1995; d) Joint Agreement on the Ground Rules of the Formal Meetings Between the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels signed on February 26, 1995; e) Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) and f) the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed on March 16, 1998.
These are documents that speak much about the balance of power between the two parties. Despite the constant harping of the certain officials of the GRP especially those in the military that the NDFP and its forces are ‘criminals’ and that negotiating with them is an act of lunacy, it’s clear that the NDFP does wield political power that the GRP cannot deny and refuse to recognize.
Para walang kalituhan, it’s a general understanding that when the term ‘peace talks’ is used, it refers to the formal process of dialogues between members of the respective peace panels of the GRP and the NDFP; while the term ‘peace negotiations’ refers even to the informal communications between both parties prior to and in-between formal peace talks.
It was in the Hague Joint Declaration that the goal and orientation of the formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP were established and agreed upon. It was set that henceforward, efforts to resolve the armed conflict is aimed towards attaining a just and lasting peace; that negotiations will take place after the parties have arrived tentative agreements on substantive issues included in the agreed agenda. It was also stated that the negotiations must be based on mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice; and that no preconditions should be made that will serve to negate the inherent character and purpose of the negotiations.
In the meantime, it was also agreed that the GRP and the NDFP were to organize reciprocal working committees (RWCs) that will deal with the four major headings of the substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations, namely Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law; Socio-Economic Reforms; Political and Constitutional Reforms; and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces. Each of the RWC was to be composed of a chairperson and two members, all of whom are appointed by their respective negotiating panels. They will also be assisted by consultants and staff.
The main work of the RWC is to draft a tentative comprehensive agreement for each major heading of the substantive agenda they were assigned. The agreements were to be finalized and signed by the two panels, and then submitted to the principals for final consideration and approval.
Sa ngayon, ang naka-table sa usapan ay ang CASER because only the CARHRIHL has been signed by the NDFP and the GRP. We can only hope and cross our fingers that the CASER will be finalized and signed.
As per records, the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP have been continuous since 1986, but the actual formal dialogues have been far and in between. Several events have resulted to the stalling of the peace talks, with factors and considerations stemming from the GRP’s attempts to undermine the NDFP’s authority by forcing it to capitulate and surrender. Di ba nga, it’s now 2009. The last round of talks was way back in 2004. Ang tagal na.
Under ousted Pres. Joseph Estrada, the GRP formally terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP on May 31, 1999. It also issued a written notice of the unilateral termination of the JASIG.
Following the take-over of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, informal talks took place on March 5-9, 2001 in the Hague. This was followed by the resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway from April 27 to 30, 2001, and then again from June 10 to 31 on the same year.
After a series of suspensions and indefinite recess, the formal talks resumed in Oslo from February 10 to 14, 2004. The result of this round was the signing of the Oslo Joint Statement wherein both parties agreed to take active steps to resolve the issue of the terrorist listing.
The second round of talks took place soon after on March 30 up to April 2, 2004. The Second Oslo Joint Statement was finalized during this round, and the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) was also convened.
The third round of talks were held again in Oslo on June 22 to 24, 2004 where two small agreements were signed, the Partial Supplemental Guidelines for the JMC, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the GRP and the NDFP and the Royal Norwegian Government (the Third Party Facilitator).
Since August 2004, the formal meetings of the negotiating panels have been postponed to allow the GRP time to comply with its obligations stated in The Hague Joint Declaration and other agreements, including Oslo I and II. In the meantime, the NDFP raised the issue of the inclusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP, the New People’s Army (NPA) and the NDFP’s Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison’s name in the terrorist list of the United States government.
The NDFP broached to the GRP the urgency of the need to address the matter and urged the GRP to assert, together with the NDFP, the Filipino people’s fundamental right to national sovereignty which was being violated in the course of the CPP-NPA’s inclusion in the list.
Kaso, in violation of its obligation in accordance to The Hague Joint Declaration and other bilateral agreements with the NDFP, the GRP refused to assert this fundamental right and instead declared that the ‘terrorist listings’ by foreign states were sovereign acts of these same states.
Since then, the NDFP has accused the GRP has used the terrorist listing as a means to intimidate the NDFP and force it to capitulate by entering a ‘final peace agreement’ or a prolonged ceasefire. The NDFP has also made public charges against the GRP regarding the attempts of GRP personnel to intimidate and assassinate the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, the senior legal adviser, and other consultants of the NDFP. The GRP has also been taken to the task for its failure to indemnify the victims of human rights violations of the Marcos regime.
For the past years, there have been no formal meetings of the negotiating panels. Through it all, however, the NDFP maintained that there are ongoing peace negotiations. Also, all previously signed agreements remain binding and in effect. The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) continues to function, as does the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) on human rights and international humanitarian law, and on social and economic affairs.
The NDFP has also submitted proposals to break the impasse; among them are the 10-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Ceasefire (August 27, 2005); Responding to Prejudicial Questions, Accelerating Peace Negotiations through Informal Meetings of Special Representatives of the Principals (June 2005); and the NDFP Package of Proposals (November 2005).
For its part, instead of meeting the efforts of the NDFP halfway, the GRP virtually suspended the peace negotiations when , in February 2006, it filed rebellion charges the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, NDFP Panel Chair Jalandoni; NDFP Panel members Agcaoili and Juliet Sison; NDFP Panel consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Randall Echanis. The GRP’s Department of Justice has also attacked the integrity of the Joint Secretariat by identifying its office as the address of the individuals it charged with rebellion.
And now we come full-circle. It’s 2009, and the countdown has begun. The talks are slated to begin (cross your fingers and barring underhanded maneuvers of the GRP and war-mongers among its ranks) later this month, and we can only hope that something positive will come out of the talks.
The latest press releases of the NDFP and the speeches delivered on behalf of NDFP leaders among them Chief Negotiator and Panel Chairman Luis Jalandoni, Panel Vice-chairman and Spokesperson Fidel V. Agacaoili and NDFP consultant on socio-economic affairs Randall Enchanis enjoin the Filipino people to support the upcoming talks and to help the NDFP in ensuring that the negotiations are both productive and beneficial to the Filipino people and their collective aspirations for a just and lasting peace.
According to them, the NDFP is most sincere and desirous of pursuing the peace negotiations as the NDFP carries the aim of addressing the roots of the armed conflict in the country through fundamental social, economic and political reforms. It also goes without saying, they said, that the current global economic and financial crisis that is at the core of the immense suffering of the Filipino people makes the necessity for the resumption for formal peace talks more urgent.
As for me, social observer, I believe that what the NDFP brings to the negotiating table are the most cherished hopes and deepest aspirations of our people for a just and lasting peace, for independence, freedom, and genuine democracy. Kung ano’t-ano pa, sinabi na rin ni Luis Jalandoni na “Whatever may happen and regardless of the stand of the Arroyo regime, however, the revolutionary movement represented by the NDFP is determined to persevere and to continue the struggle towards the realization of these aspirations, these hopes. ”
Mga kapwa Pilipino na nagmamahal sa kalayaan, demokrasya at katarungan, magsikap tayo at sumuporta sa usapang pangkapayaan. Together, let’s all work to make our vision for a renewed Philippines a living, breathing reality.