PEACE advocacy group Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace released a timeline chronicling events that led to the cancellation of the fifth round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) scheduled to be held last May 27 to June 1 in Noordwijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands.
Established by civic and church groups in 2014 when the Benigno Aquino government refused to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP, Kapayapaan is an active campaigner for the continuation of the formal negotiations between the government and the Left.
Kapayapaan’s timeline begun from the eruption of the ongoing fighting between the Maute group and GRP forces last May 23 in Marawi City that led to GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao while he was on a trip to Moscow, Russia.
The timeline said that on the night of Duterte’s proclamation, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana mentioned alleged extortion activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) as one of the targets of martial law, forcing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on May 24 to direct its armed wing to further intensify attacks against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to oppose military rule.
While GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said on May 25 that martial law was not directed against the NPA in other parts of Mindanao, the timeline added that AFP conducted aerial bombing operations, shelling and indiscriminate firing in four barangays with dominantly Moro civilian communities in Pres. Roxas, North Cotabato and Damulog, Bukidnon (90 km. from Marawi City) that affected more than 2,000 people, wounding five and killing a civilian.
Two hundred sixty civilians were also arrested by PNP’s Oplan Bulabog in Davao for failure to present identification cards.
The NDFP later said only the NPA are present in the affected areas, making them obvious targets of AFP attacks.
On May 25, the Left’s Panel recommended to the National Executive Committee of the NDFP and the Central Committee of the CPP to reconsider the order to the NPA to intensify tactical offensives in an effort to insulate the negotiations from the impending fallout created by Lorenzana’s statement.
A few hours after the fifth round was originally scheduled to formally open last May 27, Lorenzana in Manila denied the CPP-NPA were targets of Duterte’s martial law, by which time the GRP Panel has already submitted to its NDFP counterpart demands for a revocation of the CPP order to the NPA and a signed ceasefire agreement.
The NDFP countered by saying the demands should not be preconditions to the opening and completion of the round of negotiations. It added that the cancellation of the round is GRP’s decision and responsibility.
On the evening of May 28, both parties, as well as the Royal Norwegian Government—Third Party Facilitator of the talks—separately announced the cancellation of the talks resulting from GRP’s refusal to participate “because of the absence of an enabling environment.”
All three, however, took pains to explain that while the fifth round was cancelled, the peace process remains between the GRP and the NDFP along with previously signed agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
Succeeding backchannel talks until June 1 (the scheduled formal closing of the fifth round) failed to produce any joint statement despite exchanges of drafts between both parties. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image by Viory Schellekens)