On what can be done to help in the resumption and continuation of the peace talks between the NDFPP and the GPH

Alan Jazmines, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza, Tirso  Alcantara
(NDFP peace consultants detained at the Security Intensive Care Area (SICA), Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City)
30 June 2013

The NDFP firmly affirms the principled basis, historical correctness and legitimacy in practice through the years of its revolutionary struggle for fundamental (political, socio-economic, cultural, and other) reforms in the interest of the mass of the people.  Consistently in pursuit of these, it has developed a significantly large, solid and growing revolutionary following and mass base.

Even if the revolutionary struggle has been protracted (since 1969, already the longest running in the world) and continues to be faced with tough challenges, the determination to advance towards victory and the liberation of the people from long-prevailing political and social ills is unwavering, no matter how formidable may be the resistance of the prevailing state and its forces and how difficult and much longer the struggle would take.

Conditions in the world and locally have, however, presently been becoming more and more favorable for the resurgence and advance of the people’s protest and democratic movements and of the more highly organized, more scientific and more forceful revolutionary movements.

The NDFP and the revolutionary movement it leads, even then, remain very much open to peace talks, and in fact always prefer to try to gain the most or whatever can realistically be gained in peace negotiations with whatever ruling GPH regime that in attitude and actual deeds is seen by the NDFP as open and interested enough at talking peace towards the possibility of agreeing on significant issues, basic frameworks, fundamental reforms, and up to the conclusion of the already long-prevailing civil strife in the country.

It has actually only been during the GPH regime of Fidel Ramos when there were significant and substantive agreements that were achieved, including The Hague Joint Declaration containing agreements on the framework of the peace talks and the need to come out sequentially, but not necessarily exclusively or only one at a time, with comprehensive agreements on four key substantive agenda (human rights; socio-economic reforms; political and constitutional reforms; truce, military reorganization and end of hostilities) toward a final agreement and settlement.

Further major agreements were later achieved to significantly back up the peace process, such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in 1995 and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1998.  A number of NDFP peace consultants and staffs who were arrested were released by virtue of the NDFP’s assertion of and the GPH’s compliance with their JASIG protection.

In 2004, under the GPH regime of Gloria Arroyo, a number of agreements were also attained, including the affirmation of previous agreements (such as The Hague Declaration, JASIG and CARHRIHL).  There were also agreements reached on the common draft of the guidelines for the work of the Reciprocal Working Committees on the second substantive agenda (Socio-Economic Reforms, or SER) and the sub-committees for each of its major topics; a draft preamble of the envisioned Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER); a draft declaration of principles of the CASER; an agreement for the enhancement/acceleration of the process in this scope of work; and a further meeting to complete common tentative drafts on major sections of SER, including on Economic Sovereignty and National Patrimony, Agrarian Reform and Agricultural Development, and National Industrialization and Economic Development.

To further speed up the whole peace process, it was also agreed upon that simultaneously with the work on SER, preparatory work on the third substantive agenda (Political and Constitutional Reforms, or PCR) would already be started, even as the heart of the agenda on PCR would be initiated and completed as soon as the reciprocal work on SER is completed.

There was also an agreement for the GPH to review, monitor and evaluate the cases of political prisoners (about 300 of these, documented by KARAPATAN) and to immediately release those found to have been arrested, detained, charged, tried, or even convicted of what were made to appear as common crimes, contrary to the Hernandez Doctrine (which prohibits charging with common crimes those with supposed political offenses).

There was also a particular agreement for the GPH to release within 30 days 32 named political prisoners, consisting of women, minors, sick and elderly.

And a further agreement was made for the indemnification of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos martial law regime.

A big, glaring problem, however, has been that most of these agreements were actually not implemented by the GPH regime of Gloria Arroyo, resulting in strong clashes between the NDFP and the Arroyo regime.

Bulk of the 300 or so political prisoners were not released, and more kept on being arrested, detained, tortured and swamped with trumped-up criminal charges, including a number of JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants.

Worse, a number of these NDFP peace consultants, including their staffs and families, were involuntarily disappeared and extra-judicially killed.

When the NDFP demanded the GPH’s compliance with the JASIG, the CARHRIHL and other peace agreements and the latter’s rectification of its violations of these, in line with its all-out war against the revolutionary movement, the Arroyo regime even went the opposite way and indefinitely suspended the JASIG (even if the agreement provides only two choices -- either to implement it or to altogether terminate it).

The Arroyo regime went further and connived with the Dutch police for the latter to arrest the NDFP’s Chief Political and Peace Adviser, Jose Ma. Sison; to raid the offices and residences of NDFP peace panel members, consultants and staffs in The Netherlands; and to confiscate the latter’s papers, computer disks and other files, including those related to the peace talks and other sensitive data.  The computer disks were corrupted/damaged when they were returned (one computer disk containing the encryption codes was, however, not returned) by the Dutch police.  The returned computer disks were then deposited in a safety deposit box in a Dutch bank for safe keeping.

When, four years later, the next GPH regime of Benigno S. Aquino III had agreed to the resumption of the long-stalled NDFP-GPH peace talks, but did not want to just release JASIG-protected but still detained NDFP peace consultants and was insisting that the JASIG files of the detained NDFP peace consultants be verified direct from the JASIG files first before releasing them, there was a problem of verifying directly from the JASIG files in the corrupted/damaged computer disk returned to the NDFP and stored in the bank.  The said computer disk was still attempted to be opened and deciphered by the NDFP panel in the presence of the GPH panel and 3rd party peace facilitators, but the JASIG files could no longer be properly extracted, deciphered and read, as the computer disk containing them was already corrupted/damaged.

All protests by arrested and detained NDFP peace consultants on the violation of the JASIG in their cases were totally ignored by the arresting forces and the prevailing GPH regimes since the Arroyo regime.  JASIG documents of information in the hands of arrested NDFP peace consultants were also always confiscated from them upon arrest, and no longer showed up.

One of us, Alan Jazmines, was arrested just a few hours before the resumption in February 14, 2011 of the peace talks suspended during the Arroyo regime, and he protested his arrest as a violation of the JASIG and a slap at the face of the peace talks even as it was just to begin again.  But the protest was ignored.

Some more JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants were arrested even after the peace talks had resumed.  The GPH regime of Benigno S. Aquino III and its peace panel continued to just ignore the protests.

The Aquino regime deceptively terms the demand for the release of arrested and detained JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants as a “precondition” by the NDFP.  But, in fact, it is an obligation -- to correct a serious violation of a standing NDFP-GPH agreement, in order for the peace talks to proceed.

So that the peace talks can be resumed fully, the NDFP had suggested a practical solution to the problem of the loss of the JASIG files -- a reconstitution of the JASIG files in cooperation by both the NDFP and the GPH peace panels.  But the GPH has been rejecting the proposal.

The current Aquino region has also been totally ignoring the wider demand of the NDFP for the release of all political prisoners (more than 400 of them now, with more than half of these arrested since the onset of the current Aquino regime).  Their release should rectify gross violations of justice, human rights and even the GPH’s own laws, especially as in practically all their cases, the Hernandez Doctrine has rampantly, intentionally and cruelly been violated.

While the continuing detention of NDFP peace consultants has continued to be a major snag to the continuation of the NDFP-GPH peace talks, especially in the holding of “regular track” peace talks (in accordance with The Hague Declaration and related agreement on the substantive agenda regarding fundamental reforms), the NDFP peace panel has taken the initiative of flexibility proposing “special track” peace talks.

The NDFP peace panel has initiated and the GPH has accepted the “special track” peace talks, initially without the prior release of all detained NDFP peace consultants.  But for the “special track” peace talks to continue and progress, the GPH is still unqualifiedly obliged to immediately release all detained NDFP peace consultants.  Otherwise, aside from continuing to violate the JASIG, CARHRIHL and other peace agreements, their continued detention will only continue to reveal bad faith on the side of the GPH, prevent the detained NDFP peace consultants from performing their respective roles in the peace process, and will soon if not yet immediately cause the stalling once again of the peace talks.

The initial agenda of the “special track” peace talks may start with more urgent and more generalized formulations, even if with more easily stage-by-stage implementable portions of the new combined reform agenda, but will still have to cover the same whole range of agenda as the “regular track” peace talks, as had been agreed upon in The Hague Declaration, although no longer strictly according to the sequence and schedule specified in The Hague Declaration.  The proposed Committee on National Unity, Peace and Development to be jointly formed by the NDFP and the GPH should be able to already adequately, even if stage-by-stage, implement major parts of the reform agenda outlined in The Hague Declaration, and supposed to be taken up subject-by-subject in the “regular track” peace talks.

All this, on the assumption that the current Aquino regime may be easier to negotiate peace with through the “special track” process.

In the supposed “special track” meeting in Amsterdam last February 25-26, and in the GPH’s communications and proposals even prior to this, it however made the big mistake of assuming too little of the NDFP and angling only for an indefinite ceasefire and “henceforth peaceful means,” but without even any serious discussion -- much less any agreement at all -- on fundamental reform agenda that the NDFP has laid, with all intent, seriousness and priority, across the negotiation table, and also without the GPH’s rectifying its recalcitrant violations of the JASIG, CARHRIHL and other standing peace agreements, and without even releasing just the detained NDFP peace consultants, much less the other political prisoners.

While the GPH has practically killed the “special track”, and further refuses to go back to the “regular track” (declaring its anchor in The Hague Declaration as a source of “perpetual division” as it has all the time been showing the absence of intent and preparation to really discuss in depth and substance the fundamental issues that are at the root of the civil war and conflict between the NDFP and the GPH; and chastising the “regular track” for the overly long -- 27 years already and running -- process but without admitting at all that the many long delays were due to the series of serious violations on the part of various GPH regimes, including the current.

The NDFP has always been and remains intent on seriously pursuing peace talks -- and even at giving it priority when realistically feasible -- for the purpose of more immediately attaining fundamental reforms and hastening the end of the long-running civil strife, all in the interest of the mass of the people, their rights, their progress and their future.

The NDFP has always been and remains open to whatever GPH regime is also open and interested enough in the process and its objectives.  If a current GPH regime has been or has become totally antagonistic and refuses to talk peace, the only choice left is to wait out a next regime that would be the opposite.

While the current regime has practically killed the “special track” while refusing to go back to the “regular track”, and has also been continuing with its violations of the JASIG, CARHRIHL and other peace agreements, including its obligation to immediately release NDFP peace consultants who continue to be detained, the NDFP has not totally given up the peace talks with the current regime.

The NDFP also views positively the removal of late -- and likely replacement with a much better and more open one -- of the last GPH peace panel head, who had been the most hardline, insincere and arrogant in refusing to forge a meeting of will and minds with the NDFP peace panel, to recognize the need to rectify the GPH’s violations and serious failures of its peace panel’s work, preparations and readiness to positively resolve problems and really talk peace with the NDFP.

The NDFP also awaits drastic decisive changes and improvements in the leadership, orientation and work of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in order to make it more conducive and helpful, instead of remaining hostile to the peace process.

The NDFP would very much like to obtain the help of various local and international organizations, groups and personalities with the potential of somehow being able to relink the broken bridge between the NDFP and the GPH, including the present Aquino regime, and also suggest urgent improvements and rectifications in problematic areas of the peace process.  Such help may be obtained from the likes of the Norwegian Third Party Facilitators, Conciliation Resources, International Alert, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Philippine Peace Center, and others.

Some of the most problematic areas where they can help in strongly suggesting urgent improvements and rectifications concern: 1) The need to seriously reaffirm the JASIG -- protection of presently detained NDFP peace consultants and make way for their participation in the peace process; and 2) The need to seriously and fully make way for comprehensive and in-depth studies and discussions on fundamental reform agenda as laid out in The Hague Declaration, immediately, especially in the socio-economic-cultural and political-constitutional concerns, instead of putting the cart before the horse and prioritizing an indefinite ceasefire even as the roots of the armed conflict have not yet been adequately addressed and resolved.  After all the very purpose and objective of the peace talks is to address the roots of the civil strife and agree on fundamental reforms in the interest of the mass of the people and their future.