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Ceasefire ends ‘successfully’, but no extension

The reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist rebels ended without further incident at midnight last night, but Jose Maria Sison thinks there is no reason to extend the truce at this point.

Sison, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant, expressed disappointment that despite the ceasefire’s success, the Rodrigo Duterte government did not release a single political prisoner in the last two weeks to further bolster chances of resuming formal peace negotiations between the parties.

“There is no reason for the NDFP to recommend to the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) the extension of the ceasefire, especially because GRP did not release a single political prisoner who is sickly, elderly or NDFP consultant in the entire period of the ceasefire agreement,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Sison said the holiday truce between the CPP and the government had been successful nationwide “despite some two incidents of self-defense by the New People’s Army (NPA) before the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) submitted its SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations) and SOPO (Suspension of Police Operations) to the NDFP belatedly on December 26.”

Sison was referring to the separate ambuscades undertaken by the NPA in Camarines Norte and Iloilo provinces that killed one police officer and injured several others on the morning of December 23 on the day the ceasefire agreement was supposed to take effect.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted its troops were on combat operations on both occasions but claimed they were in the process of pulling out when waylaid by the communist guerrillas.

On the other hand, government soldiers belonging to the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army “swarmed” a village in Bacuag, Surigao del Sur last December 30, causing the NPA to cancel its celebration of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary and mass wedding of its members.

Sison said the troop movement was offensive, provocative to the NPA, disturbing to the community and was, therefore, a violation of the ceasefire.

Despite the general success of the nearly two-week truce, however, Sison revealed there is no further agreement between the two parties to extend the ceasefire agreement.

“Instead, what the NDFP is getting from the GRP side are the warmongering statements of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP officials announcing offensives and insisting on fake localized peace talks staged by AFP military officers for racketeering,” Sison said.

Sison was referring to the 9th Infantry Division-Philippine Army’s claim that 306 alleged NPA members surrendered last December 26 on the occasion of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary that immediately backfired when netizens pointed out that photographs released by the Philippine Army purportedly showing the surrenderers were faked.

The AFP later admitted to the fakery.

Sources in the backchannel talks between government representatives and the NDFP said labor secretary Silvestre Bello III is expected in The Netherlands in the third week of the month for another “informal talk” aimed as preparatory to a formal meeting for the resumption of formal peace negotiations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

NDFP: After successful ceasefire, time to release peace consultants

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) seeks the release of its detained peace consultants and staff as a goodwill measure to boost chances of peace talks resumption this month. 

Along with the success of the ongoing ceasefire between the Rodrigo Duterte administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said it is widely expected that the government ought to release consultants who are under detention.

“The release of the political prisoners on humanitarian grounds will ensure the success of the formal meeting to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within January,” Sison said.

He said the consultants are being detained in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that prohibits harassment, arrest and detention against personnel of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP negotiating panels.

Long-time NDFP peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez, Cleofe Lagtapon, Esterlita Suaybaguio, and Leopoldo Caloza as well as NDFP panel staff Alex and Winona Birondo were arrested in succession after negotiations broke down in November 2017. 

All had been similarly charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Consultant Rafael Baylosis was the first to be arrested in January 2018 but was released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a year later due to lack of evidence.

Consultants Eduardo Sarmiento and Ferdinand Castillo were arrested by previous administrations.

NDFP consultant Lora T. Manipis has been reported missing since February 24, 2018, last seen with her husband Jeruel B. Domingo in Kidapawan City.

Manipis joined other missing NDFP consultants believed abducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as Leo Velasco, Rogelio Calubad, Prudencio Calubid, NDFP staff members Philip Limjoco, Leopoldo Ancheta, and Federico Intise. 

Meanwhile, youngest NDFP consultant Randy Felix P. Malayao was assassinated in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya by still unidentified gunmen in January 2019. Another peace consultant, Sotero Llamas was killed in Tabaco, Albay in May 2006. 

Sison said Duterte should also immediately release sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

“As regards the rest of the political prisoners, they can look forward to the general amnesty that is already slated for proclamation upon the approval of the Interim Peace Agreement (IPA),” Sison said.

Reaffirming past agreements

Sison said the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations has the task of reaffirming all previous joint agreements since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and setting the agenda for negotiating and approving the Interim Peace Agreement 

The IPA has three components: 1. the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners; 2. approval of the articles of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) on land reform and national industrialization; and 3. coordinated unilateral ceasefires, Sison said.

“The CASER will benefit the entire Filipino people, including families of adherents to the GRP and NDFP, through land reform and the generation of jobs under the program of national industrialization. These provide the economic and social substance for a just peace,” Sison said.

He added that a resumption of formal negotiations shall effectively supersede all Duterte issuance that terminated and prevented peace negotiations since November 2017. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP-GRP ceasefire successful so far, Joma acknowledges

The ongoing ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels had largely been successful, paving the way for more meetings between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiators, Jose Maria Sison acknowledged.

“By and large, the two parties have complied with the ceasefire agreement and allowed it to serve as goodwill and confidence-building measure for enhancing the environment for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP negotiations,” Sison said in a statement two days before the end of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefires on Tuesday, January 7.

Sison added that since December 26, when the GRP had provided the NDFP with copies of suspension of military and police operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, there had been no reported firefights between combatants of both parties.

The NDFP earlier explained that the firefights in Camarines Norte and Iloilo on the morning of December 23 when the holiday truce was scheduled to start happened before the GRP issued its own orders to effectively start the ceasefires.

The PNP on both occasions admitted that they were on combat patrol when waylaid by NPA guerrillas but said they were in the process of pulling out of their operations.

But Sison claimed that 401st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army’s troop movement that disrupted a Communist Party of the Philippines event in Bacuag, Surigao del Sur last December 30 was offensive in nature and a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

The communist leader, however, seeks to downplay the incidents, saying there had been “no incident in which one side fired at the other side” since December 26.

“The few allegations of ceasefire violations have not disrupted the nationwide implementation of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement. Such allegations can be threshed out by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels and the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Sison explained.

In an earlier online interview with Kodao, Sison said that a successful ceasefire may be extended while meetings to set up a formal round of NDFP-GRP negotiations this month are underway.

“That can be considered by the NDFP negotiating panel if its GRP counterpart proposes,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP expects Bello to remain as GRP chief negotiator

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expects labor secretary Silvestre Bello III to continue his role as chief government negotiator if ongoing efforts to resume formal talks succeed.

Owing to his “experience” and “competence”, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said they expect Bello to remain as chief negotiator once President Rodrigo Duterte formally reconstitutes the Government of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel.

“I expect Secretary Bello to remain the head of the GRP panel because of his accumulated experience in negotiating with the NDFP and his well-known success in forging the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) with the NDFP,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

The most veteran of all government negotiators with the NDFP, Bello served in various capacities in six GRP administrations, both in official and during backchannel and “unofficial” meetings.

Bello was the chairperson of the GRP Reciprocal Working Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that crafted with its NDFP counterpart the CARHRIHL. It was signed in March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“He has the legal expertise and high sense of diplomacy. He is competent at standing for the GRP and at the same time knows how to come to terms with the NDFP because he understands the patriotic and progressive viewpoint of the NDFP, unlike the militarists who merely wish to destroy or make the revolutionary movement capitulate,” Sison added.

Most recently, Bello and other government emissaries successfully negotiated a reciprocal unilateral ceasefire with the NDFP that took effect last December 26 as a goodwill measure for the possible resumption of peace talks between the two parties this month.

The last GRP panel, composed of Bello, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and lawyers Angela Libraro-Trinidad, Antonio Arellano and Rene Sarmiento, was dissolved last March 18.

Duterte, however, ordered the government panel’s reconstitution and named executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as a new member, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced last December 22.

Bello told reporters in a gathering last December 27 that he expects to continue his role as GRP panel chairperson.

Siguro naman,” he said. (It is probable.)

Bello revealed that he is scheduled to fly back to The Netherlands next week to meet with NDFP representatives.

“We will meet on January 6 for a possible schedule to agree on an interim peace agreement,” Bello said. 

A draft interim peace agreement, initialed by both parties and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator, included agrarian reform and national industrialization components of the prospective social and economic reforms agreement, amnesty proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners, and coordinated unilateral ceasefires. 

The next scheduled meeting is an “informal talk” aimed as preparatory to a formal meeting for the resumption of formal peace negotiations based on the draft interim peace agreement, sources to the negotiations said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

Disruption of CPP event violates ceasefire, Joma says

The disruption by the Philippine Army (PA) of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) event in Surigao del Sur earlier today, December 30, was a violation of the ongoing reciprocal unilateral ceasefires between the government and the rebels, Jose Maria Sison said.

“The troop movement is offensive in character, provocative to the NPA (New People’s Army) and disturbing to the community and is, therefore, a violation of the ceasefire,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Asked to react to the incident, Sison warned that such actions by government troops may lead the NPA to defend itself.

Government soldiers belonging to the PA’s 401st Infantry Brigade “swarmed” a village in Bacuag town Monday morning, causing the NPA to cancel its celebration of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary and mass wedding of its members.

NPA Guerilla Front 16 spokesperson Ka Oto also asked journalists on their way to the venue to turn back “as it is no longer safe.”

Col. Maurito Licudine, 401st IBPA commander, said they arrested two suspected communist rebels Sunday who admitted under interrogation that the CPP event was to be held Monday.

Licudine immediately deployed troops to the event venue, along with four 105mm howitzers, Mindanews reported.

“What held us was our concern that the communist rebels will withdraw from the negotiating table,” he said.

PA 4th Infantry Division commander Major General Nemecio Gacal, Jr. for his part blamed the communist rebels from “venturing out from their camps,” thus also violating the ceasefire agreement, Mindanews reported.

Sison disagreed, however, crediting his comrades for preventing a potentially deadly incident that may derail ongoing efforts to restart the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“[I]t is less than an incident in which the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) or PNP (Philippine National Police) fires at the NPA and sheds blood. Apparently, the CPP and NPA were able to adjust to the situation and prevent their enemy from firing at them and the people,” Sison said. 

He advised the CPP and NPA units threatened by the AFP troop movement to report and file a complaint to the NDFP negotiating panel. 

Sison also urged the GRP side to adhere strictly to the ceasefire agreement “just like the NDFP side has done.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma, Bello welcome Medialdea’s inclusion to GRP’s next peace panel

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to include Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to the government’s negotiating panel bodes well for the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison, NDFPs chief political consultant, said Malacañan’s announcement to include Medialdea to its next negotiating panel signifies that Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel.

“Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel and possibly indicates that his Executive Secretary will help him act faster on major issues in the peace negotiations,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Sison acknowledged that the executive secretary would be the highest-ranking government official ever to be a Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel member.

“The Executive Secretary is considered the little President or his alter ego. He signs presidential issuances under the line, by the authority of the President. Thus, he may be considered the highest-ranking government official ever to be a negotiating panel member,” he said.

He also pointed out that the President’s decision goes against the public pronouncements of “militarists” in Duterte’s own Cabinet.

“The appointment indicates that Duterte is concerned about asserting the principle of civilian supremacy in view of the militarist actuations and actions of his military minions who blatantly oppose his desire for the resumption of peace negotiations,” Sison said.

‘No one closer to Duterte’

Former government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III echoed Sison’s views, saying Medialdea’s appointment to the GRP panel is a significant gesture by Duterte in his bid to restart the negotiations he himself ordered terminated in 2017.

 “You cannot get closer to an authority from the President than that,” Bello told a gathering of reporters Friday, December 27. 

“The presence of his executive secretary shows the President’s commitment and resolve [to restart the talks],” Bello said.

Both the NDFP and the GRP expect to hold more backchannel meetings next month at about the time the parties’ reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement ends on January 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ceasefire finally on; NDFP receives GRP’s truce orders

The Philippine government has finally transmitted its ceasefire orders to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel the group said paves the way for the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires to “proceed effectively.”

In an announcement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they received copies of Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) at 8:54 a.m. Thursday, December 26, at their office in The Netherlands. (3:54 p.m., Philippine time.)

“We hope that from hereon the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires declared by the two Parties shall proceed effectively,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III sent the documents. 

The NDFP chief negotiator said the SOMO, dated December 24, was issued by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Noel Clement while the SOPO, dated December 22, was issued by Philippine National Police (PNP) officer in charge Archie Gamboa.

Both documents comply with a memorandum issued by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Eduardo Año, Agcaoili added.

Last December 22, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the AFP, PNP, DILG and the Department of National Defense to issue the government’s truce orders.

On the same day, the Communist Party of the Philippines has issued its truce order, a day ahead of the scheduled start of the ceasefire agreement last December 23, Monday.

Earlier, questions were raised whether government military and police forces would abide by their commander in chief’s directive as combat operations were reported to have been conducted as late as December 23.

Ninth Infantry Division-Philippine Army public affairs chief Major Ricky Aguilar told reporters Monday that a platoon of government soldiers on combat patrol was ambushed by New People’s Army (NPA) fighters in Labo, Camarines Norte.

A government trooper was killed while six others were injured by an improvised explosive device as the soldiers were pulling out from Barangay Paat at about 9:20 a.m., Aguilar said.

Also last Monday, PNP’s Gamboa accused the NPA of staging an ambush against the Iloilo Mobile Force Company that injured two police officers in Tubugan town, Iloilo Province.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that both incidents were not violations of the ceasefire agreement as the GRP has yet to issue its truce orders at the time.

The ceasefire would be in effect only after both parties have issued their respective truce orders, the December 21 NDFP-GRP Joint Statement signed in Utrecht, The Netherlands reads.

As to GRP’s transmittal of its truce orders, Sison said there is no more problem about continuing the CPP ceasefire order to the NPA.

“The best thing to do is cool down and proceed with the reciprocal ceasefires and let them generate goodwill and confidence in preparation for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison added.

The holiday truce shall be in effect until January 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP orders Xmas truce; Panelo says Malacañan to follow suit

SAN VICENTE, Palawan–The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared a unilateral ceasefire Sunday, December 22, ahead of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP) reciprocal declaration Malacañan Palace said is forthcoming.

In its order, the CPP asked all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and people’s militias to implement a nationwide ceasefire that will take effect from December 23 to January 7.

The CPP said the ceasefire order shall take effect upon the issuance of the corresponding and reciprocal ceasefire declarations from the GRP in the form of suspension of military and police operations.

In response, presidential spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the declaration of a unilateral nationwide ceasefire effective on the said dates.

The President has instructed the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to issue Manila’s official ceasefire declaration, Panelo’s statement reads.

In its order, the CPP said the reciprocal and unilateral ceasefires aim to generate a positive atmosphere conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Formal peace negotiations between the two parties stalled in 2017 after the GRP sent its negotiators home just as an interim peace agreement was about to be signed.

The GRP for its part said the confidence-building measures reflects Duterte’s commitment to the possible resumption of the peace talks.

Panelo’s statement also announced that Duterte ordered the reconstitution of the GRP Negotiating Panel, naming executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as among its members. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP, NDFP propose reciprocal unilateral ceasefires over the holidays

SAN VICENTE, Palawan–National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives in Utrecht, The Netherlands have agreed to recommend the issuance of reciprocal unilateral ceasefires over the holidays.

A joint statement sent to Kodao by NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison says the proposed ceasefire declarations, if approved by NDFP Chairperson Mariano Orosa and GRP President Rodrigo Duterte, would be effective from midnight of December 23 to January 7.

“The ceasefires are intended to generate a positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations,” the statement, signed last Saturday, December 21, reads.

“These shall be measures of goodwill and confidence building during the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays,” it added.

Sison also posted photos of the informal talks in The Netherlands, the second since Duterte announced last December 5 that he has sent labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to Europe to try to reopen the stalled formal peace negotiations with the NDFP.

Only former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and his assistant Rhoda Ignacio were present in the December 21 meeting for the GRP however.

Saturday’s joint statement appears to be initialed in behalf of Bello and signed by Braganza in behalf of the GRP while negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni signed in behalf of the NDFP.

Royal Norwegian Government’s Kristina Lie Revheim witnessed the document in her capacity as Third Party Facilitator.

The document adds that the parties shall separately issue the corresponding ceasefire orders.

“During the ceasefire period, the respective armed units and personnel of the Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the other,” the statement explains. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Permanent truce is possible with CASER approval, Joma says

Report and video by Urbano Guevarra

Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison raised the possibility of a “permanent truce” with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, even as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines expressed keenness to cooperate with the Duterte administration on social and economic reforms.

Sison, the NDFP’s chief political consultant, clarified, however, that the truce does not mean the rebels will lay down their arms immediately.

“The end of the conflict certainly is possible. But to completely destroy and abolish the revolutionary army? No, time must be given. There is such a thing as a permanent truce, like South and North Korea,” Sison said in an exclusive interview with Kodao in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The on-and-off peace talks between the government and the rebels are being revived as the two sides expressed last week that recent back channel talks proved productive.

Sison stressed that there are “common and separate responsibilities” between the government and the NDFP in implementing proposed agreements under the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, or CASER, a key agenda in the talks.

For example, Sison said, “Land reform – how can you carry it out quickly? It is with the agreement (of the government). Sila ang may records ng public lands and contested lands. You have to consult them.”

Sison said some observers may misconstrue that under a peace agreement, the NDFP might be subsumed under the current Philippine government. Not so, said Sison. “No. The important thing there is to first have cooperation.”

Sison also said that if the talks succeed, the Philippines would have a new constitution. “The constitutions of the two parties will be the working drafts…Considering the substantial agreements on economic and social reforms, it should be easy to have a common and new constitution,” he said. #