Tag archive

peace talks - page 4

On Duterte Government’s First Year: Falterings and Turnarounds

in Mainstream
by Angel Balen

Rodrigo R. Duterte was swept into the presidency by a landslide win in the May elections last year on the campaign cry, “Change is coming!” He began his six-year term by taking bold, dramatic moves and making pronouncements in pursuance of his electoral campaign promises.

  1. He launched his administration’s campaign to eradicate illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption, setting a six-month target to win the “war on drugs”.  From the outset it has been a bloody campaign that targeted mainly the poor, who are in fact victims of the drug menace and deserved not death but rehabilitation. He’s emboldened by survey results that say while many acquiesce with the killings, they at the same time express fear they may be the next victims.
  2. Affirming his declared commitment to end labor contractualization, that for decades has been a bane to the workers and trade unions, Duterte directed his labor secretary to issue the required implementing order. But when the order came out, it was a big letdown. It smashed the high expectations of workers unions and federations of varied persuasions.  Alas, the order deviously retains the abominable practice.
  3. Even before assuming office, Duterte struck an understanding with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)that his government would resume — and complete — the long-stalled GRP-NDFP peace talks aimed at ending the nearly 50 years of armed conflict and attaining “just and lasting peace”. He also offered to free the 400 political prisoners listed by the NDFP through his issuance of an amnesty proclamation as the most expeditious means of releasing them from prison and from the trumped-up common-crime charges filed against them under previous administrations.

He did cause the release, through bail, of 21 NDFP consultants and staff to enable them to participate in the peace talks, and freed a few others later. But he has reneged on his amnesty offer.

The talks resumed with high expectations in August 2016 and gained momentum until the end of January.  But since February the situation has changed and continued to deteriorate, prompting Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the NDFP panel, to write: “…by all major indicators the peace talks are heading for the rocks.”

  1. Invoking the historical injustices that US imperialism had inflicted on the Filipino people for over a century, Duterte vowed to pursue an “independent foreign policy”. This purportedly aims to veer the nation from long subservience to US foreign policy and dependence on American military aid and protection. On various occasions, he threatened to abrogate the unequal treaties with the US, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement, and to boot out American troops from Mindanao.  He began to develop close ties with China and Russia, America’s geopolitical power rivals in Asia and Europe, respectively, hoping to extract from both financial and military aid.

Later, Duterte welcomed and gladly accepted US military aid, troop presence, and interventionist activities in the country.

Duterte has held fast to his “war on drugs,” vowing to carry on the drive till the end of his term. He justifies his bloody methods as the best means to save the lives of Filipino youths from getting ruined.  Rejecting, disparaging local and international criticisms and advices on the mounting human rights violations with the arbitrary killings of thousands of suspected drug users and pushers, he has gone as far as threatening to go after human rights advocates.

However, on his commitments to resume and complete the peace talks and to pursue an independent foreign policy — two potentially historic legacies of his government — Duterte has failed to push these onward.  The momentum towards change first faltered; now it is being even reversed.

As earlier noted, the peace talks resumed in amity and euphoria.  Despite aversion to a prolonged ceasefire, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NDFP agreed to declare an indefinite unilateral ceasefire as a goodwill response to Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration. The ceasefire held for five months, with the New People’s Army (NPA) exercising restraint vis-a-vis the aggressive incursions into and occupation by troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of communities within the revolutionary base areas. On the negotiating table, the NDFP panel raised the AFP’s actions as ceasefire violations.

Despite this, significant gains were achieved in the next two rounds of formal negotiations (in October 2016 and January 2017) on the substantive issues of economic and social reforms and on the initial discussions on political and constitutional reforms.

A sharp turn happened in early February.  Duterte angrily reacted to the killing of three state soldiers intercepted by the Red fighters, after the CPP had announced the withdrawal of its unilateral ceasefire declaration. He cancelled the peace talks and his defense secretary ordered an “all-out-war” against the NPA.  Since then the AFP has intensified its offensives using aerial bombings and artillery barrages on upland communities and forested areas, driving away and displacing thousands of civilians.

Although Duterte initiated the continuation of the peace talks in April, he didn’t order to stop the “all-out war”. Worse, his Cabinet security cluster has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into the formal negotiations: through the GRP panel, it has insisted that negotiations on and signing of a bilateral indefinite ceasefire agreement must come before those for a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms.  The NDFP absolutely rejects this proposal as it violates The Hague Joint Declaration. Worse, it’s a devious militarist scheme to obtain the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces.

By endorsing his security advisers’ scheme, Duterte has undermined his own commitment to accelerate the negotiations:  to forge, sign and approve the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and constitutional reforms and implement them within his term.  Thus, he’s forsaking a potential valuable legacy to the Filipino people.

In a similar vein, Duterte has reneged on his pronouncements to do away with US military presence and interventionism. He has allowed the Americans to build military facilities in six military camps and to provide “technical” assistance in the air bombings of Marawi City targetting the Maute group. He has warmly received the US Secretary of State and prepares to welcome President Donald Trump to the country in November.

What explains the faltering and the turnarounds?

Despite his protestations he’s a “socialist” itching to shake up the status quo, he’s revealing his real persona and politics by his actions.  As he trucks with his neoliberal economic managers to keep social, economic and political conditions essentially as they have been for decades, he eggs on his pro-US militarist advisers  and troops in the counterinsurgency drive “to flatten the hills” through air and ground bombardments.  His quickness to adopt militaristic and authoritarian measures — such as declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao, with intimation of extending these to cover the entire country — is veritable evidence of what he wishes to be and to do.

It’s fine that within a short period Duterte has unraveled his true self.  The revolutionary movement need no longer seriously try to play along with his posturing for change and for peace. Unequivocally, the movement and the organized masses will engage him as what he says he has become. Brandishing his mantle as commander-in-chief of all the reactionary state’s armed forces, he tells his erstwhile friends: “I am your enemy!”

Photo from PRWC Info

NDFP Peace Consultants as Desaparecidos

in Gallery

The reactionary governments, through their state security forces, resort to abduction and enforced disappearance to silence those who openly oppose and criticize their oppressive and repressive policies and pose a threat to their rule.

Among the thousands of victims of enforced disappearance in the Philippines under various regimes were the National Democratic Front peace consultants who were abducted when the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime stalled the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This was also part of then Arroyo regime’s implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.

The abduction and disappearance of the NDFP peace consultants violated the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Victims’ relatives filed writ of habeas corpus with the courts and lodged complaints with the Commission on Human Rights but nothing came out of these. Witnesses were afraid or threatened. Nobody was held accountable. Perpetrators were even rewarded with promotions. The culture of impunity persisted.
The GRP has yet to face responsibility for these cases of abduction and enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Enforced disappearance is not only ferocious, but also most excruciating for the victims’ relatives. Through the years, they have hoped and waited for their loved ones to surface, although deep inside they knew they were hoping against hope. The loss of their loved ones was difficult to accept. But as their hopes never dim, so does their fortitude to stand up for what their loved ones had fought for. ###

Moving the Peace Talks Forward

in Mainstream

Is there a probability of the current peace talks achieving any palpable change beneficial to the Filipino people considering the diametrically opposed positions of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)?

The strategic line of the NDFP to achieve a just and lasting peace is by solving the fundamental problems of the Filipino people—namely, imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism—and putting an end to the violence of class oppression and exploitation through a people’s democratic revolution.  The NDFP believes that a just and lasting peace would result from genuine national freedom and social emancipation.

On the other hand, the GRP’s concept of peace is the pacification of the people and the suppression of all forms of dissent.  It uses reactionary violence to defeat and pacify the revolutionary forces and to preserve the oppressive and exploitative system.

Nonetheless, the NDFP has consistently shown willingness to engage in peace talks—as one of the arenas of struggle—to promote national independence and democracy and to push for basic reforms that shall benefit the vast majority of the people.

Achieving concrete gains in peace negotiations with the reactionary state was initially proven possible during the regime of Fidel Ramos, a West Point graduate and a known US puppet.  Almost all the critically important procedural agreements resulting from the peace talks were forged during the Ramos regime, such as The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Also forged was a landmark accord on the first substantive agenda in the peace negotiations—the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was formally signed by the principals on both sides under the Estrada regime. Despite the prolonged suspension of the peace talks under the Arroyo and the second Aquino regimes, these agreements have not been invalidated—in fact reaffirmedunder the Duterte government.

 

Rise of neo fascists, rightist trend in the world

Meantime, the unresolved, debilitating crisis of the world capitalist system has been intensifying since it imploded in 2007-2008.  Imperialist powers barely staved off the collapse of the global financial system through the bailout of giant banks and financial investment houses. But the massive, expensive bailouts took their toll on governments as the world capitalist system reeled again, this time from a sovereign debt crisis by the end of 2009, which further worsened the crisis of the world capitalist system. Currently, both purveyors and critics of neoliberalism are predicting that a corporate debt crisis would soon plunge the world capitalist system deeper into crisis.

The crisis of imperialism has sharpened the contradictions among imperialist powers, between capitalists and the working classes and between foreign monopoly capitalists and oppressed peoples of the world.

Imperialist countries have been engaging in regional proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, and other North African states, and the Balkan states.  The US has tried and failed to assert its hegemony and this has intensified its contradictions with Russia and China.

Neoliberalism and the worsening economic and financial crisis have become an increasingly heavier burden on the peoples of the world, as foreign monopoly capitalists have been passing on the deleterious impact of the crisis on them.

Recent years have seen the steady rise of fascist parties and movements. Neofascist parties have been increasingly winning seats in parliaments in Europe.  The conservatives in Great Britain attained a problematic victory in the referendum for the Brexit on a strong anti-immigrant line.  The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections came as a shock even among the Democratic and Republican parties. But the Trump victory merely reflected the rightist trend in world politics—oddly spurred by the rejection of elite domination in both governments and the economy.

All these on top of the revisionist betrayal that once saw powerful socialist movements and countries turning to the right or taking the capitalist road.  Support for revolutionary struggles and movements in different parts of the world has subsequently waned.

 

Opportunities for peace under Duterte

The backlash of the revisionist betrayal and the consequent rightist drift in the world does not augur well for democracy, even of the capitalist kind.  Pushing democracy forward has become more difficult with the current international situation.

The victory of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, a foul-mouthed maverick, in the 2016 presidential election was also viewed as an aberration in Philippine politics but not necessarily as a similar rightist drift. What it evinced was that the election was also viewed as an aberration in Philippine politics. The suffering Filipino people has had enough of trapo politics, corruption and criminality, and the crushing attacks of neoliberalism on their jobs and livelihood.

Although he has compared himself with Trump, Duterte is not exactly like the latter. On the one hand, Duterte has publicly declared his political affinity with the late dictator Marcos and his family, to the extent of facilitating the late dictator’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He has been severely criticized by a broad array of sectors, locally and internationally, for his deadly war against illegal drugs. He has shown intolerance for criticisms; and has, time and again, threatened to declare martial law.

On the other hand, Duterte has provided an opening for the struggle for fundamental reforms and the propagation of patriotic and democratic principles and ideas. He has declared his government’s desire to pursue an independent foreign policy, veer away from kowtowing to US interests, economic and foreign policy, and even threatened to rescind unequal defense and military treaties and agreements that the GRP entered into with the US. He has even declared that he is the first “leftist, socialist” president of the country.

Duterte has also demonstrated his willingness to engage in peace talks with the NDFP to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Coming from a long history of friendship and cooperation with the revolutionary forces and progressive mass movement in Davao, Duterte offered Cabinet positions to the NDFP, and has kept three NDFP-nominated Cabinet members and some sub-Cabinet officials. He also  immediately instructed a reconstituted government negotiating panel to push the peace talks forward and aim for a final peace agreement before his term ends.

However, war hawks in the administration, led by pro-US defense and military officials, soon began undermining the strides made in three rounds of formal peace talks in the first six months of the new government. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for instance, aggressively pushed its counterinsurgency operations in areas under the control of the New People’s Army (NPA) after both sides declared separate unilateral ceasefires. The NPA consistently evaded engaging the AFP forces in combat. Although the ceasefires held for five months, the situation on the ground became untenable as to impel the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NDFP-NPA, after giving fair warning to the GRP panel, to withdraw its reciprocal unilateral ceasefire. The GRP armed forces waged vicious black propaganda and disinformation campaign to discredit the Red Fighters, to cast doubt on the sincerity of the revolutionary forces in the peace negotiations.

The peace saboteurs fed President Duterte with maliciously distorted information about the NPA violating its own ceasefire declaration. That pushed Duterte to peremptorily cancel the peace negotiations and even to publicly call the CPP-NPA “terrorists”. In no time, the nation was aghast as the Defense Secretary declared all-out war against the NPA. A month later, as he took steps to continue the peace negotiations, the President himself perplexingly egged on the AFP and PNP to use all their assets and “flatten the hills” with aerial bombings. The aerial bombings in rural communities led to new mass evacuations while AFP-led extrajudicial killings targeting peasant and national minority leaders greatly escalated especially in Mindanao.

Despite these, the NDFP maintained a principled stand. It defended the besieged rural communities. It criticized Duterte and his administration when needed, while pushing for the  continuation of the peace talks.  The NDFP believes that through the peace talks, its negotiating panel and a wide array of peace advocates can convince Duterte to take the side of the Filipino people and implement progressive reforms that will address issues pertaining to national sovereignty, democracy, social justice, development, education and culture and international solidarity—ultimately addressing the fundamental ills of Philippine society.

As of this writing, the peace talks have just concluded the fourth round of formal negotiations in the Netherlands.  The fourth round hurdled one thorny issue: forging an agreement on an interim joint ceasefire, which is expected to take effect upon the approval and signing of the guidelines and groundrules in time with the projected signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) before the end of 2017.

The interim joint ceasefire agreement shall be effective until a permanent ceasefire agreement is forged as part of the Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (Final Peace Agreement).

More important is that the GRP and NDFP Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms agreed on the “free distribution of land” as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform. This is a major breakthrough, a giant step not only in the peace talks, but also in the road to peace as the principle of free distribution of land addresses the main democratic demand of the people’s democratic revolution. The next major items in the negotiations for CASER are agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and national industrialization and economic development (NIED).  Once agreements on these two major items are finalized, there is a high probability of forging the CASER by the end of 2017.

To follow are discussions and negotiations on political and constitutional reforms towards forging a Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR), largely supplementing the CASER.

If the positive forces within the Duterte government could hold sway, the NDFP is confident that the CASER could be signed by the end of 2017 and the CAPCR could be signed by next year.  If the implementation of the CARHRIHL, CASER, and CAPCR would be successful for a minimum period of two years, the NDFP would be ready to sign the final agreement End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces before the term of the Duterte government ends.

But, if the pro-US war hawks within the Duterte government would be able to take control and frustrate the peace negotiations, then the CPP-NDFP-NPA would even be more relentless in bringing the people’s democratic revolution, through the protracted people’s war, to a new and higher level until victory and a just and lasting peace is achieved.

READ RELATED ARTICLE

Freeing Political Prisoners: A Matter of Obligation and Justice

ESarmiento is Eduardo Sarmiento, a political prisoner and an NDFP peace consultant

People’s War for Just Peace

in Editorial

Peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and five Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) administrations since 1986 have gone on and off because of the unresolved protracted armed conflict between them.

By consensus of the parties, the sequential formal peace negotiations are aimed at ending the armed conflict—and attaining just and lasting peace for the Filipino people—by seriously addressing and resolving its root causes. Happily, this has been grasped and persistently supported by a growing network of peace advocacy formations and people’s organizatio

ns. However, this consensual objective has yet to be deeply understood and appreciated by the general public.

Less comprehended still, outside the ranks of revolutionary forces, is this fact: The people’s war, at bottom, is a struggle for a just and lasting peace.  Yes, the people’s war, led by the CPP-NPA/NDFP over the last 48 years, has pursued such peace “in the most comprehensive and strategic way.”

No wonder the slogan, “People’s war is for people’s peace,” was raised before a huge crowd during the unprecedented public celebration of the 48th founding anniversary of the CPP last December 26 in Davao City and  in various regional commands of the NPA across the country.

For a deeper insight on this matter, Liberation readers may refer to the article, “NDFP Framework in Contrast with the GRP Framework”, written, on May 15, 1991, by Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairperson of the reestablished CPP and chief political consultant of the NDFP negotiating panel.  It is included in the first volume of his selected writings (1991-2009), titled For Justice, Socialism and Peace. 

“The struggle for national liberation and democracy against US imperialism and local reactionary classes [embodied by the people’s war] is a struggle for a just and lasting peace,” Sison succinctly writes, “because it strives to solve the fundamental problems of the nation and people, fight and defeat the violence of oppression and exploitation, and bring about the basis for a just and lasting peace.”

Correlating this to the peace negotiations, Sison points out: “The strategic line of the national democratic revolution is the NDFP’s strategic line for a just and lasting peace.  There is no other strategic line.”  To claim there is no strategic line or to replace it (in the peace talks), he emphasizes, “is to confuse the people and the revolutionary forces.”

As regards struggling for peace in the most comprehensive and strategic way, he  explains: “The struggle for a just peace entails as many specific forms of struggle as does the national democratic revolution. These include all legal and illegal forms of struggle.” Armed struggle is the main form, he stresses, because it settles the question of power which is the principal question in any revolution. “No social revolution is possible without the prior change of political power.”

In contrast, the GRP’s strategic view is to preserve the oppressive and exploitative system and to defeat and pacify the revolutionary forces.  Almost all the previous presidents demanded that the NDFP submit to the GRP constitution, which the latter consistently rejected. Given this GRP strategic view, why has the revolutionary movement persisted in pursuing peace negotiations?  Sison explains:

“The NDFP has manifested its just and reasonable position by declaring that although the optimum condition for a just and lasting peace is the total victory of the people in their national democratic revolution, (it) is willing to engage in peace talks for several important reasons, including the promotion of national independence and democracy and a number of basic reforms, immediately beneficial to the people (emphasis ours).

While firmly holding fast to its fundamental principles and strategic line, the revolutionary movement has shown flexibility in talking peace. It makes readjustments in policy as the situation warrants and encourages the GRP to do the same regarding the armed conflict and related issues.

This flexibility has been amply shown in the current peace negotiations, enabling these to move forward relatively fast. That, until President Duterte irascibly cancelled the talks in February, then  calming down, agreed to continue them as scheduled, in April. The CPP-NPA reciprocated the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration in August and (after two months of withdrawal) has acceded to restore it and to work on an interim bilateral ceasefire agreement for the duration of the peace talks.

These concessions to the GRP are based on carefully weighed expectations that the GRP will make good its repeated promise to release more political prisoners, in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).  More significant, the GRP has shown willingness to forge and sign a mutually acceptable Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) within this year, and soon after that to begin implementing—along with the NDFP—some of its immediately doable provisions that will benefit the people.

These developments in the peace talks with the Duterte government have played out essentially as Sison envisioned in his 1991 article.  Consider these passages:

“Revolutionaries determined to carry out the objectives of the (National Democratic Revolution) can logically and legitimately consider peace negotiations as a way of pushing forward the aforesaid objectives  in the same way that the other side considers the same peace negotiations as a way of pushing forward its own objectives. Inevitably, the struggle across the table reflects, first of all, the struggle in the battlefield and then influences further developments in the battlefield.”

“It takes the two basic parties in the armed conflict to agree on a truce and what national purpose is to be served. Even if the peace talks were to fail… the people can see who [of the two parties] has the just and reasonable position.”

Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler
Go to Top