NDFP consultants welcome return of peace talks to national level

Detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants welcome reported dialogues to revive stalled formal peace negotiations with the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), expressing hope to join the talks if efforts succeed.

Long-time NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad said they welcome efforts to resume formal peace talks with the GRP and the start of its policy changes regarding negotiations with the revolutionary Left.

“It is good they (GRP) decided to elevate peace talks to the national level once again and reverse former president Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of so-called localized peace talks,” Ladlad said.

The 30-year veteran of the GRP-NDFP talks noted that Duterte was of the “mistaken” belief that the GRP shall have eliminated the NPA by the end of his term in June 2022.

“Apparently, they realized that under Marcos Jr., they realized that the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA (New People’s Army)-NDFP is still a viable force. That is why they are going back to negotiating with the NDFP,” Ladlad added.

Following Duterte’s cancellation of formal negotiations in mid-2017, no local CPP, NPA and NDFP formation has also officially engaged the GRP in so-called localized peace talks, the groups clarifying they have only authorized the NDFP Negotiating Panel to negotiate with the Manila government.

Outstanding issues

Ladlad said that one of the hurdles in efforts to revive the talks is Vice President Sara Duterte’s open opposition to the policy change on negotiations with the NDFP.

He said the vice president’s statement on the peace efforts was “very hostile and belligerent” to her president, Marcos Jr.

In an interview after the simultaneous announcement by the NDFP, GRP and the Royal Norwegian Government—Third Party Facilitator of the peace talks–of ongoing dialogues to revive negotiations last December, Vice President Duterte said it was “an agreement with the devil.”

NDFP peace consultant Adelberto Silva for his part said another hurdle to the success of the ongoing dialogues is the insistence of other officials in the Marcos Jr. cabinet to do away with previously signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Silva said that The Hague Joint Declaration should remain as the framework of the negotiations as it had already been signed and reaffirmed by both parties numerous times.

“The GRP must also guarantee the safety of the consultants the NDFP wishes to join in the revived peace talks under the JASIG,” Silva said.

Both consultants added the Marcos Jr. GRP must remember that the negotiations are not just about ending the armed conflict but addressing its root causes.

“Otherwise, that’s just surrender talks,” they said.

In an interview with Kodao, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Julie de Lima said there have been at least five dialogues with GRP emissaries since early 2022 when NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison was still alive. (Sison died of illness in December 2022.)

The first four dialogues happened in The Netherlands and the fifth was in Oslo where the November 26, 2023 Joint Communique was signed between GRP officials and the NDFP Negotiating Panel.

De Lima said it was former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista who initiated the dialogues who was later joined by Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. and Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo  Jr. at the fifth round of dialogues in Oslo, Norway. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)