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)

Peace advocates commemorate The Hague Joint Declaration’s 25th signing anniversary

Peace advocates are commemorating today the 25th anniversary of the signing of The Hague Joint Declaration as the framework of the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Lawmakers and legal luminaries, religious leaders, human rights activists and professionals in various fields as well as representatives of various sectors and the national minority groups camped out at the university are gathering at the university’s Asian Center for the event scheduled at two o’clock.

“At a time when the peace talks have been stalled or on the brink of termination, The Hague Declaration reminds us why there are peace talks in the first place,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement

Signed in The Hague, the Netherlands on September 1, 1992, the agreement outlines the objective of peace negotiations as well as the substantive agenda that need to be negotiated to achieve “just and lasting peace.”

According to the declaration, the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP were intended to address the roots of the armed conflict by forging agreements on human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms before the end of hostilities can take place.

The Hague Joint Declaration also laid down the sequence of the negotiations, starting with an agreement on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces of both parties.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law has been signed by the GRP and the NDFP last March 16, 1998, also in The Hague.

Considered to be a landmark document for peace negotiations all over the world, the declaration binds both the GRP and the NDFP to “mutually-acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and no precondition whatsoever shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.”

‘Document of perpetual division’

The Gloria Arroyo, Benigno Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte governments have all reaffirmed The Hague Joint Declaration among other major peace agreements when these were seeking to restart formal peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The declaration, however, had been under consistently undermined by the GRP demanding ceasefires between the New People’s Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police before further discussions on social and political reforms as well as political and constitutional reforms may proceed.

While the NDFP consistently insisted the declaration must remain as the framework of the peace negotiations, the GRP has since adamantly demanded for ceasefires as “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building” to “create a favourable climate” for the negotiations as stated in The Hague Joint Declaration.

Teresita Deles, peace adviser to both the Arroyo and Aquino, was reported to have said that The Hague Joint Declaration is “a document of perpetual division” while immediate past GRP panel head Alexander Padilla wanted a new track separate from the declaration.

While periodically agreeing to declaring ceasefires, the NDFP said these are just goodwill measures and are not preconditions to the holding of the talks.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA said they had no choice but to cancel their unilateral ceasefire declaration following gross violations committed by GRP armed forces against the guerrillas and the civilian communities.

Continuing relevance

In his message, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said The Hague Joint Declaration and is still needed to guide the peace negotiations.

“[The declaration} give the two negotiating sides ample space to negotiate and make mutually satisfactory agreements for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Sison said.

The CPP founder said that with The Hague Joint Declaration as framework the possible outcome of the negotiations for a just and lasting peace can only consist of social, economic, political and constitutional reforms.

“The mutually satisfactory agreements can raise the level of national independence, democracy, and economic development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, social justice, expansion of social services, a patriotic, scientific and mass culture and education, national self defense and independent foreign policy,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)