Third round opens amidst complaints of CARHRIHL and JASIG violations

ROME, Italy—Despite major problems before its convening, the third round of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) opened as scheduled at ten thirty this morning local time (5:30 pm Philippine time).

Both parties expressed optimism that the six-day negotiations would achieve important agreements on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and human rights. Read more

CASER to be tackled most at third round of talks

ROME, Italy–The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have approved a common agenda of the third round of formal negotiations.

Hours before the formal opening of the talks to be held for the first time in this ancient city, both panels met and agreed to spend five days of negotiations starting today until January 25 with a break on Sunday, January 22. Read more

Political detainees support third round of talks despite continued imprisonment

ROME, Italy—Political prisoners are finding their promised release too slow in coming even as they expressed support for the third round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Two days before the talks in this ancient city, 33 political prisoners at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig said they are dismayed that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte is backtracking on his promise to release all political prisoners.

“Two round of formal negotiations were concluded in 2016, one political prisoner has already died in jail, we and our respective families have conducted a hunger strike last December, and Christmas and New Year have already passed, but President Duterte’s promises are nothing but press releases,” the detainees said.

The detainees also expressed resentment at how Duterte is treating them like trading cards in his government’s bid to force the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

“It seems he wants to force the NDFP and the people into a simplistic ceasefire without first complying with previously-signed agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and giving justice to political prisoners,” the detainees said.

Duterte told NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in a private meeting in Davao City immediately after his election last May he will release all political prisoners through a general amnesty, which he later repeated in several public speeches.

He has since announced he will only sign a general amnesty order for more than 400 political detainees if a signed NDFP-GRP bilateral ceasefire agreement is delivered to him.

“I cannot give you that.  I’m sorry but I have already conceded so much on the side of the government,” Duterte said last December 5.

The GRP Negotiating Panel has also repeatedly committed to work for the immediate release of prisoners but there have been no additional releases from the 19 released in time for the resumption of negotiations last August.

The NDFP for its part said the immediate release of political prisoners is a matter of justice and compliance with signed agreements.

Successful third round

The Bagong Diwa detainees are however hoping for a successful round of formal negotiations in this Italian capital starting tomorrow until the 25th.

“We support the third round of formal talks, especially the negotiations on socio-economic reforms and other substantial issues,” their statement said.

“We expect that genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are to be discussed to address the root causes of the armed conflict,” they added.

The detainees are also asking on the GRP to stop the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counter-insurgency operations as well as summary executions raging throughout the country.

“We call on the Filipino people to continue to stand for the advance of our democratic rights and interests for a just and lasting peace,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by Karapatan)


Activists condemn human rights violations under Duterte

Thousands of activists slammed continuing human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte administration in rallies on International HUman Rights Day last Friday.

In Manila, the main rally led by Karapatan said Duterte is not serious in giving justice to victims of rights violations.

Instead, the activists said Duterte buried the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a hero and led the so-called war on drugs that have killed an average of 1,000 every month in his more than five months as president.

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Lawyers present six reasons why political prisoners must be freed

People’s lawyers held a press conference at Mendiola this morning and cited six reasons for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) joined human rights victims and their kin in solidarity fasting and stressed the legal and humanitarian grounds for the release.

President Rodrigo Duterte had recently issued statements he would only release the political prisoners after a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The lawyers said Duterte is contradicting himself, saying it was him who promised to grant them general amnesty immediately after his election as President earlier this year. (Featured photo by Salinlahi)

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Sison: CPP ready to terminate ceasefire if political detainees are not released by January

Kodao’s Raymund Villanueva interviews National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison on President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to release all political prisoners, ceasefire, peace talks, new AFP chief of staff Eduardo Año, and extra-judicial killings connected to the so-called drug war.  

Kodao: In a recent interview, you said the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) may work for a bilateral ceasefire as long as the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) President Rodrigo Duterte makes good on his promise to release all 434 political prisoners within 48 hours after delivery to him of a signed copy by GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello III and GRP panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad.  What is your explanation for advising the revolutionary movement may accept Duterte’s challenge?

Prof. Jose Ma. Sison (JMS): I made the advice after reading a news announcement that President Duterte would release all the political prisoners within 48 hours after the GRP and NDFP panels sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement. I asked NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili to contact immediately his counterpart GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III whether the report is true and whether the GRP panel is willing to meet the NDFP panel within the second half of December regarding the bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Kodao: What should the NDFP and the revolutionary movement do with the signed bilateral ceasefire if the GRP president fails to deliver on his promise?

JMS: The signing of the bilateral ceasefire agreement by the GRP and NDFP panels can come ahead of the amnesty and release of all political prisoners by President Duterte but said agreement becomes valid and effective only upon the actual release of said political prisoners and upon the approval of the agreement by the GRP and NDFP principals.  No chance for the GRP to get the bilateral ceasefire agreement and then renege on the commitment to amnesty and release all political prisoners.

Kodao: How can Duterte affect such when his peace adviser (Sec. Jesus Dureza) and the GRP panel have been saying the notoriously slow judicial processes must be followed?

JMS: Indeed, the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) is known to block the amnesty and release of the political prisoners and is supposed to have advised Duterte accordingly. The GRP side has the power to prolong the imprisonment of the political prisoners and make them suffer needlessly an injustice in violation of the CARHRIHL and the Hernandez political offense doctrine.

But the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines is ready to terminate the August 28, 2016 unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire in case no amnesty and release of all political prisoners would occur in December or January.  We shall be back to a situation of negotiating while fighting, unless the GRP terminates the peace negotiations completely.

Kodao: How long would such a bilateral ceasefire take effect?

JMS: If the bilateral ceasefire agreement shall be forged, it shall be valid and effective indefinitely between the armed forces and units of the GRP and NDFP.

Kodao: What are the conditions that would compel the NDFP to end such a bilateral ceasefire?

JMS: The NDFP can end such a bilateral ceasefire agreement if the GRP grossly and systematically violates it, loses interest in the negotiations of the substantive agenda and is interested merely in using the bilateral ceasefire as an instrument of capitulation and pacification at the expense of the people and the revolutionary forces.

Kodao: Some regional commands of the NPA and the CPP are thinking of terminating their existing unilateral ceasefire declaration because of several documented cases of violations of the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration by its own armed forces.  What would happen to such sentiments and the people’s complaints of ceasefire violations if the NDFP would sign a bilateral ceasefire with the GRP at this point?

JMS: The NDFP should not sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement that does not address the violations made by the AFP, PNP, paramilitary forces and death squads during the period of reciprocal unilateral ceasefires.  Provisions must be made for pre-empting and preventing the recurrence of such violations. The military and police should be restricted to barracks and should not usurp civilian functions. They should not be able to use any pretext to commit atrocities against the people within the territory of the people’s democratic government.

Kodao: President Duterte met with NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultants just last weekend, which reportedly went well.  Then a day before Duterte appointed Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año as new AFP chief of staff, he issued his ultimatum.  What do you think would happen to a bilateral ceasefire when Duterte’s new chief of staff is an alleged human rights violator and a “rebel hunter?”

JMS:  In his candid moments, President Duterte himself admits that the GRP is reactionary and rotten, serving US imperialism and controlled by oligarchs, with civilian, military and police officals involved in corruption and criminality, including illegal drugs. To make a good bilateral ceasefire agreement and continue the peace negotiations with the NDFP, Duterte must assume the responsibility of fixing the criminals and self-contradictions in the GRP. He must know how to control his new AFP chief of staff or replace him if he can.  Otherwise, a just and lasting peace will become impossible. And the armed revolution will continue.

Kodao: There has been more than five thousand killed under Duterte’s so-called war on drugs in his five months in office.  How should the NDFP raise this issue under CARHRIHL during the formal peace talks? Is it still beneficial for the revolutionary movement to engage in formal talks with the Duterte government under which all these killings are happening?

JMS: The extrajudicial killing of 5,800 suspects of being drug pushers is a valid issue that can be discussed under the CARHRIHL, especially because there are already many complaints that the military, police and paramilitaries of the GRP are using Oplan Tokhang for the purpose of smearing and murdering revolutionaries.

The CPP, NPA and NDFP have already pointed out that the anti-drug campaign might be like Plan Columbia under which tens of thousands of paramilitaries were organised not really to fight the drug traders but the revolutionary forces.

Kodao: It is being announced that the next round (third) of formal talks would be on January 18-24 in Rome, Italy.  What would be on the agenda and how is the NDFP preparing for this?

JMS:  The GRP and NDFP Panels will take up the condition of the political prisoners and the unfulfilled promises to release them.  There is yet no basis to say that the matter of bilateral ceasefire agreement will be taken up before or during the third round of peace talks. I expect that the negotiations of the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms) by the RWCs (Reciprocal Working Committees) concerned will make some significant advance to show that the peace process is really moving ahead. CASER is the meat of the entire peace negotiations. It offers the prospects of national industrialization, genuine land reform, improved incomes and means of livelihood and expansion of social services.

Kodao: Why should the Filipino people support the continuation of the peace process?

JMS: The Filipino people support the continuation of the peace negotiations because they wish substantial social, economic and political reforms to be achieved across the negotiating table. However, if they are frustrated in this regard, they will also be able to see more clearly the justness and necessity of the people’s democratic revolution through people’s war. After all, the crisis of global capitalism and the domestic ruling system continues to worsen and cry out for revolution.

(Interview and Sison photo by Raymund B. Villanueva/Duterte photo by Davao Today)

NDFP will not be swayed by Duterte’s ultimatums–Agcaoili

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is mistaken to think that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) would be swayed into signing a bilateral ceasefire with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

Reacting to Duterte’s threat that he will not release political prisoners without a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement, Agcaoili said the NDFP cannot be forced by ultimatums by the GRP President.

“The NDFP cannot be swayed by threats or ultimatums from its principled stand that all political prisoners should be released as a matter of justice and in compliance with signed agreements such JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” Agcaoili said. Read more

Peace consultant reads poem on freedom of political prisoners

Natuional Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Tirso “Ka Bart”Alcantara reads his poem “Pangako ng Kalayaan” at the Laya event held at Bamboo Intramuros, Manila on December 3, 2016.

The event was organized by the people’s rights alliance Karapatan to call for the release of all political prisoners.

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NDFP says ceasefire holding, but…

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said the respective unilateral ceasefire declarations by the revolutionary group and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) are holding despite reports of violations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

In a press release, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) August 28 2016 Unilateral Declaration of Interim Ceasefire with the GRP remains valid.

Agcaoili was responding to an October 20 letter from GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III proposing that both the NDFP and the GRP “simultaneously declare their renewed commitment to their respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire.”

Bello made the proposal in light of the parties’ failure to meet the October 26 deadline for them to work out a bilateral ceasefire agreement in accordance with their October 9 Oslo Joint Statement.

“The Parties renewed their commitment to work through their respective ceasefire committees to reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral document within 60 days from August 26, 2016,” the parties’ second round of formal peace talks statement said.

Agcaoili said he informed Bello that there is no need for a new declaration as the CPP and NPA’s unilateral ceasefire declaration remains valid during the course of the peace negotiations or until a notice of termination takes effect 10 days after receipt of notice by the GRP Negotiating Panel from the NDFP Negotiating Panel.

Ceasefire violations

In its press release, the NDFP also said there are persistent reports from regional NPA commands of GRP violations of its own ceasefire, such as incursions into NPA territory in the guise of civic action and anti-drug operations.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said the AFP is using the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called war against drugs as a cover in implementing its Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency operations against leftists.

Karapatan suspects GRP troops are responsible for the killing of youth activist and environment defender Joselito Pasaporte in Compostela Province last October 13, who the PNP said was included in its drug watch list.

Karapatan also said the war on drugs was the cover in the arrest of eight farmer-activists in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan last October 6.

“While the United States-driven Oplan Bayanihan remains operational, any form of people’s assertion of their rights will always be subject to repression. The ‘war against drugs’ is now being used as a convenient excuse by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to undertake illegal arrests against citizens,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Earlier, the NDFP said it suspects PNP elements are out to sabotage the peace process after the brutal police dispersal of an indigenous peoples-led rally at the United States (US) Embassy in Manila last October 18.

Agcaoili said it is most likely there are elements within the military and police who are against the new policy direction of their commander-in-chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, to pursue peace with the NDFP.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) also expressed shock at the violent dispersal, calling the police action “pure insanity.”

OPAPP added that it hopes the incident will not prevent the pursuit of achieving elusive peace in the country.

Violations may force NPA to retract

In a public forum last October 26, however, newly-appointed NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon warned that continuing violations by the GRP would force the NPA to retract its unilateral ceasefire declaration.

“If the situation gets worse, it would be better to pursue the talks without ceasefire,” Tiamzon told dispersal victims last October 26.

“If the AFP continues to violate the ceasefire, it will not be long and it is highly probable that the NPA would retract its unilateral ceasefire,” he said.

Tiamzon recalled that, in the past, the peace talks continued even without a ceasefire.

More stable ceasefire possible

In his reply to Bello, Agcaoili reminded his counterpart of GRP’s commitments on the releases and amnesty of political prisoners in accordance with their June 15, August 26 and October 9 joint statements.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel has also recalled on several instances that it was Duterte who repeatedly volunteered issuing a general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners.

“Fulfillment of such commitment would serve as a big incentive towards accelerating the peace negotiations and forging a mutual stable ceasefire,” the NDFP said.

In their latest joint statement, the parties said they are exerting their best efforts to develop a single and unified document of a bilateral ceasefire agreement within a desired period.

There has been no GRP-NDFP bilateral ceasefire agreement since 1987. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)



CPP remains hopeful on immediate release of political prisoners

UTRECHT, The Netherlands—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) remains hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte will soon release the remaining 434 political prisoners in accordance with the commitments the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel with the National Democratic of the Philippines (NDFP). Read more