The US-Aquino regime is keeping the peace talks in a quagmire

21 February 2012

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It has been more than a year since formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) resumed on February 15-21 in Oslo, Norway. But the negotiations have not progressed because of the outstanding issue of the arrest and continued detention by the GPH of key NDFP peace talks consultants and staff in violation of previous agreements.

The possibility of any significant advance has become even more remote under the US-Aquino regime in the face of the GPH's refusal to respect previous accords and the utter lack of interest it has shown in addressing the issues that are at the roots of the armed conflict and in resolving these through negotiations.

From the beginning, it has been clear that the GPH is not genuinely interested in talking with the NDFP. On February 14, 2011, the very eve of the resumption of formal negotiations, it treacherously arrested Alan Jazmines, a valued consultant of the NDFP and a key figure in its negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. Despite Comrade Jazmines' undeniable identity as an NDFP consultant, the GPH outrightly refused to recognize his rights under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The JASIG is an agreement signed in 1995 that guarantees the safety of persons involved in the negotiations.

At the conclusion of the first round of formal talks in February 2011, the GPH pledged to undertake steps to release 17 NDFP consultants then under detention, aside from 349 political detainees. After a year, 13 NDFP consultants remain in prison, including Jazmines. The GPH continuously refuses to comply with its obligations under the JASIG to free Jazmines and 12 other NDFP consultants.

Lately, the GPH has even had the gall to accuse the NDFP of using the JASIG as a means of securing the release of CPP officials. It stubbornly declared that it would only recognize NDFP consultants if the NDFP could show the original list of consultants along with their true names and photographs.

The GPH has been exploiting the issue of JASIG verification to justify its refusal to abide by the agreement, prolong the detention of NDFP consultants it has captured and cover up their persecution. This also serves to obscure the GPH's responsibility for trampling on the JASIG by abducting and forcibly disappearing NDFP leaders in the past.

The GPH claims that the JASIG is merely a side issue. On the contrary, the JASIG is one of the key agreements designed to create favorable conditions for negotiations. Without its guarantees, negotiators will constantly fear for their safety and the talks would not be able to proceed smoothly, Respect for the JASIG is crucial to the continuation of the peace negotiations.

The more than 12 formal agreements--including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) that was signed in 1998--were all forged within the framework of international laws and rules. As belligerent forces in a civil war, the NDFP and GPH are obliged to respect them. The GPH's compliance or non-compliance with its obligations under the JASIG is indicative of its readiness to implement any future agreements it may enter into. It is a matter of palabra de honor.

Instead of complying with its obligations and keeping its promises, the GPH has been relentlessly maligning the NDFP and concocting one lie after another. Its chief negotiator Alexander Padilla has demonstrated his utterly reactionary character by endlessly spewing counterrevolutionary venom against the NDFP. The NDFP has nothing but profound disappointment for Padilla, a former human rights advocate, for the contempt he has been showing for the peace negotiations.

After a year, the peace talks are caught in a quagmire due to the GPH's complete lack of interest in fulfilling its obligations. It has become plain as day that the GPH does not value its peace talks with the NDFP at all and its catchwords of peace and human rights are all empty blabber.

The NDFP and the entire revolutionary movement are acutely aware that the GPH's priority lies in crushing the New People's Army and suppressing the people's mass struggles through armed repression, psywar and intelligence operations. This priority is in line with the 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide laid down by the US-Aquino regime's imperialist master. Under this framework, the peace talks only serve to camouflage the allout war it is unleashing against the people.

The Aquino regime has been further emboldened to cast the peace talks aside in the face of intensifying US imperialist intervention in the country, the growing presence of American troops and bigger military assistance to the puppet government. US intervention in the Philippines' internal affairs is currently one of the biggest obstacles to the advance of the peace negotiations. Internsifying US intervention and the Aquino regime's puppetry stand in the way of forging agreements to resolve the people's fundamental problems.