Editorial: Preconditions to peace?

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In the early days of the Duterte administration, there were high hopes that the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will soon find resolution to the root causes of the almost five decade armed revolution waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA).

But these hopes were shattered when the President issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace talks on November 23, 2017 and accusing the CPP-NPA of insincerity and failure to meet the conditions he has set for the talks.

The President did not stop at just terminating the talks. He even declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups and makes the Department of Justice (DOJ) petition the courts to declare the CPP-NPA and 600+ activists as terrorist.

This sparked protests because human rights defenders, environment activists, lawyers, United Nations personalities and even some dead and disappeared were included in this DOJ terror list.

In February the President was strongly criticized when he ordered soldiers to shoot at the vaginas of women rebels.

On the same month, Rafael Baylosis a 69 year old suffering from heart illness, on false accusations the NDFP consultant was arrested for alleged possession of explosives. Still on the same month another NDFP consultant Lora Manipis and her husband Jeruel Domingo disappeared without a trace. They were last seen in Kidapawan City.

Last April 3, the President directed GRP negotiators to work for the resumption of peace talks with the reiteration of his pre-conditions: A declaration of a bilateral ceasefire, for the CPP to drop their bid to be part of a coaliton government, a stop on the NPA’s collection of revolutionary taxes, expansion of territories and recruitment, among others. These were the same conditions that the President set before terminating the talks in November.

Unfazed, the NDFP/CPP/NPA readily welcomed the resumption of peace talks. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant urged GRP and NDFP negotiators to immediately convene and talk about the conditions that are hampering the talks. Sison reiterated that according to the Hague agreement signed in 1992, there should be no preconditions to the talks.

The secretary of Justice said the conditions of the President are non-negotiable but the Presidential peace adviser said the President did not give conditions but was just trying to set an “enabling environment” for the talks.

The Hague agreement was signed during the Ramos administration which set the blueprint for the peace negotiations, provides that “no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.” The NDFP legal consultant pointed out this clause several times meant that there should be “no surrender or capitulation”.

Before the collapse of the peace talks in November, the GRP and NDFP negotiators have taken big strides in the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), which both panels agreed to be the meat of the talks because it addresses the root causes of the armed revolution. Both panels were prepared to sit down and reconcile them in October 2017 but they did not get to do so.

It can be recalled that before Duterte terminated the talks the CPP-NPA agreed to lay down their arms upon the signing of CASER.

All these exchanges between both panels were released to the different media outlets. The word war continues, the armed conflict continues. Civilians especially in the countryside, continue to suffer human rights violations, attacks against communities and people’s organizations tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as communist fronts and the fall of local socio-economic conditions continue to haunt the daily lives of every Filipino.

While Duterte taunts the CPP-NPA/NDFP to agree to the pre-conditions he once more set, the CPP is urging the GRP and NDFP negotiators to already sit down and thresh out impediments to allow the talks to continue and the CASER be signed into an agreement.

Apparently Duterte is the big dirty mouth. Instead of engaging in his monologue of expletives, if he is the statesman it would be more fruitful to order his negotiating panel the GRP, and the NDFP just go back to the table and talk. The people now know who is sincere at helping them lift from their impoverished situation and who is not. # nordis.net

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