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Duterte hints talks may still be ‘resuscitated’

President Rodrigo Duterte again hinted the peace negotiations he terminated with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may still be “resuscitated.”

Speaking at the 84th Anniversary of the Department of Labor and Employment headed by Secretary Silvestre Bello III in Bulacan Friday, Duterte said the chairperson of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel with the NDFP “and company can always resuscitate it at some other time.”

Duterte said businesses and the military asked him to stop the peace negotiations with the NDFP because of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) revolutionary taxation and attacks against government soldiers.

Sabi ng mga negosyante at mga sundalo, ‘Mayor, ‘wag mo kaming pigilan diyan kasi nauubos na kami.’ So I have to stop the talks,” Duterte said.

“So itong mga Left, mga kausap ni Bebot, they have to agree to stop imposing revolutionary tax. We can subsidize the talks and even the billeting. Ako na ang gagastos, but you [NPA] have to stop [from imposing],” he added.

Duterte said he ordered Bello and the GRP Panel to take a breather to “give time for things to cool [down] with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines).”

“Let’s [again] start to talk, [but] let’s start by raising the level to walang atake. Absolutely,” Duterte said.

Duterte added things actually started with “slight insults” which he could not allow.

E di (curse), tuluyan na natin…The best way there is just to keep silent,” he said.

Duterte’s ‘rampage of killings’

The NDFP however said it is Duterte’s “rampage of killings” along with his declaration of the CPP and the NPA as terrorists that closed the door to the peace negotiations.

In an online forum with peace advocates in Quezon City, NDFP senior adviser and former chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said that while their side is always willing to negotiate with any GRP that is serious in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict, Duterte does not appear to do so anymore.

“The question now is, is there still hope for the peace talks with the Duterte regime? According to [NDFP] chief political consultant [Jose Maria Sison], wala,” Jalandoni said.

Aside from tagging the CPP and NPA as terrorists, Duterte also ordered that all NDFP consultants released for the negotiations are to be arrested and that the so-called legal fronts of the CPP shall be attacked and harassed, Jalandoni added.

Jalandoni said events in the last few days has shown that the Duterte regime is on a rampage of killings, citing the killings of two human rights defenders in Negros Oriental, Pastor Lovelito Quiñones in Oriental Mindoro, Fr. Marcelito Paez in Nueva Ecija, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao’s staff member in Davao City, and the massacre of eight Lumad in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Jalandoni also cited the arrest of transport leader George San Mateo and the forced evacuation and food blockade of more than a thousand Lumad in Surigao del Sur.

“All these follow the many thousands killed by Duterte’s war against drugs,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni said the Filipino people love the NPA for its health and health services in the countryside, as well as its land reform and defense of communities against attacks by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary forces.

“The truth is, it is Duterte who is a terrorist. He has become a fascist, a tyrant against the people,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni warned of massive, strong and militant protests against the killings under the Duterte government.

“As in the days under (President Ferdinand) Marcos, ultimately, it will be the people who will decide,” Jalandoni said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

IFI revives 90s peace campaign urging Duterte to resume talks

A Mindanao bishop announced that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has revived its special campaign for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Independent observer to the GRP-NDFP peace talks and IFI Cagayan de Oro Bishop Felixberto Calang announced last November 25 the revival of its IFI Peacemakers nationwide campaign first implemented during the Fidel Ramos government in the ‘90s, saying the peace process is not owned by the negotiating parties alone.

“If we leave the NDF and the government alone with the peace talks, they will only exchange responses that can lead to its end,” Calang said.

“Social and economic reforms are at stake at the peace talks, that’s why the Church said it’s better for us to form peace constituencies to push forward the peace talks,” he added.

The bishop called on GRP President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider Proclamation No. 360 he signed November 23 terminating the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

“We want the President to reconsider, since an all out war does not only affect the New People’s Army (NPA). The involvement of the civilians will be unavoidable,” Calang said.

The prelate said he sees the President as someone who is passionate about the peace talks, adding people around him perhaps influenced him into terminating the peace talks.

Calang also called on the NDF to reject the government’s decision to terminate the peace talks, saying it worked too hard on social and economic reforms to simply agree with Duterte’s decision.

“In fact, the NDFP has voluminous documents on social and economic reforms, which are beneficial to the people,” Calang said.

No formal notice to NDFP yet

The GRP has yet to formally notify the NDFP of its termination of the peace negotiations in accordance with their Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, however.

The NDFP said through its chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoli said they are still awaiting a formal letter of termination from the GRP.

In a later pronouncement, newly-appointed Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Harry Roque was quoted in news reports saying the GRP does not need to write and deliver a formal letter to the NDFP International Office in The Netherlands as Proclamation 360 should be enough notification.

In an interview with House of Representative reporters last week, however, GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said he believes “deep in his heart that the peace talks may still be revived.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peace advocates urge Duterte to return to the negotiating table

An alliance of peace advocates urged President Rodrigo Duterte to return to the negotiating table with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), calling the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’s (GRP) termination of the peace talks “sudden and unjustified.”

Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace in a statement also deplored Duterte’s order to re-arrest NDFP peace consultants, threat to tag the NDFP, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorists” and to arrest legal activists he accused of fronting for the communists.

“These constitute a complete turnaround from his avowed policy of talking peace with the CPP-NPA-NDFP to end close to five decades of armed conflict in the country by negotiating much-needed socio-economic and political reforms,” Kapayapaan said.

Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 last week terminating his government’s peace negotiations with the NDFP in the middle of “discreet” preparations for the fifth round of formal negotiations in Oslo where agrarian reform, ceasefire and release of political prisoners agreements were expected to be signed.

“Just peace is an overarching concern for millions of Filipinos. This was the basis for the popular support the peace negotiations enjoyed during the initial months of the Duterte administration, when hopes for significant changes became possible with both sides exhibiting openness to resolve the roots of the armed conflict,” Kapayapaan spokespersons Fr. Benjamin Alforque, MSC and Sharon Cabusao said.

The group also decried “grave obstacles” to the peace negotiations, saying military operations in the countryside continue without let up under Duterte’s counter-insurgency and anti-drug campaigns that have reportedly killed thousands.

“The bombing and destruction of Marawi City is also an additional thorn to the peace process, with calls for justice by the affected victims remaining unheeded by the Duterte administration,” the group added.

Meanwhile, amid Duterte’s tirades against the communists, nine communities in Surigao del Sur have again evacuated due to fears brought about by the presence of Philippine Army soldiers in the area.

Start of crackdown against Lumad communities and schools?

Lumad education group Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) reported Monday at least 244 families, 1,102 individuals from nine (9) Lumad communities in Lianga and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur were forced to evacuate to safety when more than 80 military men were spotted near the communities.

The evacuation affected 406 students and 59 teachers of nine Lumad schools who are now staying in another community, TRIFFPS reported.

“Under Duterte’s Martial Law, the situation worsened. Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools and communities. This is no different from Aquino’s term where the massacre happened back in September 1, 2015. The Lumad evacuated for a year in Tandag City after the killing of their teacher and leaders by paramilitary forces who accompanied the 75th IBPA in their military operations,” the group said.

The affected communities are located within the Andap Valley Complex targeted for coal mining and are refusing to allow these companies to operate in their ancestral lands, TRIFFPS said.

Coal mining contracts in Andap Valley Comlex have been awarded by the Department of Energy to Benguet Mining Corp., Great Wall Mining and Power Corp., Consolidated Ores Phils. Inc., Abacus Coal Explorations and Development Corp., PNOC, and ASK Mining and Exploration Corp, the group added.

Save Our Schools Network image showing photos of suspected military surveillance agents near the Lumad schoolchildren camp out in Pasig City.

In a related development, Lumad schoolchildren camped out at the Department of Education (DepEd) main office in Pasig City expressed alarmed at the presence of motorcycle-riding men they suspect of conducting surveillance operations against them over the weekend.

Rius Valle, SOS Mindanao Spokesperson, said the harassment is part of harass Duterte’s threats of crackdown against suspected CPP sympathizers.

“If they just want to know what the Lumad students and teachers are fighting for, they only need to talk to us. But what is alarming is they take pictures without our permission while riding in motorcycles without plate numbers and usually with face mask. They wouldn’t do that if they don’t have malicious intentions” Valle said.

“Before, only DepEd security personnel are taking pictures without our permission. Shortly after Duterte’s crackdown threat against suspected CPP allies, men riding in motorcycles without plate numbers are also harassing us,” Valle added.

Sabotaged peace process

Kapayapaan said such actions only sabotage the peace process and hamper confidence and goodwill measures carried out by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels during the initial months of the Duterte Presidency.

“Such actions are harmful to the people do not and never will constitute a favorable environment for the peace negotiations which the government panel itself has repeatedly tried to set as a precondition for resuming the peace process,” Kapayapaan said.

Kapayapaan added that the reported escalation of armed clashes between government troops and the NPA throughout the country following Duterte’s termination of the peace talks is all the more reason to return to the negotiating table.

“Kapayapaan urges the Duterte administration to return to the peace table and do the hard work of hammering a peace agreement acceptable to both sides and to the Filipino people and avert the prolongation of a civil war fuelled by long-standing social injustice and violations of the people’s democratic rights,” the group said.

Kapayapaan likewise urged the Filipino people “to continue to champion the cause of just and lasting peace, and resist efforts to foster the peace of the graveyard that result from warmongering, saber-rattling and authoritarian rule.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mindanao peace advocates lament: ‘Fascism wins the day’

Mindanao-based peace advocates lamented President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations between his government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), blaming the military for the breakdown of the talks.

Sowing the Seeds of Peace, composed of the clergy, human rights defender and development workers in Mindanao, in a statement said: “Once again, fascism wins the day. Understandably, fascism does not know the art of negotiation and dialogue.”

Sowing the Seeds of Peace main convenor Iglesia Filipina Independiente Cagayan de Oro Bishop Bert Calang said the termination had been the familiar refrain from the security sector, “which seems to be succeeding in drowning out the voices of peace in the talks.”

Calang is an independent observer to the peace negotiations and has consistently facilitated the release of Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police troops captured by the New People’s Army in Mindanao.

The prelate said Duterte’s threats to tag the NPA as terrorists violate The Hague Joint Declaration that sets the peace negotiations as a dialogue as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that binds the NPA to respect laws that should govern the conduct of war.

“Terrorist-tagging virtually sidelines their political struggle and sidelines the need for political solutions to a political, not criminal, problem,” Calang said.

Calang said the peace talks take into account both the historical context of the conflict as it seeks to understand its root causes to pave the way for the negotiations for its political resolution.

“This is the reason why there is so much anticipation for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),” Calang said.

The Bishop said CASER is the fruit upon which poor peasants, the Lumad and the working people will partake of, and its delay shall bring it farther from their reach.

“We urge both sides to take stock of the amount of time and labor already spent on keeping the talks on track. Surely, when this is done, there can be no issue that is too big that can decisively cancel the talks,” Calang said.

Duterte threatens Joma anew

In yet another tirade, however, Duterte told a group of lawyers that NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison must be arrested once he returns to the country.

“If Joma Sison comes here, I will arrest him. If I were him, he should not return here,” Duterte told fellow San Beda law graduates in Makati Friday.

“I will not allow him to enter his native land and that is a very painful experience especially if you’re dying and you think you should be buried in your own cemetery, in your own town,” Duterte said.

Sison is in exile in The Netherlands since 1987 after the Corazon Aquino government cancelled his Department of Foreign Affairs-issued passport while on a lecture tour in Europe.

“Even if you talk for a thousand years, we can never reconcile our values,” Duterte added.

Earlier, Duterte said the NDFP wanted to form a coalition government with the GRP that led him to terminate the talks.

A big liar

Duterte’s former law professor was quick to point out, however, it was Duterte who promised a coalition government with the Left.

Sison called attention to an ABS-CBN December 28, 2014 report quoting Duterte to have said he would forge a coalition government with the Communist Party of the Philippines if elected as president.

The report said it was Duterte in his own Sunday television program who said he hoped the coalition government would end the nearly 50-year old communist rebellion.

“It was the second time he mentioned about forging a coalition government with the Left. The first instance was during last week’s release of two soldiers held captive by the New People’s Army in Davao del Norte,” the report said.

Sison pointed out Duterte lied when he said one of the reasons that prompted him to terminate the talks is the “supposed inclination of the communist rebels to become part of a coalition government.”

“As it was shaping up during our talks, I already noticed the trend of the thoughts of the other side and when I summed it all, reading from all previous working papers, it would sound like a coalition government,” the ABS-CBN report quoted Duterte saying in Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan Friday.

“That is why I said in the previous days, I cannot give you what I don’t own and certainly a coalition with the Republic of the Philippines is pure nonsense,” Duterte added.

Sison said Duterte does not mind being proven a big liar on the question of coalition government, thinking he can move on from success to success at political swindling.

“Duterte is a consistent political swindler and demagogue who depends heavily on lying,” Sison said.

Sison also accused Duterte of killing 14 thousand poor suspected drug users and pushers while falling silent on his family’s reported involvement in large-scale drug smuggling.

Sison added Duterte also lied about his promise to wipe out corruption in government who allied himself with “extremely corrupt families of the Marcoses, Arroyos, Estradas and others” just to be elected president. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

NDFP awaits written notice of talks termination from GRP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel announced it is awaiting receipt of the written notice of termination of the peace negotiations by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) following the reported signing of Proclamation No. 360 by President Rodrigo Duterte Thursday.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they expect the GRP to comply with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) provision on the formal termination of the talks by delivering a written notice to their Utrecht office in The Netherlands.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations shall be deemed terminated 30 days after receipt of the written notice of termination to be given by one party to the other.

Last February 17, the NDFP refused to acknowledge an earlier attempt of the GRP to terminate the talks when Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza merely sent the NDFP an electronic mail.

In his statement, Agcaoili said Duterte has suspended or terminated the talks three times while these were ongoing or had just concluded.

“It has been the sad experience of the NDFP and the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), as well as the GRP’s own personnel, to be subjected to the whimsical and arbitrary outbursts of President Duterte,” Agcaoili said.

“No one can rule a country in Mafia-style fashion where it becomes a personal turf and all forms of opposition are wiped out while the army and police are transformed into enforcers and hit-men,” he added.

Agcaoili said the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are governed by agreements and they expect the written notice to be sent to them immediately now that Proclamation No. 360 has been published.

“In any event, in accordance with the JASIG, all immunities shall remain in full force and effect even after the termination of the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili reminded the GRP.

“If President Duterte is determined to turn the entire country into a wasteland similar to Marawi, that is his own lookout. He will meet the fierce resistance of the people to his fascist rule and go down in history as a worse dictator than Marcos,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photo by Jon Bustamante)

Peace talks a casualty of the Trump-Duterte meeting?

By Arnold Padilla/IBON Features

President Rodrigo Duterte’s hosting as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings solidified the sort of foreign policy that his administration will chart throughout its term. It is one that critics have already pointed out as still dependent on the patronage of the big powers and continuously shaped by their interests. The ASEAN events also reminded the public of how the US remains a dominant force in the region, especially in the host country even as China poses a serious challenge.

Scuttled

Pres. Duterte’s face-to-face meetings with US President Donald Trump at the ASEAN events in Manila and bilaterally on its sidelines appear to already have had an impact. Less than a week after his meeting with Trump, the country’s Chief Executive suddenly announced that he planned to classify the New People’s Army (NPA) as a terrorist group. A formal declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as terrorist would automatically terminate the peace talks between the two parties. Soon after, he also decided to end “all planned meetings” with the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

 Since August 2002, the CPP-NPA has been on the list of supposed foreign terrorist organizations (FTO) of the US State Department for representing a threat to US national security (i.e., national defense, foreign relations, and economic interests). The US maintains the list as part of its war on terror. An FTO designation, according to the State Department, “signals to other governments our (US) concern about named organizations.”

It is likely that Pres. Duterte’s initial willingness to negotiate a peace agreement with the NDFP did not sit well with the US. When the NDFP and government peace panels agreed to recommend the delisting of CPP founding chairperson Prof. Jose Ma. Sison as an international terrorist as part of the peace talks, the State Department maintained that the CPP-NPA is still an FTO as far as the US is concerned.  

But even before this latest declaration by Malacañang, the peace talks between the Duterte government and the communist rebels was already increasingly rocky and uncertain. This, as the President started to warm up with Trump since the controversial Republican took over the White House from Barack Obama in January this year. In May, the Philippine government unilaterally cancelled the supposed fifth round of formal negotiations just as this was about to start. Reportedly, this aborted fifth round was set to resume last weekend until, again, Pres. Duterte’s unilateral last minute cancellation.

Master’s orders

During the bilateral meeting between Pres. Duterte and Trump at the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings, the US chief executive promised to continue US military support and assistance for the fight against terrorism. The two leaders also agreed to enhance their counterterrorism cooperation through more military exercises, increased information sharing, and by addressing the “drivers of conflict and extremism”. It is likely that the US discouraged the Duterte government from continuing peace negotiations with ​the US government-designated FTO.

The amount of attention that Trump enjoyed during his visit not only from the national media but from the host itself illustrates that the neocolonial bond between Washington and Manila is far from severed. While the President may have said it in jest, his statement that he crooned at the ASEAN gala dinner “upon orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States” pretty much sums up the substantially unchanged relationship between the US and the Philippines under a Trump-Duterte regime.

In the past decade (2006 to 2016), American businesses have invested US$4.1 billion or 10.3% of the total foreign direct investment (FDI) that flowed into the domestic economy, the second biggest among all foreign investors. The US is also the second largest market for products from the Philippines, accounting for US$89.2 billion or 15.6% of the country’s total exports in the past 10 years. Furthermore, remittances from overseas Filipinos based in the US are the largest among all countries, reaching US$89.4 billion in the past decade or 40.4% of the total. Lastly, the US has also disbursed a total of US$2.1 billion in economic assistance from 2006 to 2016. In a joint statement following their bilateral talks, the US and Philippine heads of state also pledged to expand and deepen US-PH economic ties, especially in the area of free trade.

But as crucial as the economic relationship between the two countries is and while the US continues to shape the country’s economic direction, the more visible, not to say more controversial, aspect of US presence and intervention in the Philippines is in the area of military cooperation. This is characterized by the uninterrupted rotational (thus permanent) deployment of American troops in the country and the construction of military facilities to base them, the annual war exercises between Filipino and American armed forces, the frequent port calls of US warships, American participation in local military operations, and provision of US military aid. As Trump said before he left the country, he considers the Philippines “a most prime piece of real estate from a military standpoint.”

From 2006 to 2016, the US has disbursed a total of US$610.5 million in military assistance to the Philippines. The annual figures are increasing significantly in recent years. In the past three years, for example, US military aid to the Philippines is expanding by more than twice the pace of its economic aid (46.8% yearly growth vs. 20.6%). In 2016, Manila got the largest military aid (US$141.2 million) from the US Defense department among all 21 recipient countries in the East Asia and Oceania region.

This year, the US has so far provided more than Php2.2 billion in military assistance that include various military articles, based on news reports. These include the Raven tactical unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV system (Php60 million); 25 combat rubber raiding craft and 30 outboard motors (Php250 million); 200 Glock pistols, 300 M4 carbines, 100 grenade launchers, four mini-guns, and individual operator gear (Php250 million); two C-208 Cessna aircraft (Php1.6 billion); a Tethered Aerostat Radar System or TARS (about Php40 million); and 1,000 M40 field protective masks.

Biggest casualty 

And while the peace talks with the NDFP is likely a casualty of the Trump-Duterte meeting to push the US’ anti-terror agenda and justify its continued military presence and intervention in the country, the biggest casualty of a final termination of the peace negotiations (if Duterte will indeed declare the CPP-NPA-NDFP as terrorists) is the prospect of genuine social, economic and political reforms addressing the roots of armed conflict in the country. It is regrettable because both panels recognize that this is the farthest that they have gone in the history of peace negotiations.

Duterte scuttles 5th round anew, should be replaced, Sison says

It was the elusive fifth round of formal peace talks in Oslo between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) that was scuttled by President Rodrigo Duterte in repeated statements this week.

In a statement following Malacañan’s announcement of termination of the peace process Thursday night, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said the fifth round of formal talks was actually slated on November 25 to 27.

“After several months of hard work in unilateral and bilateral meetings, the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels were ready to do a little polishing of common drafts on November 22 and 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands for finalization in the slated fifth round of formal talks in Oslo on November 25 to 27, 2017,” Sison said.

Sison also revealed that both parties actually expected the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) would begin in the sixth round and be completed anytime between March and May of 2018 “on time for possible revisions of the 1987 Constitution of GRP.”

“Unfortunately, Duterte, the principal of the GRP Negotiating Panel, started on Nov. 18 to rant every day against the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), NPA (New People’s Army) and the NDFP in connection with recent incidents in the armed conflict,” Sison said.

Presidential spokesperson announced Thursday Duterte signed Proclamation Number 360 terminating the peace talks citing “acts of violence and hostilities” by the NPA, including attacks against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in recent weeks.

Since Saturday, Duterte has threatened to tag the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA and the NDFP as terrorists, vowing to arrest even their so-called legal fronts such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Amnesty, ceasefire, rural development

In his statement entitled “How Duterte sabotaged the GRP-NDFP Peace Process,” Sison revealed the three agenda that could have discussed Oslo starting tomorrow.

Sison said the common drafts were those pertaining to:

1. the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),

2. the coordinated unilateral ceasefires (CUC) as the advance from a stand down type of ceasefire from the fifth to the sixth round of formal talks in January 2018; and

3. Part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

“The GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels were so happy and confident that they would be able to initial the CASER and the agreements on the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners and the coordinated unilateral ceasefires at the closing session of the fifth round of formal talks and formally sign all of these at the closing ceremony of the sixth round in January 2018,” Sison said.

‘Discreet round’

The fifth formal round of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Duterte government in Oslo would have been the first time media coverage is disallowed.

Sources told Kodao some members and consultants of the GRP Negotiating Panel as well as some of their NDFP counterparts were in The Netherlands since last week for the November 22 and 23 preparatory meetings.

Duterte also ordered the cancellation of the first scheduled fifth round of formal talks in The Netherlands last May after failing to force the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Sison accused Duterte of violating their mutual agreement that talks would be discreet until there would be good news to announce at the end of the fifth or sixth round of formal talks.

Sison said that Duterte’s rants unwittingly exposed his former student’s “scarce, shallow and defective knowledge of the peace process” such as citing recent armed clashes as the basis for terminating the formal negotiations when there are no ceasefire agreements in place.

Sison said the AFP and the PNP are committing violations “far worse in scale and severity than those alleged by Duterte against the NPA.”

“And yet NDFP never threatened to terminate the peace negotiations,” he said, adding the NDFP also did not ignore the GRP proposal for a stand down agreement prior to the adoption and implementation of the coordinated unilateral ceasefire.

Mentally unfit

Sison said Duterte is showing symptoms he is mentally unfit to handle the complexities of the affairs of his state and the peace process between the GRP and NDFP, urging officials in the Cabinet and the AFP to consider replacing the President in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

“Showing gross ignorance of the peace process, he even referred to The Netherlands as the facilitator rather than the Royal Norwegian Government,” Sison said.

“Among his lucid statements in the course of his rants are those pertaining to his voluntary admission as a fascist in the service of the US (Amboy), his overwhelming desire for killing and war and his advice to the NDFP to negotiate with his successor in due time,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Duterte regime going against clamor for just peace—NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen to go against the people’s clamor for just peace in cancelling “planned meetings” between the Left and the Manila-based government.

Reacting to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) announcement of the cancellation earlier today, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao what was apparently cancelled are further meetings between the parties and not the peace negotiations itself.

“At any rate, the people are clamoring for a just peace and not the peace of the grave in the struggle for national and social liberation against foreign domination, landlordism and corruption,” Agcaoli said.

“The Duterte regime has chosen to go against such clamor. This is its own lookout,” he added.

In his announcement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said there will be no peace negotiations until an “enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.”

“We will closely watch the developments,” Dureza said.

The GRP and the NDFP recently held bilateral technical meetings in the Philippines on social and economic reforms in their bid to finalize agrarian reform and rural development agreements.

The parties agreed to free land distribution to landless and poor farmers in Rome, Italy last January as part of their agrarian reform agreement package.

The formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Duterte government that started in August 2016 however failed to sustain its fast pace after their six-month long reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declarations were cancelled following complaints of violations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The scheduled fifth round of formal talks in The Netherlands last May also failed to start after the GRP failed to secure a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the NDFP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Dureza announces cancellation of ‘meetings’ with the NDFP

Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Jesus Dureza today announced the cancellation of “planned meetings” with the communists, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest pronouncements against the Left Tuesday.

In a statement, Dureza said the cancellation is due to recent violent incidents reportedly committed by the communist rebels.

“We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front [of the Philippines]) in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Dureza’s statement said.

It is the first time the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) admitted meetings with its counterpart had been afoot.

Dureza said the cancellation is an “unfortunate development” as their negotiations with the NDFP have already reached far.

Both parties were set to finalize their negotiations on agrarian reform and rural development when Duterte cancelled the scheduled fifth round of formal talks in The Netherlands a few hours before it was set to begin last May.

Dureza again blamed the communists’ unwillingness to reciprocate “unprecedented steps” Duterte has taken to revive the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The NDFP for its part has repeatedly said earlier they refuse to sign another open-ended bilateral ceasefire agreement without agreements on social and economic as well as political and constitutional reforms.

The NDFP said Duterte is only interested in forcing the NPA to an indefinite ceasefire without addressing the root causes of the armed conflict such as poverty and inequality.

A source told Kodao that Dureza’s announcement is not a termination of the entire GRP-NDFP peace process, citing the lack of a formal notification from one or both parties submitted to the Royal Norwegian Government, the Third Party Facilitator of the talks.

The NDFP has yet to reply to Dureza’s latest statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP-NDFP talks prospects brighten, negotiators announce

Resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are getting brighter, negotiators from both parties said this week.

GRP chief negotiator and Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III in an interview with GMA News TV Wednesday expressed hope peace negotiations with the NDFP would soon resume, adding they are just awaiting for final instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte.

“In my view, the prospect of resumption is very bright,” Bello said.

Bello added the GRP panel is working on the release of political prisoners and other “contentious issues.”

“Slowly we are addressing these and our respective committees in the panel are addressing these situations,” Bello said.

For his part, Alan Jazmines, vice-chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, said they “continue to seek and pry openings” in a bid to resume formal peace negotiations with the Duterte government.

“[We are] hoping that the present ruling regime will open its eyes, release all political prisoners, agree to substantive socio-economic, cultural and political-constitutional changes for the ultimate betterment of our country and people,” Jazmines wrote on his Facebook account Thursday.

Significant progress in agrarian reform agreements

Posting his May 17 statement entitled “Flickers of Hope Amidst Gloom” yesterday, Jazmines said the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) is the main substantive agenda item at hand in the peace talks between both parties with Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) as its first important part.

“Significant progress has been achieved on ARRD in the previous rounds, with an agreement, in principle, for “free land distribution” as the most effective way of rectifying the age-old problem of social justice for the peasantry, the most numerous class and the most oppressed and exploited,
together with the working class, in Philippine society,” Jazmines wrote.

Jazmines said the NDFP’s top priority in ARRD is for the expropriation and free distribution to the landless peasants of all “sullied” feudal landholdings in the country as it is determined to restore the lands to their historically rightful owners, the poor and landless peasants.

“Most of these landholdings were actually owned by the descendants of the peasants themselves more than a century ago. But through various foul means, these lands have been unjustly appropriated by the ancestors and descendants of big land grabbers,” Jazmines wrote.

“Thus, there is a need to correct the historical injustice perpetrated against the peasantry by returning these lands to the actual tillers and rightful owners,” he added.

Political prisoners as bargaining chips

Jazmines however cautioned that while significant agreements have been worked out on ARRD, obstacles remain in the progress of the whole peace negotiations.

“The GRP has continued to use the remaining more than 400 NDFP-listed political prisoners as bargaining chips for an indefinite ceasefire, even without implementation or any firm assurance of basic reforms for the benefit of the people,” he said.

“The GRP president (Duterte) has even said in his usual frank talk, that he would only release the political prisoners, when there is a final peace agreement. Such a position does not help in creating an atmosphere conducive to the forging of agreements that the GRP president himself wishes for,” he added.

Jazmines said the NDFP has to “vigorously push for the release of all unjustly arrested and still being jailed political prisoners.”

In his statement, Jazmines reminded Duterte that former presidents Corazon Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos actually released all political prisoners in the spirit of the peace talks during their respective administrations.

“It appears that, upon the problematic advice of spoilers within the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the current president has made a turnaround from his earlier promise—of granting amnesty for political prisoners as the most expeditious manner of release and expression of goodwill—as was made before NDFP Peace Panel Chairperson Fidel Agcaoili,” Jazmines said.

“The GRP president should assert his authority over the AFP leadership, that has so far played the role of spoiler and, in their public statements and actual actions in the field, has even openly contradicted
some of his policy positions in promotion of the peace process,” he added.

In his interview Wednesday, Bello said he does not believe Duterte has totally abandoned the peace process with the Left.

“I am aware that the President, on his first day of assumption of office, declared openly that his legacy to the country was lasting peace for our countrymen. I don’t think that the president has abandoned this aspiration,” Bello said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)