By RANDY FELIX P. MALAYAO
For the nth time, President Duterte unilaterally suspended the GRP-NDF peace negotiations. And for some dubious reasons – the need to consult with the bigger peace table (public); to hold the talks in the country and not in a foreign venue.
It comes as a baffling surprise because the negotiations have always been accompanied by public consultations since 1992 and hitherto. The issue of foreign neutral venue has also long been resolved.
GRP’s insistence on holding the talks inside the country is a recipe for disaster, outright deal-breaker and tantamount to scrapping the entire peace negotiations. The NDF has, time and again, will never agree to local venue and put itself at the mercy of the president.
There must be some deeper and bigger reasons for the postponement. Highly plausible are, one, resistance of this regime to adopt socio-economic reforms, especially genuine agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization, all diametrically opposed to neoliberal policies that this regime adheres to. And second, the strong opposition of the right wing forces within the military.
The Central Committee of the Philippines, the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army and Jose Maria Sison have all warned of AFP’s intensified military offensives against revolutionary forces during the 3-month period of postponement. It is highly plausible that Duterte wants to launch military offensives first and see the outcome before any resumption.
This view is not without basis. It has been reported that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) pressured President Rodrigo Duterte to postpone the formal resumption of peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF during the joint military and police command conference on Wednesday, June 13, a day before the stand down agreement would have been declared.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana defended the 3-month postponement – “so that AFP can look into the ramifications of the stand down and the succeeding ceasefire in its security operations.” Earlier, he openly announced that “the resumption of peace talks will help the NPAs regroup and expand.”
So whatever happened to the back-channel meeting of June 18-20? True to the Duterte administration’s ambivalent handling of state affairs, it is no surprise that GRP spokes and functionaries would carry conflicting pronouncements which create more confusion and uncertainty.
While Sec Roque was disclosing to the media that the Third Party Facilitator Norway shall no longer be needed and that it is time to hold talks in the Philippines, GRP Negotiating Panel Member Hernani A. Braganza and party were also meeting in Utrecht, The Netherlands to explain to the NDFP the decision of the GRP to postpone the mutually approved schedule of the formal meetings in the peace negotiations to take place in Oslo, Norway on June 28-30, 2018.
The Utrecht meeting had to be delayed for a while because the GRP team had to seek clarification from Malacanang of the statement made by GRP Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Dureza even called the news headlines as ‘irresponsible.’ With the role of the TPF clarified, the meeting begun in the afternoon of the first day. Highlights are as follows:
The government represented by GRP Peace Panel member Nani Braganza conveyed its decision to suspend all backchannel talks with the NDF pending the three-month review of all signed agreements. The NDFP side assured the other side that the NDFP principal took note of the clarification.
The parties reaffirmed their commitment to all signed agreements. That includes The Hague, CAHRIHL, and JASIG and its provision for a foreign neutral venue, which is consistent with the general practice of warring parties to negotiate peace outside of their country or their respective territories. The NDF is firm on its position that the agreement for a foreign neutral venue is non-negotiable.
Peace negotiations shall continue despite the cancellation of the scheduled formal talks in Oslo on June 28 to 30. RNG remains the Third Party Facilitator. The planned meeting between Prof. Joma Sison and Pres. Rody Duterte has not been scrapped and is still on. And that no new timeline was adopted except the 3-month postponement demanded by Duterte.
Both sides expressed their intention to conduct separate unilateral consultations and in due course bilateral consultations according to their respective needs on the premise that the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels are mandated by their respective principals in accordance with existing agreements and that the GRP and NDFP are mutually determined to overcome obstacles and impediments to the peace negotiations.
Finally, the two sides expressed their commitment to protect and preserve the gains that had been achieved in the four rounds of informal talks that produced documents containing important agreements to move the process forward.
With the recent developments and the further marginalization of peace initiatives, Professor Sison aptly opined, “the NPA have no choice but to singlemindedly wage people’s war.” # nordis.net