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NDFP calls for Silva’s release

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili called for the release of Adelberto Silva who was arrested with four others Monday afternoon by Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) forces in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

“It’s a big setback on the peace process and the NDFP calls on the GRP to release the five detainees,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

Agcaoili said they strongly condemn the arrest of a “leading member” of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in its peace process with the GRP.

He added that Silva has been conducting consultations with representatives of different sectors of society in connection with the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

Agcaoili said that even the GRP is conducting unilateral consultations on the substantive agenda.

The NDFP chief negotiator told Kodao that both sides agreed in June 2018 when the GRP suspended the scheduled resumption of formal talks to study the draft agreements and that the two Parties (GRP and NDFP) would conduct separate and unilateral consultations with the people and their respective constituencies on the progress of the talks.

President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the fifth round of formal talks for the fifth time in June in order for him to “study the documents” forged by GRP negotiators with the NDFP.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza also said that, in cancelling the formal round of talks last June, Duterte wanted to consult the general public he said are part of the “bigger peace table.”

“And they prevent NDFP negotiators who are doing the same,” Agcaoili said.

Silva was arrested with three other activists and their driver by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The five were taken to the CIDG headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City last night.

They have been taken back to Sta. Cruz, Laguna Tuesday afternoon for inquest proceedings on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

As NDFP peace consultant, Silva is supposedly immune from surveillance, arrest and harassment under the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson and labor secretary Silvestre Bello III has yet to respond to Kodao’s requests for a statement.

Bello is reportedly in Al Khobar to meet with overseas Filipino workers in eastern Saudi Arabia. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups denounce Silva arrest

Groups denounced the arrest of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva and companions by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Sta. Cruz, Laguna Monday afternoon, October 15.

In separate statements, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Bayan Muna through its Representative to the House of Representatives Karlos Ysagani Zarate said Silva’s arrest with four others is part of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s ongoing witch hunt against progressives.

Silva, along with trade union organizer Irineo Aradero, Gabriela Women’s Party consultant in the House of Representatives Hedda Calderon, farmer Edisel Legaspi, and their hired driver were blocked and arrested by PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) operatives at two o’clock yesterday afternoon, the KMU said.

“At gunpoint, they were ordered to alight their vehicle. The arresting military and policemen did not read [them] their rights as civilians,” KMU said.

Atadero, Legaspi, and Calderon are activists from their respective sectors who were reportedly set to conduct a consultation with peace consultant Silva on the status and prospects of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

As with other NDFP consultants and activists arrested by government forces since Duterte ended peace negotiations with the Left last November, the PNP and the AFP said Silva and companions were carrying grenades and firearms.

Illegal possession of firearms and explosive prevent those charged from petitioning and posting bail.

“The five were made to lie on the ground while members of the arresting team planted firearms and hand grenades in their vehicle,” the labor federation said.

Zarate also denounced Silva’s arrest with his four companions.

“Instead of resuming the peace negotiations in order for the root causes of the armed conflict to be addressed, this is what the Duterte administration does,” Zarate told Kodao.

The progressive solon cited that the Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity approved House Resolution 2065 to resume the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP.

“[B]ut, apparently, Malacañan is deaf to the demands of the people,” the Davao-based legislator said.

“Many solons signed this resolution in the hope that [the] peace talks can continue because many have already been accomplished and it should not be wasted,” he added.

Silva is vice-chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms and was instrumental in crafting the National Industrialization and Economic Development document with their GRP counterparts.

He has participated in formal peace talks abroad as well as local meetings since his release from prison in 2016.

As NDFP consultant, Silva is supposedly immune from surveillance, arrest and harassment under the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Would CASER have prevented mining disasters?

SPECIAL REPORT

By Raymund B. Villanueva

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao can only shake his head as he looked at photos of the landslide in Itogon, Benguet last month that reportedly killed 69 residents, majority of whom were miners and their families. Initial reports said the tragedy was brought about by the torrential rains brought about by typhoon “Ompong” that wreaked havoc all over Northern Luzon. Eventually, however, it was accepted that the typhoon only triggered the disaster and that mining activities in the area—both large and small scale—was its main cause.

“It should not have come to this,” Malayao said. “This could have been prevented if only the Manila government listens to the people,” he added.

Since his release from prison as a political detainee in 2012, Malayao has resumed his work as a consultant of the NDFP’s negotiating panel, attending formal negotiations in Europe and reciprocal working group meetings in the Philippines and abroad. As the NDFP’s resource person from Northern Luzon, he is intimate with mining issues in his home region of Cagayan Valley, as well as the Ilocos Region and the Cordilleras. Environmental protection was one of his advocacies that made him a victim of abduction and intense torture in the hands of the Philippine Army. He spent four and a half years inside various jails as a political prisoner.

“The countless discussions I attended on what makes our people poor, especially the peasants, opened my eyes that environmental degradation contributes to their poverty, contrary to what has been promised them for more than a hundred years. Mining activities in Northern Luzon has made its people poorer,” he said.

Rescuers try to clear part of the landslide in Barangay Ucab, Itogo, Benguet that killed 69 residents. (Photo by Kim Quitasol)

The victims of the Itogon landslide are a case in point. Malayao said that mining activities, primarily when mining giant Benguet Corporation was active in the area, caused its forest cover to be denuded and its soil unstable. The landslide last month was only the latest in a string of similar incidents and it is unfair to blame the victims who he suspects are allowed to continue their activities with the consent of the company that still owns the mining licenses in the area.

Northern Luzon is one of the Philippines’ mining hotspots. Gold, copper, and molybdenum are mined in Nueva Vizcaya; gold and nickel are extracted in Isabela; gold has been mined in the Cordilleras for hundreds of years, and gold and magnetite (also known as black sand) are mined in the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Province’s coastal and offshore areas. As a mountainous area, the regions are also a prime source of sand and gravel as well as lumber. But despite the nearing depletion of its mineral wealth, it is agriculture that keeps the regions’ economy afloat. While it has enriched a few corporations beyond belief, mining has only kept many of its residents in poverty. Not a few have lost in their lives.

It was because of this situation that the NDFP has pushed for environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation as one of the top agenda under the substantive issue of social and economic reforms of the peace negotiations between itself and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

CASER and the environment

It was as far back as September 1, 1992 that both the GRP and the NDFP agreed in the document called The Hague Joint Declaration to discuss social and economic reforms to address “the root causes of armed conflict.” Both parties agreed that a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) is a program that could end poverty and other social. It was only recently, however, that a section on environmental protection was finally approved, even if the issue had always been on the table for more than 26 years already.

“[NDFP’s] latest version of [its draft] CASER is the result of careful study and analysis started in the middle of 2016. The NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) looked at the relevant experience and practice of the revolutionary forces in the cities and, especially, the countryside,” the NDFP said in the preface of its book on the peace talks agenda.

As expected, the NDFP had been scathing in its assessment of the state of environment in the

Philippines, especially mining.

“Corporate mining depletes our minerals as well as destroys forests and mountains. National minorities are displaced from their communities and ancestral lands. Critical resources for national industrialization are lost,” the NDFP said. “The profit-driven nature of capitalist production with the particular neo-colonial pattern of production and trade, that overrides social and ecological considerations has been the main factor in the devastation of the Philippine environment and the consequent disasters that have plagued the country,” the NDFP explained.

It may come as a surprise to most, however, that under its CASER proposal, the NDFP is not against mining. Rather, the NDFP says it is for responsible and pro-people mining.

NDFP urges environmental protection with economic development

For the NDFP, mining is not evil. It only becomes so because the environment is being destroyed by current mining practices and it only benefits members of the local ruling elite and foreign economic interests.

The NDFP said that environmental protection, conservation and the wise use of natural resources are necessary components of socio-economic development policies and that ecological balance is integral to national development.

By this, it means two things.

First, current destructive mining practices must be stopped and replaced with more environment-responsive ways. Not a few were amazed when the NDFP expressed full support to former GRP environment secretary Gina Lopez when she ordered the ban on open pit mining and a review of all mining activities nationwide. In turn, Lopez said she was willing to work with the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA) in protecting the environment. This prompted the NDFP invite Lopez to attend the NDFP-GRP formal peace negotiations in Europe to present her views the Left said were in accordance with its programs on the environment.

“The desire of Gina Lopez to work with the NPA for peace and development is welcome by the NDFP.  It is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” NDFP chief political consultant Sison said. “It will be fine if Gina attends the fifth round of formal talks,” Sison added.

Lopez told Kodao she would accept the invitation provided she would be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments. “Yes, I’ll go,” Lopez said. “What I would want to do is to create models first than just talking.  What I would like to do is to work with the NPA and create models where we get people out of poverty in like six months to a year.  Then I’ll go talk to him (Sison): ‘Sir, look at what we did here. What if we do these everywhere?’” Lopez explained.

Lopez was eventually rejected by the CA and Duterte decided to not reappoint her controversial environment secretary.

Second, the NDFP wanted that upon signing of the CASER, most of the raw materials from the country’s mining activities would stay in the country to be used for its national industrialization drive. “The strategy of export-led economic growth has opened the country’s natural resource to control and plunder by the foreign monopoly capitalists, big comprador bourgeoisie and bureaucrat capitalists. As the imperialists and the local exploiting classes freely siphon off the nation’s natural wealth, they leave behind a ravaged environment, Industrial wastes like mine tailings and carbon monoxide emissions and unsafe agricultural products pollute and destroy the environment,” the NDFP said.

The group added that existing laws such as the Mining Act of 1995 mean the wholesale delivery of the national patrimony to the unbridled exploitation by foreign investors through the liberalization of the mining industry. They open the door wider to the destruction of the environment and the displacement of the national and ethnic minorities from their ancestral lands.

Under Section 2 of NDFP CASER’s principles of environment protection and economic development, the group proposes that the parties “…commit to pursue economic development with due regard to the protection and efficient use of the country’s renewable and non-renewable resources and to institute measures for ensuring a healthy national environment.”

GRP panel’s ‘surprising’ draft

It was not only the NDFP that sprung surprises in its environment protection drafts of the CASER. The GRP was not to be outdone when it submitted its own environmental protection, rehabilitation, and compensation draft after the fourth round of formal talks in Noordwijk An Zee in The Netherlands in June 2017.

“The GRP’s draft has many provisions similar to NDFP’s. While there are differences between their drafts and ours, there are enough similar provisions that could be the foundation of a favorable agreement on this issue,” an NDFP source told Kodao.

For example, on the issue of mining, the GRP RWC-SER’s draft said that the pursuit of economic development must integrate protection, efficiency, and just use of the country’s resources and ecology, including making sure that the carrying capacity of the environment is not breached.

Taking a cue from the NDFP draft, the GRP draft, under Section 6 of its draft Priority Actions for Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice, says that all mining operations are to be regulated “to ensure domestic processing of mineral resources, guarantee environmental protection and justice, safeguard mine workers, compensate communities for damages, uphold democratic consultation and the consent of communities, allocate mining revenues and benefits equitably, and charge the costs of mine maintenance, disasters and rehabilitation to the revenues of mining firms.”

Support from environmentalists

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce hailed both the NDFP and GRP negotiators’ respective drafts as steps towards the protection of the environment and national development.

“What both parties have shown is that, at the very least, they were willing to discuss how mining could be more environment-responsive and beneficial to the Filipino people at the same time,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said the country may have around 7.1 billion metric tons of metallic mineral reserves (such as gold, copper) and nickel) and 51 billion metric tons of non-metallic deposits. “The total revenue of these reserves may be worth US$1 trillion, ten times the country’s gross domestic product and 14 to 17 times larger than its entire external debt,” the group said.

Like the NDFP and GRP’s drafts on environment protection, Kalikasan seeks a reversal of the nature of the country’s mining industry.

“In forums and symposiums organized and attended by Kalikasan, including congressional hearings on the People’s Mining Bill (House Bill 2715, filed by Bayan Muna) that we are suporting, we have always said that the mining industry should be geared towards national industrialization,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said that the mining industry should be redefined for the production of raw materials—such as base metals, basic chemicals and petrochemicals needed by the basic, medium and heavy industries—to produce as much consumer, intermediate and capital good with the country’s stock of finite mineral and non-mineral industrial raw materials and in the process provide jobs to the country’s vast human resources.

“In other words, our country should not be exporting everything that is mined within our territory because we need them for when we finally industrialize. And that may be possible if the GRP and the NDFP agree to sign a CASER and honestly implement it,” Dulce said.

The environmental activist also clarified that under both the NDFP and GRP drafts of the CASER as well as HB 2715, that the drafts are not necessarily against foreign mining corporations.

“I think these documents clarified that as long as these foreign mining corporations have no bad records and they agree to contribute to national industrialization, they are welcome,” he said. The People’s Mining Bill says that the State shall in cases allow foreign corporations to invest in the mineral industry.

“Based on the National Industrialization Program and the country’s capability and capacity, the government must identify the mineral areas where foreigners can help and invest subject to rigorous screening and strict regulations…The participation of foreign companies in the critical stages of mineral extraction and processing shall be in accordance with a mandatory program or agreement for technology transfer and equity shares that do not exceed 40 percent of the full capital requirements,” HB 2715 reads.

“Alas, the GRP principal (Duterte) is unwilling to continue the talks,” Dulce bewailed.

Wasted opportunity

Malayao agrees with Dulce that Duterte is wasting the opportunity to have an environmental protection agreement signed with the NDFP.

“I could not begin to describe to you the hard work put into crafting both the NDFP and GRP drafts on environmental protection under the prospective CASER. It was supposed to have been discussed as early as June 2017 by the negotiating panels,” Malayao said.

A signed agreement between the GRP and the NDFP is a binding and legal document, Malayao explained. Even without a final peace agreement, both the GRP and NDFP can already implement its provisions, as they did with their agreement on human rights and international law when they established a joint monitoring office in 2004.

“If the CASER was signed and implemented last year, perhaps extractive activities in Itogon, as well as in Naga City in Cebu Province, could have been more strictly regulated. Perhaps, the near simultaneous tragedies last month would have been averted,” Malayao said. #

 

NDFP welcomes House resolution urging Duterte to resume talks

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines welcomed a resolution by a special committee of the House of Representatives urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to resume its peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the resolution is a positive move by the committee members that contributes to calls of various other sectors and groups to continue the peace negotiations.

The Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity chaired by Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali passed the resolution Wednesday, September 12, urging the resumption of the peace talks terminated by Duterte in November 2017.

“It is highly imperative that Congress hears and echoes the Filipino people’s desire for the resumption of the peace negotiations and for the GRP and NDF to forge substantive agreements that will resolve the root causes of the nearly five-decade old armed conflict,” the resolutions reads.

“It is the cause for a just and lasting peace itself that is the very compelling reason to continue the peace negotiations,” the resolution, co-authored by Sahali and Reps. Jesus Nonato Sacdalan, Lourdes Acosta, Leopoldo Bataoil, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Lawrence Fortun, Rodante Marcoleta, adds.

The resolution further states that continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreement on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for their economic hardships.

“We hope this welcome move by the House Special Committee can encourage President Duterte to go back to the negotiating table and work towards a just and lasting peace,” Agcaoili said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza for his part thanked the Committee, adding the GRP has not totally terminated the talks.

“We know very well that the President had already cancelled the peace negotiations, but he had said the table for the door for resumption is still wide open. We did not totally shut this,” Dureza was quoted as saying by the House of Representatives Press and Public Affairs Bureau.

Open and without preconditions

In his statement, Agcaoili said the NDFP said it is always open to resumption of peace negotiations but in accordance with all signed agreements with the GRP and without preconditions.

He said the agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Agcaoili added that when Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace talks, significant advancements in the negotiations have already been made, such as tentative agreements on the sections of agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), coordinated unilateral ceasefire, and amnesty of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP.

“These agreements had been formulated and initialed by representatives of the GRP and NDFP during the monthly informal or back channel talks from March to June 2018 and were subject to finalization in the aborted fifth round of formal talks [last] June 28,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CASER may be approved by July or August—Joma

Jose Maria Sison said a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) may be approved between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in about two months.

In response to yet another assurance from GRP President Rodrigo Duterte for his safety should he come home to the Philippines, Sison said both parties are a few weeks away from completing the most substantial of issues in the peace negotiations.

“For sure I shall return to the Philippines after the signing of the interim peace agreement, which is already being prepared for June, and the subsequent mutual approval of the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms by the GRP and NDFP either in July or August,” Sison said.

The NDFP and the GRP are set to meet in June in Oslo, Norway for the resumption of the fifth round of formal talks that has been cancelled by Duterte three times in the past 12 months.

The parties are reportedly set to sign an interim peace accord via a coordinated unilateral ceasefire agreement as well as a general amnesty proclamation for NDFP-listed political prisoners and the signing of the agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development components of the CASER in late June.

Earlier, Duterte again assured Sison he will not be assassinated should he decide to come home for a face-to-face meeting between them.

“Walang [Benigno] Aquino style na patayan na barilin ko sa likod. (There will be no Aquino-style assassination where I’ll shoot someone at the back). It’s not my [style],” Duterte said Wednesday in a speech in Manila.

Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon landing at the Manila International Airport after years of exile in the United States of America.

“I welcome the assurance of safety by President Duterte. It is much better that there is such an assurance,” Sison said in reply.

“The most important thing is that we can dialogue and agree on how best we can serve the interest of the Filipino people, especially the toiling masses of workers and peasants through the peace negotiations and cooperation under the principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice,” Sison added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP rejects Joma-Duterte meet in Hanoi

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel rejected a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) suggestion that its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte meet in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This was revealed by Sison in a statement Saturday, May 26, saying he and his former student could have agreed to attend the signing of substantial agreements, including an interim peace declaration, by the two parties.

“The NDFP has offered Hanoi as the alternative venue to facilitate the attendance of Duterte. But the GRP side did not give a positive answer and the RNG [Royal Norwegian Government, third party facilitator to the peace negotiations] special envoy cannot make any arrangement with Hanoi,” Sison said.

“Hanoi as a venue near the Philippines was proposed by NDFP in consideration of the heavy work schedule of Duterte,” he added.

Sison added that the original plan mutually agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP representatives in back channel consultations in recent weeks was to have Duterte attend the Oslo ceremony for the signing of the Interim Peace Agreement.

But the GRP side backed out and offered Duterte’s executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as his proxy instead, Sison added.

Duterte has repeatedly challenged Sison to come home to the Philippines and continue the peace negotiations in the country.

In a speech in Davao City Thursday, Duterte again said he is guaranteeing Sison’s safety and will even escort him back to the airport should the talks fail.

Sison, however, said his acceptance of Duterte’s challenge will violate earlier GRP and NDFP agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees to hold the talks in a foreign and neutral venue.

“Second, I would be placing myself and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of Duterte and at his mercy. Third, any peace spoiler or saboteur would be able to destroy the entire peace negotiations by simply abducting or harming any NDFP panelist or consultant,” Sison added.

NDFP negotiators and staff were arrested and killed when their 1986-1987 peace talks with the Corazon Aquino government collapsed, prompting them to insist on a foreign and neutral venue when formal peace negotiations resumed with GRP President Fidel Ramos in 1992.

Sison however is not ruling out returning to the country.

“I have consistently declared that I will return home when substantial progress is already achieved in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and my comrades and lawyers are satisfied with the legal and security guarantees,” Sison said.

“By substantial progress, I mean the entire CASER [Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms] has been mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP principals,” he said.

For his soonest possible interface with Duterte, Sison said the NDFP has considered the possibility of the meeting “at the signing of the Interim Peace Agreement, packaging the ceasefire agreement, amnesty proclamation and the ARRD and NIED sections of CASER either in Oslo or Hanoi.”

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III’s comment on Sison’s statement is still being sought by Kodao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Hinggil sa Maaring Pagbuhay sa Usapang Pangkapayapaan

Sa episode na ito ng Itanong Mo Kay Prof, pinag-usapan nina Prof. Jose Maria Sison at Prof. Sarah Raymundo ang posibilidad ng pagbuhay sa naantalang usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Ayon kay Sison, mahirap umasa ng siyento porsyento ang mamamayang Pilipino sa muling pagbuhay sa usapang pangkapayaan dahil na rin sa mga kondisyong ipinataw ni GRP President Duterte para ito matuloy.

Pakinggan ang kabuuan ng panayam.

(Ang IMKP ay maaring i-broadcast ng buo o bahagi nito ng mga programang pang-radyo, istasyon ng radyo at anumang organisasyon at indibidwal.)

Duterte orders negotiators to work on resuming talks with Reds

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have stepped closer to resuming formal peace negotiations.

In a tweet Wednesday night, Presidential peace process adviser Jesus Dureza announced that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has directed his peace negotiators to work on resuming formal talks with the NDFP.

“President Duterte directed during the Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday) to work on the resumption of peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army] with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” Dureza said.

Dureza added that Duterte has said to give the peace process “…another last chance”.

He said the Duterte has also committed “to provide support” to the revolutionary movement as long as it stops imposing and collecting taxes.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison for his part said that formal peace negotiations are the right venues to deal with GRP’s issues and complaints such as ceasefire proposals and the NPA’s revolutionary taxation activities.

The resumption of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels is needed precisely to deal with substantive issues and complaints,” Sison said.

Sison said that in the same round of formal talks, the parties can present conflicting positions and subsequently seek to solve problems “on mutually acceptable grounds.”

He said that both negotiating panels already have a draft of the agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefires, “which is under the watch of a joint national ceasefire committee.”

“This draft agreement is in effect the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. It is a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces,” he added.

Sison also said that the GRP and NDFP has already achieved substantial consensus on the general principles of agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development, which both parties acknowledge are the most important parts of the prospective social and economic reforms agreements.

He added that there is also a draft amnesty proclamation to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“When the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels meet, they can be confident of achieving substantial success. Without a formal meeting of the panels, there can only be an acrimonious public exchange of complaints and demands, which appear or sound like the preconditions prohibited by The Hague Joint Declaration,” Sison said.

The Hague Joint Declaration requires that no side shall impose on the other side preconditions that negate the character and purpose of peace negotiations.

“The conflicting parties become negotiating parties precisely to thresh out serious differences and complaints and seek the solutions to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Sison explained.

“As a matter of course, the two panels shall reaffirm all the existing agreements by way of ending the previous termination of the peace negotiations. It logically follows that the two panels shall cooperate in doing away with the obstacles and hindrances to the agreements and to the entire peace process,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Agcaoili: Lorenzana set on ‘burning the house of President Duterte’

“Militarists” in the Rodrigo Duterte government are on course to completely burning the house down, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said in reply to Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that social and economic reforms are “completely unacceptable.”

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said Lorenzana confirmed “beyond doubt” being an outright peace spoiler when the secretary openly opposed land reform and national industrialization in a statement Saturday.

“This pro-American relic of the Cold War truly believes that land reform and national industrialization are communist ideas! Wow! No more talks talaga kung ganun!” Agcaoili said.

In a statement Saturday, Lorenzana denied being a peace spoiler, adding he should be viewed as a “defender of the Filipino people” instead.

Tungkulin ko pong ipagtanggol ang sambayanan sa mga katulad ng CPP/NPA na gustong magpairal ng sistemang maka-komunista,” he said.

Lorenzana said he is against any peace process “that is clearly is stacked against the government and favorable only to the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP).”

The Defense chief added the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) are “completely unacceptable even to a casual observer.”

Lorenzana failed to identify if he was referring to the NDFP or the Government of the Republic of the Philippines version of the CASER proposals being discussed before Duterte suspended formal negotiations.

Agcaoili said Lorenzana’s all out war solution, however, is purely fascism.

“With his fascist mindset, Gen. Lorenzana believes that there is no need of reforms in Philippine society – that anyone who disturbs the peace of the exploitative and oppressive rule of the big landlords and compradors supported by their imperialist masters, deserves to be run to the ground by the military with all the arsenal under its command,” Agcaoili said.

“Gen. Lorenzana has to wake up to the real world before he completely burns down the house of President Duterte,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by Viory Schellekens)

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STREETWISE BY CAROL P. ARAULLO: Unmasking Duterte

These days, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is turning out to be his own worst enemy.

He cannot keep himself from rambling on and on, revealing his bloodlust, megalomania, contempt for objectivity and truth, small-mindedness and bigotry, gullibility for the “intelligence” briefings by the AFP and the propensity for using strong-arm techniques to get his way.

A year ago, at the beginning of Duterte’s presidency, his crassness seemed to be just an idiosyncratic style born of his being an uncouth politician from the boondocks, used to the rough-and-tumble and straight-talking ways of those who are reared in the frontiers of Mindanao.

Many ordinary folk found him engaging, even refreshingly tactless, hence appearing to be honest and sincere.

What was important is that he promised to wipe out the illicit drugs trade in three to six months by means of a bloody “war on drugs”; zero tolerance for graft and corruption; a stop to the practice of “endo” (end-of-contract) that undermined workers’ security of tenure; easing the burden of taxation while spending more on social services for the poor; siding with landless peasants in their fight against the landed oligarchy; an end to the despoilment of the environment through large-scale mining; and to top it all, to release all political prisoners and bring about a negotiated, peaceful settlement of armed conflicts by engaging in peace talks. He also did the unexpected by appointing three avowed Leftists in his Cabinet.

High hopes abounded as well as serious misgivings. The revolutionary and progressive forces on the Left of the political spectrum decided to give Duterte a chance to prove his claims to being the first “Leftist” and “socialist” President.

While long-time mayor of Davao City, traces of his Leftist background surfaced in so far as 1) he acknowledged the CPP-NPA as a political entity born of endemic poverty and oppression; 2) he had a modus vivendi with the CPP-NPA with regard to their de facto existence as a shadow government, including their collection of revolutionary taxes and punitive actions against exploitative and oppressive businesses; 3) he did not consider “all-out war” as the correct or even viable solution to insurgency; 4) he maintained open lines of communication with the CPP-NPA 5) he upheld the human rights of rebels and political activists; 5) he asserted political independence versus US military intrusions in Davao City; 6) he welcomed peace negotiations as a means of resolving armed conflicts by addressing their root causes in unjust socioeconomic and political structures.

A short year later, Duterte is close to fully unfolding towards the Right. Whatever background of activism in his youth has become overwhelmed by the conservatism of his adult years as a politician in the mold of a bureaucrat capitalist until winning the presidency and becoming CEO of the reactionary state.

President Duterte has scuttled peace talks by insisting on an indefinite, bilateral cease-fire even before reaching a comprehensive agreement on socioeconomic reforms (CASER). Duterte not only failed to fulfill his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners, he continued his regime’s brutal counterinsurgency program including the bombardment of civilian communities suspected to be supportive of the CPP-NPA and the targeted killings of unarmed activists.

He resorts to lies and ad hominem attacks on NDFP Chief Political Consultant and CPP Founding Chairperson Joma Sison to belittle, insult, and dismiss him as a revolutionary leader. He parrots the worn-out AFP line demonizing the CPP-NPA as terrorists and plain criminals extorting from the people and businesses.

Duterte is in over his head. His conceit is that his overrated stint in Davao City provides him the blueprint for dealing with the complexities of the country’s historical ills. He misrepresents authoritarianism for political will and resort to mass murder and bullying tactics for decisive leadership.

Duterte’s opportunistic alliances with the Marcoses and ex-President Gloria Arroyo, his over dependence on the pro-US, militarist troika of Lorenzana-Año-Esperon and pandering to the AFP and PNP to preempt a coup attempt by his rivals — all these reveal that he is indeed an ultra-reactionary contrary to his self-delusional pose as a “leftist.”

But as a Marcos wannabe, Duterte lacks sophistication. His expressed intention to bomb lumad schools as a counterinsurgency measure makes him vulnerable to charges of genocide and other war crimes. His demagoguery is repetitive and tiresome. His resort to martial law in Mindanao and the destruction of Marawi City to deal with the disastrous Mamasapano-like police operation against Isnilon Hapilon is a testament to his incompetence and brutality as a commander-in-chief.

Duterte’s “war on drugs” is an unmitigated failure. It’s outcome: an unending body count of alleged small-time drug users and dealers, victims of extrajudicial killing by police and touted vigilantes incited on their murderous killing spree by no less than President Duterte. Impunity reigns with Duterte shielding the police establishment that he once described as “rotten to the core” from investigation by the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman. A police official, coincidentally surnamed Marcos, who stands accused of murdering a suspected drug lord while in jail has been reinstated and will soon be eligible for promotion upon the specific instruction of no less than President Duterte.

Duterte’s economic policies and programs have not departed from the failed policies of his predecessors in keeping the economy backward and the majority of the people eking out a precarious existence with no stable sources of livelihood or forced to take their chances working overseas. His resort to dole-outs, including one-time subsidies for higher education, is unsustainable. Social services like housing and health care remain unaffordable, of poor quality and inadequate. Whatever economic growth benefits foreign multinationals, their domestic business partners and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Finally, Duterte has maintained his off-and-on diatribe against the US, citing its track record as a brutal colonizer of the Philippines and as an exponent of wars of aggression against sovereign countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. His tirades intensify as criticisms from US quarters of his regime’s bloody war on drugs intensifies and as the US government hedges on the delivery of armaments and other forms of military aid.

But as the US well knows, Duterte is not about to touch any of the lopsided military agreements such as EDCA and the VFA that allows US military presence on Philippine soil and power projection in the Asia Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s courtship of China for loans and investments is leading us to debt peonage to a new master and abandonment of our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

The Duterte regime is headed towards complete unmasking and isolation as anti-people unless it drastically changes course. Unfortunately, there are few signs that this can or will happen. # (First published in BusinessWorld, 31 July 2017 / carol_araullo@yahoo.com)