Bandillo: Overcome the preconditions

By RANDY FELIX MALAYAO
www.nordis.net

Duterte seeks to resume peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF but not without certain demands – bilateral ceasefire, halt to revolutionary taxation, recruitment and hold talks in the Philippines – which all appear or sound like the preconditions prohibited by The Hague Joint Declaration.

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

The chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the demands of President Rodrigo Duterte should be brought to the negotiating panel in the peace talks.

“I think the proper place for discussing the most complicated and most sensitive questions would be the negotiating table. The negotiating panel should have all the leeway to express differing positions or even conflicting positions and make complaints, and it is up to the two sides to arrive at a solution to any kind of problem, and resolve it,” NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Indeed, without a formal meeting of the panels, there can only be an acrimonious public exchange of complaints and demands.

There must be a formal meeting of panels where the panels can discuss the demands, present conflicting positions and subsequently seek to solve the problems on mutually acceptable grounds, and seek the solutions to achieve a just and lasting peace.

In resuming the peace negotiations, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP as negotiating parties must comply with agreements already signed and approved by them, such as The Hague Joint Declaration, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), Joint Agreement on the Reciprocal Working Committees, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and others. These agreements must be reaffirmed and followed. Obstacles and hindrances to the peace negotiations must be done away with.

Enabling environment

Before President Duterte terminated the talks in November last year through Proclamation 360, the back channel teams of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels have already succeeded in drafting the following:

1) Agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefire to be monitored by a joint ceasefire committee of the GRP and NDFP at the national level. This is in effect the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. It is a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities an d Disposition of Forces.

2) Amnesty proclamation to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

3) Draft Agreement on parts on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) which are the most important parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.

Surely, the enabling environment for the successful conduct of the peace negotiations would ensue from the finalization and signing of the aforesaid draft agreements.

When the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels meet again, it should be easy for them to finalize the draft agreements and sign them.

To ensure the continuity of the peace negotiations, there are mechanisms for submitting complaints about incidents or any issue deemed important by any side. The principals in the negotiations can avail of their respective panels and the Joint Monitoring Committee to present complaints of any kind and seek the appropriate response. This mechanism has been reaffirmed and strengthened during the Rome Round of talks in January 2017.

On holding peace talks in the Philippines

The Duterte proposal to hold the GRP-NDFP peace talks in the Philippines surely poses problems in the resumption of talks. In 1987, when the GRP and NDFP held the talks in the Philippines, the NDFP panel was constantly put under surveillance. When the peace negotiations broke down, many NDFP peace consultants were arrested and killed. That’s why the NDF has always insisted that the talks be carried out in a foreign neutral venue abroad.

As of late, the Philippines does not provide a conducive and safe venue for peace talks in the light of rampant human rights violations especially extrajudicial killings, surveillance, among other cases. There is also the petition to proscribe the CPP-NPA as terrorists and the inclusion of the NDFP peace panel members and consultants in a list of more than 600 alleged “terrorists”. Holding the talks in the Philippines may prove untenable and may even be sabotaged before it even begins.

The two peace panels should meet and negotiate in a foreign neutral venue as they have been doing since 1992. The issue of venue should not further impede the desire of the people for peace talks to resume. # nordis.net

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