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Hardline Militarists, Rights Violations, Corruption, Obstacles to Peace Talks – NDFP

"The NDFP remains open to the resumption of formal peace talks... But the current anti-national and anti-people policies, the gross human rights violations, the scandals of corruption, do not provide grounds for optimism." - Luis Jalandoni, chairman, NDFP Negotiating Panel.

By Alexander Martin Remollino
Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 42, November 25-December 1, 2007

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ recent pronouncement that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should agree to a “mutual ceasefire” as a precondition for the resumption of peace negotiations does not sit well with the leadership of the revolutionary organization, which has been waging an armed struggle against the government for more than three decades.

In an interview with Bulatlat, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairman Luis Jalandoni said Gonzales’ ceasefire demand betrays what he described as the Arroyo regime’s thrust of “securing the capitulation or pacification of the revolutionary movement.”

Gonzales’ pronouncement was reported in the news just as the NDFP and Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal had come to an agreement that the NDFP would provide the Philippine Senate with information on the peace talks, for the purpose of inquiries in aid of legislation. Madrigal met with the NDFP Negotiating Panel in the wake of the recent arrest of NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison on trumped-up criminal charges.

Following this meeting, Jalandoni and Sison both issued follow-up statements expressing the NDFP’s willingness to work with the Philippine Senate in pursuing the peace talks.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., one of the legislators noted for interest in seeing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations move forward, has however urged the NDFP to agree to the ceasefire “proposal” as a way of building an “atmosphere of trust and goodwill.”

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe recently proposed to the European Union that it revise its guidelines for listing personalities and organizations as “terrorists.”

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations have been stalled for the last five years, following the listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist organizations,” and of Sison as a “terrorist.”

The NDFP’s observations on these developments, and on the prospects for the peace talks in the remaining three years of the Arroyo administration, are articulated in Jalandoni’s interview with Bulatlat.

Following is the full text of the interview:

What can you say about Sec. Norberto Gonzales’ demand that the GRP and the NDFP agree to a “mutual ceasefire” before peace negotiations could resume?

Sec. Norberto Gonzales’ demand for “mutual ceasefire” as a precondition to the resumption of formal peace talks grossly violates The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and the Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels of 1995 and the Supplemental Agreement thereto of 1997. In these agreements, the end of hostilities or ceasefire is the fourth and last item in the substantive agenda, after the roots of the armed conflict have been adequately dealt with in agreements on socio-economic and political reforms.

Gonzales’ demand for a ceasefire blurs the need to address the roots of the armed conflict through social, economic and political reforms. It reflects the objective of the Arroyo regime of securing the capitulation or pacification of the revolutionary movement.

This precondition of Gonzales is unacceptable to the NDFP. Moreover, Secretary Gonzales is not really for genuine peace talks. In fact, he is a saboteur of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. As head of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), he has fabricated numerous trumped-up charges against Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, the NDFP Negotiating Panel members, consultants and staff, in gross violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

In late 2004, at a top level GRP national security meeting, he made the outrageous proposal, in order to solve all of GRP’s problems, to just assassinate Professor Sison. Secretary Gonzales has publicly admitted that he is responsible for the false and politically motivated charge which has been used by the Dutch authorities to persecute Professor Sison. The viciousness of Gonzales is a real obstacle to the peace negotiations.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. appears to be supportive of the GRP’s ceasefire “proposal,” saying it would create an “atmosphere of trust and goodwill,” which he described as “the key to any negotiation.” What is your view on this?

Unlike Sec. Norberto Gonzales who acts in bad faith, Senator Pimentel’s progressive stand for the people on various issues is appreciated by the NDFP. In this case, however, we would suggest a deep-going exchange of views with Sen. Pimentel regarding the necessity of making sure that the roots of the armed conflict are not set aside and a review of the experience in the 1986-87 GRP-NDFP talks which got bogged down on ceasefire talks without being able to go to the substantive agenda on social, economic and political reforms.

It is important to look into the major agreements mentioned above, the history of past talks, and also the motive of Secretary Gonzales, Gen. (Eduardo) Ermita and other GRP officials. We would also suggest taking up the NDFP’s Proposal for an Immediate Just Peace of August 2005, which brings up the possibility of a truce while both sides sign an agreement on the fundamental demands of the people.

What were the immediate factors that brought about Sen. Jamby Madrigal's meeting last month with the NDFP Negotiating Panel, in which the NDFP agreed to provide the Philippine Senate with information on the peace talks for the purpose of inquiry?

Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal, as a very patriotic and intelligent person committed to the well-being of the people and to work for a just and lasting peace, saw the possibilities of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, which she chairs, to cooperate with the NDFP in effectively pushing forward the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, either with the current administration or the next one. She also wanted to get from the NDFP what was the impact of the arrest and persecution of Professor Sison and the police raids on the NDFP office and residences of NDFP panelists, consultants and staff on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. She wanted the views of those affected by the raids for the hearing of her Senate Committee on Peace.

She creatively proposed the setting up by the aforementioned Senate Committee of a Technical Working Group which would work with the NDFP Committees of Experts to forge tentative agreements on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The NDFP proposed the setting up of Committees of Experts comprising five persons each to work with the Technical Working Group to forge the tentative agreements within one year.

The successful drafting of such agreements will serve to strengthen the political will of the GRP, particularly the executive branch, to go into serious peace negotiations aimed at addressing the roots of the armed conflict and not just aim for capitulation. This initiative taken jointly by Senator Madrigal and the NDFP has the great potential to get the enthusiastic support of other peace advocates from the church, human rights organizations, the people’s organizations and various sectors.

During the meetings with Senator Madrigal, prior to and after the signing of the Joint Statement on Oct.14, the NDFP presented the list of impediments that the GRP has put up to the peace negotiations. The senator has pledged to work for the removal of these impediments during and after the Arroyo regime.

What does the NDFP hope will come out of the inquiries that may be conducted by the Senate, in aid of legislation, on the peace negotiations?

The NDFP hopes that the Senate will undertake legislation that will help to remove the impediments to the peace talks and for it to take a more active role in the peace negotiations. For example, the Senate can help in pushing for a stop in the spate of extra-judicial killings and disappearances and stop the GRP’s military operations which uproot millions of civilians in the countryside. The Senate can find ways and means for assisting in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The Senate and the Technical Working Group of the Senate Committee on Peace can help in the research that will facilitate the forging of agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

How would the Council of Europe's recent proposals to the European Union to overhaul its current rules on blacklisting "terrorist" suspects affect the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations?

The proposals contained in the draft resolution presented by Swiss parliament member, Dick Marty, can certainly help the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. These would show that the “terrorist” listing of the CPP, the NPA, and Prof. Jose Maria Sison is a violation of their fundamental right to due process and their right to defense and such listing is unjust and must be done away with. These proposals will also recognize the right of Professor Sison and the CPP and NPA to claim compensation for moral and material damages.

How optimistic is the NDFP that the stalled peace talks could be revived under the present administration?

It is difficult to be optimistic, because hardline militarists like Gen. Eduardo Ermita and rabid anti-communists like Norberto Gonzales, and Mrs. Arroyo herself, want the complete destruction of the revolutionary movement through capitulation, prolonged ceasefire, and an all-out war policy. They do not wish to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

The NDFP remains open to the resumption of formal peace talks, if the regime shows it has the political will to address the root causes of the armed conflict and seriously negotiate with the NDFP on the fundamental socio-economic and political reforms. But the current anti-national and anti-people policies, the gross human rights violations, the scandals of corruption, do not provide grounds for optimism. But if we cannot have serious peace talks now, we can prepare for the possibility of such peace talks with the next administration. Bulatlat

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