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Distinction Between Postponement of Formal Talks and Continuity of GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations is Important

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
August 6, 2005

So far the principal of neither the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) nor the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has given to the other side a formal written notice to terminate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and in effect the entire GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Neither the NDFP postponement of formal talks between the negotiating panels nor the so-called GRP notice of suspension of JASIG amount to a formal written notice of termination approved by a principal, as required by the JASIG. If the GRP wants to terminate the JASIG, it must give to the NDFP a formal notice of termination signed or authorized by the GRP principal as then president Joseph Estrada did in 1999.

The distinction between the NDFP postponement of formal talks of the negotiating panels in accordance with basic procedural rules on the one hand and the continuity of the peace negotiations in accordance with the JASIG on the other hand is important because even when the formal talks are postponed there is still some work that is being done in the peace negotiations.

The negotiating panels and their consultants, advisers and staffers continue to work. So do the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Secretariat (JS) related to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). And so do the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms in accordance with the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of Reciprocal Working Committees.

But if the GRP really wants to terminate the JASIG, it must make the proper categorical notice of termination. There is no such thing as notice of suspension in the JASIG. Even if the GRP makes the proper notice of termination, it should not forget that certain safety and immunity guarantees and basic civil rights go beyond the thirty-day allowance for NDFP personnel to seek safety if they are in any unsafe position.

Persons who belong to NDFP organizations and who are duly-authorized to participate in the peace negotiations enjoy safety and immunity guarantees under JASIG. At the same time, they constantly secure themselves from any surprise attack of the GRP. On any normal day, they are safe either because they are abroad under the protection of international conventions or because only their alternative names are listed in accordance with the safety procedure for documents of identification stipulated by JASIG.

Among those who are actually most threatened with abduction and murderous assault by the GRP are NDFP-nominated consultants, advisers, staffers, researchers and other volunteers who do not belong to any NDFP organization and who are legally residing in Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines. Although they do not belong to any NDFP organization, they have in good faith assisted the NDFP negotiating panel, the reciprocal working committees and the JMC and JS in order to advance the peace negotiations. Should any harm be done to these NDFP-nominated persons by the likes of Ermita, there will be far reaching consequences that will destroy all the agreements so far made, that will prove the treachery of the GRP and that will immeasurably inflame the armed revolution.

At the very first instance that the safety and immunity guarantees and civil rights of any NDFP person or any NDFP-nominated person in the peace negotiations are violated by the GRP, it would be reasonable for the NDFP to issue a formal notice of termination of the JASIG to the other side, undertake further actions that will counter the treachery and brutality of the GRP and possibly close the peace negotiations for a long time.

Since long before the Arroyo regime became extremely isolated and unstable, the GRP has connived with the US government in designating the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People's Army and the NDFP chief political consultant as "foreign terrorists" and have violated the national sovereignty provision in The Hague Joint Declaration, the safety and immunity guarantees in the JASIG and the basic rights and Hernandez political offense doctrine in CARHRIHL.

Since the Arroyo regime became extremely wobbly, it has been unable to deal with the prejudicial questions raised by the NDFP in any way and has shown an utter incapacity to pursue the peace negotiations. No less than the OPAPP secretary has resigned abruptly since July 8 and called for the resignation of Arroyo. Ermita has been usurping her functions. Nieves Confesor has shown more interest in scuttling the peace negotiations than in anything else. Thus, the NDFP regards her as a phoney negotiator and has never accepted her credentials.

Ermita, Confesor and the like have been engaged in a wanton campaign of disinformation against the NDFP. Either they themselves are ignorant of the contents of GRP-NDFP agreements or they try to take advantage of the low level of knowledge about such agreements among those who interview them. They claim brazenly that the NDFP has withdrawn from the peace negotiations, when in fact the NDFP has merely postponed the formal talks between panels until such time that there is a new GRP administration that is willing to negotiate social, economic and political reforms that address the roots of the civil war.

The broad masses of the Filipino people and the broad united front should hasten the ouster of the Arroyo regime from power so that the formal talks of the negotiating panels can be resumed and the entire peace negotiations can move forward. Otherwise the Arroyo regime would have all the opportunity to destroy the peace negotiations and commit so much treachery and brutality against NDFP negotiators, consultants, researchers, staffers and other volunteers. ###

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