By RANDY FELIX P. MALAYAO
A welcome and laudable development on the peace process is evolving. On separate occasions, the Government of the Philippines (GPh) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) announced the possible signing of an interim peace agreement anytime soon.
This signifies a great advance or leap in the peace process as this seemed to have been effectively ended last year with the GRP issuing Proclamation 360 terminating the talks and Proclamation 374 which tagged the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations. It has also filed in court a motion seeking to declare the CPP and NPA and its 600 plus alleged officers as terrorists with the NDF’s 30 consultants in the list.
The proposed preliminary peace accord known as Interim Peace Agreement would include the following key elements:
1) Release and amnesty of all the NDFP-listed political prisoners in compliance with the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL). An Amnesty Declaration shall be passed in Congress.
2) Stand Down Ceasefire Agreement that will glide into Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire Declarations. A monitoring body shall also be established.
3) The Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) parts on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED).
Heart of the peace agreement
Genuine agrarian reform with rural industrial development and national industrial and economic development that benefits and protects the rights of the working people are among the many issues at the heart of any peace agreement
The inclusion ARRD) and the NIED in the interim peace agreement would be the most significant step in the peace negotiations. It would be the first step towards addressing the roots of the armed conflict.
Bilateral teams of the RWC-SER, have already agreed on the common drafts of ARRD and NIED while contentious issues are being referred to the RWC-SERs of the two Parties for resolution before negotiations at the level of the GRP-NDFP Negotiating Panels.
Five other substantive parts of CASER still need to be discussed. These include: Environmental Protection, Rehabilitation and Compensation (EPRC), Rights of the Working People, Monetary and Fiscal Policy and Foreign Economic Trade relations.
Previously-signed agreements, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), must also be complied with as a matter of justice.
Both panels are set to simultaneously announce a deal on stand down ceasefire agreement two weeks before the formal resumption of talks. As a sidebar, stand down mode was first agreed upon by both panels in the October back-channel negotiations.
Stand down simply means to “stay where they are” and “not commit any offensive action or operation against combatants and civilians.” This arrangement is designed to develop into a coordinated unilateral ceasefire.
Venue and Sison’s Return
As per initial unities, President Rodrigo Duterte was set to attend the signing of the interim peace agreement. However, the government side backed out and offered Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to represent Duterte.
The NDFP suggested to hold the signing in Hanoi as alternative venue, considering Duterte’s heavy work. But Duterte has insisted that the meeting be in the Philippines. The NDF stressed that the issue of venue has long been resolved – that negotiations be held in a foreign neutral venue.
According to Prof Jose Maria Sison, holding the talks in the country would put him and the entire peace negotiations “in the pocket of Duterte and his mercy.” Furthermore, peace negotiations would be put at risk should any saboteur abduct or harm any NDFP panelist or consultant.
As to his return to the country, Prof Sison said that he would return to the Philippines when substantive agreements are already signed – amnesty and release of political prisoners, Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and a stable bilateral ceasefire. # nordis.net