Bandillo: Peace Talks now elusive than ever


A review of what happened during the back-channel talks is imperative.  Last March, the GRP Panel informed the NDFP Panel that it wanted to hold informal talks to discuss how the formal talks could be resumed in June 2018. This is de facto nullification of GRP’s Proclamation 360 which unilaterally and improperly declared the “termination” not only of the formal talks but the entire peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

The first round of post-Proclamation 360 informal/back-channel talks held last March took off from where the October 1-5, 2017 informal talks and the preparations for the resumption of the formal talks in November 2015 left off. The 5th round of formal talks in November would have seen the signing of the following agreements: (1) Amnesty Proclamation, (2) Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms, and, (3) Agreement on Coordinated Unilatera Ceasefire (CUC).

The October 2017 Tentative Agreement and Schedules initialed by the two Parties and the Third Party Facilitator Royal Norwegian Government also involved the following: the lifting of warrants and restoration of canceled bail of the consultants released last August 2016 in order to participate in the negotiations, especially the formal and informal talks; simultaneous Stand Down of Forces; and release of Political Prisoners on the basis of CARHRIHL, especially on humanitarian grounds.

It will be recalled that the November 2018 simultaneous Stand Down did not materialize, and the 5th round of formal talks was again aborted, followed by the 23 Nov Proclamation 360 “terminating” the negotiations, and the 5 December Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP and NPA as “terrorist” organizations.

Back-channel unities

So what exactly were the salient unities of the GRP-NDFP back-channel negotiations? As already divulged to the public, as early as March, the GRP presented a “Road Map & Schedules” involving ceasefires, Amnesty and release of prisoners, signing of CASER and CAPCR, and leading to a Final Peace Agreement and Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Force (EHDF).  The Stand Down of Forces was agreed upon and shall be announced two weeks before the resumption of formal talks. This will be elevated into a Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire (CUC) Agreement. 

From where the talks left off last March, succeeding backchannel meetings further advanced. Both agreed that an Interim Peace Agreement (IPA) be adopted. The IPA shall have 3 key provisions:

1. Amnesty Proclamation for NDFP-listed political prisoners

2. Part I (ARRD)  & Part II (NIED) of CASER

3. Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire (CUC)

Also adopted were Agreements on Preparatory Work & Schedules (For the Resumption of Fifth Round of Formal Talks); and the Stand Down of Forces to be implemented two weeks before resumption tentatively set June 28.

For the IPA to be possible, the obstacles and hindrances must be removed, e.g. Proclamations 360 and 374;  that the Amnesty Proclamation is mutually agreeable;  and that the effectivity of the CUC shall be contingent on the releases of PP’s (based on CARHRIHL) and the concurrence of Congress with the Amnesty Proclamation. 

GRP also committed to best effort to show the NDFP the signed or to-be-signed Proclamation before the resumption of formal talks.  That while the CUC Agreement may be signed at the resumption of formal talks in mid- or end-June, it will only be  effective upon the GRP Congress’ concurrence with the Proclamation of Amnesty for the NDFP-listed PPs.

Current Impasse

It came as a surprise that the meticulous preparations were not enough as President Duterte decided to delay further up to three months the formal resumption. The president wanted to subject the past agreements for review and hold consultations with the “bigger peace table” (read: military establishment). And repeatedly insisted on holding the talks in Manila. Prior to this, the military asked for at least 3 more months postponement of the talks, and the President agreed. The military said it was not aware of these agreements, particularly a supposed stand-down order from both sides.

This pushed Jose Maria Sison to advise the NDFP National Executive Council that it can no longer resume peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Based on the implications drawn from the current impasse, the NDFP can no longer negotiate with a GRP that is headed by Duterte. So long as he heads the GRP, the Filipino people, especially the oppressed and exploited, cannot expect any benefit from negotiating with the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Despite Duterte’s popularity, Sison said his government “is already isolated and hated by the people because of its brutality, corruption.”

Sison also said Duterte canceled the talks’ resumption because the military and the police wanted to “finish off” the guerrillas by the end of 2018 and the government wanted to move the venue of the negotiations to Manila “so that these can come under the control, surveillance duress and manipulation by Duterte and the military.”

“It is well and good if Duterte withdraws finally from the peace negotiations with the NDFP. Thus, he deprives himself of the opportunity of creating false illusions that he is for peace,” Sison said. #


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