The NDFP is ready to resume formal peace talks with the new GRP administration

The following statement by Luis G. Jalandoni, Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, is from the website of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines:

Esteemed Bishops Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr. and Solito K. Toquero, Co-Chairpersons of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon, Executive Secretary of the EBF, other members and staff of the EBF, and other participants in this EBF Forum on Peace, we in the NDFP Negotiating Panel warmly greet you. We thank you for your invitation to give a presentation in this peace forum, the first of a series you are sponsoring. We appreciate your desire to hasten the resumption of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

As a start to this dialogue and exchange of views, may we present some basic points about our standpoint on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

We take a long-term view of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, consider its fundamental aspects and then look forward to what can be achieved.

We consider it of vital importance that the basic framework for a well-founded and sustained process of peace negotiations has been forged in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and reaffirmed and 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 (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels of June 1995, the Supplemental Agreement thereto 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 the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Secretariat (JS) with an office in Quezon City with the financial and moral support of the Royal Norwegian Government.

Principle of mutual respect and reciprocity in The Hague Joint Declaration

We stress 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 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 all throughout the process,.

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 imposes capitulation or merely maneuvers to either destroy militarily or split the resistance movement, no just and lasting peace is achieved.

The Hague Joint Declaration basically defined the agenda for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations: human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The RWC agreements of 1995 and 1997 spelled out the concrete details on how to tackle these agenda items in proper sequence.

Lessons from experience

It is important to learn concrete lessons from our experience. We must avoid the pitfdall and overcome the impediments that obstruct the attainment of a just and lasting peace.

Every attempt to derail the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations from the correct path — whether through a false amnesty program, or a so-called Social Integration Program, and the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) framework — has been firmly criticized and opposed by the NDFP as a violation of the principles enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration. In the CARHRIHL, both Parties have achieved the bringing in of internationally recognized human rights and international humanitarian law conventions as a valuable and integral part of the framework of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Such instruments as the Geneva Conventions and Protocols additional thereto, the Convention against Torture and other UN Conventions are integrated in the CARHRIHL.

No doubt that it is a great challenge to both Parties, with the support of peace advocates in our country and abroad, to implement the CARHRIHL and thereby help create a favorable atmosphere for negotiating, forging and implementing agreements of social, economic, political and constitutional reforms. The NDFP considers these fundamental reforms necessary in order to achieve a just and lasting peace.

We have to state 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 a great number of extrajudicial killings of civilians, enforced disappearances, frustrated killings, torture, uprooting of millions of civilians, etc. The recent illegal arrest, torture and continued illegal detention of 43 health workers 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 from both Parties involved the peace negotiations, have been made targets for arrest, detention, surveillance, threats and other punitive actions by the GRP. Moreover, the functioning of the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee has been hampered by the submission of thousands of false nuisance complaints against the NDFP. It is of crucial importance that the new GRP administration seriously takes note of these violations and makes firm decisions to carry out appropriate corrective measures.

Firm foundation for moving forward

Despite the various illegitimate suspensions, declaration of collapse, and even termination, made 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, we have the consistent and firm support of the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator. We have the Joint Secretariat holding office in Metro Manila. We have received the endorsement of the European Parliament. And we have your support and that of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform, the Pilgrims for Peace, the Philippine Peace Center and other peace advocates in our country and abroad.

We believe it is important to recognize the firm foundation that has been forged in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, carry out a review and assessment of the negotiations so far, learn the positive and negative lessons, and look forward and move forward. We are hoping that the new GRP administration will share this view.

Preparations for negotiations on social and economic reforms

On the part of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, we consider it very important to prepare for the negotiations on social and economic reforms. Way back on March 16, 1998, when the CARHRIHL was signed in The Hague, we provided the GRP Negotiating Panel with our draft for a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER). This draft has eleven chapters. We held consultations with various organizations in the Philippines before and after the making of that draft. In 2005, we held a consultation in The Netherlands with consultants from various fields. The 1998 draft and the results of the 2005 consultations, as well as additional pertinent documents like the speeches of Ms. Julieta de Lima, Chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working committee on social and economic reforms and Mr. Randall Echanis, member of the NDFP RWC on SER, have been published recently in a booklet. We suggest that you and other interested people use it for study and discussion. We will appreciate any comments, criticism and suggestions for improvement.

As a matter of fact, the NDFP RWC on SER has started the widespread discussion of SER, especially under the current economic crisis which deeply affects the country. The NDFP RWC on SER has formed working groups and divided them into five clusters, namely (1) agrarian reform with representatives of peasants, fisherfolk, the Cordillera, the Bangsamoro, indigenous or national minorities, (2) working people with representatives from trade unions, urban poor, women, migrant workers, government employees, teachers, youth and students, health workers, lawyers, media, advocates of children’s rights, and cultural workers, (3) environment, with representatives from environmental organizations, Cordillera and Bangsamoro, indigenous communities, scientists and engineers, (4) social cluster with representatives of health workers, teachers, youth and students, women, children advocates, the elderly and cultural workers, and (5) economy, with academic experts, research and support institutions. The plan is to replicate these clusters at the regional and provincial level.

There has been enthusiastic response from the different sectors and groups. A big problem in carrying out these consultations is the lack of funds. Therefore, the NDFP RWC on SER is looking for ways and means of raising funds and getting support for these consultations. We believe that for the future peace negotiations, these consultations are important in enriching the papers to be taken up and securing the wide participation and support of the people for the peace talks.

Final efforts for peace talks with the Arroyo regime

As you may already know, on 15 June 2009, representatives of the GRP Negotiating Panel and the NDFP Negotiating Panel met in The Hague with Ambassador Brynildsen and his team. The six-hour meeting at the Norwegian Embassy produced the following agreements:

  1. Simultaneous announcements on July 6 that the JASIG is binding and effective and both sides would resume formal talks sometime in August 2009 in Oslo.
  2. NDFP Consultants Vicente Ladlad and Elizabeth Principe, NDFP RWC members Randall Echanis and Rafael Baylosis, and eight other NDFP detained consultants would be released before the August talks.
  3. Political prisoners ordered released by Mrs. Arroyo in 2001 and those agreed upon in Oslo Joint Statement II in April 2004 to be released within 30 days, ought to be released before August.
  4. Trumped up charges against NDFP panelists and staff be withdrawn, including bounties put on Prof. Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant and NDFP Consultant Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

It was further agreed that at the resumption of formal talks, the “terrorist” listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and Prof. Sison be resolved and the same for the indemnification of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime. The close to 10,000 victims of HR violations had won their case in the US Court and were awarded USD 2 billion in damages, but up to now have been deprived of such indemnification.

This attempt to resume the formal talks however did not materialize..

In summary, problems arose on the following points:

  • Randall Echanis was given a conditional release with the limitation of six months, which the NDFP considered a violation of JASIG;
  • Criminal charges and warrants of arrest against Ladlad and Baylosis were not withdrawn. Instead a safe conduct pass was issued by the Philippine National Police, which Ladlad and Baylosis and their lawyers deemed unacceptable because the passes criminalized them.
  • The eight other NDFP consultants would not yet be released. Two other NDFP consultants, Alfredo Mapano and Jovencio Balweg, arrested after June 15 in violation of JASIG were also not be released. .

NDFP committed to strive for just peace and resume formal talks

The NDFP is committed to strive for a just and lasting peace in our country. It is determined to struggle for genuine land reform, national industrialization, and other fundamental reforms to achieve national and social liberation, genuine independence and democracy and a just and lasting peace.

On the basis of The Hague Joint Declaration and the other agreements already signed, the NDFP is willing and ready to resume formal peace talks with the new GRP administration. We aim for peace talks that address the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental economic, social and political reforms.

We have made known the NDFP’s willingness and readiness to resume formal talks on the basis of The Hague Joint Declaration and other signed agreements. We hope that the new GRP administration, whoever may win in the elections on May 10, will respond favorably.

Dear Friends in the EBF, we wish you utmost success in your efforts to hasten the resumption of the formal peace talks for the benefit of the Filipino people and towards achieving our common aspiration for a just and lasting peace in our country.

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