Opening remarks at the Fifth Round of Formal Talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at Noordwijk Aan Zee

[This is the full text of the remarks that should have been delivered at the opening ceremony of the fifth round of peace talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk aan Zee on May 27, 2017. Unfortunately, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the GRP Negotiating Panel cancelled the fifth round of talks on short notice.]

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines
May 27, 2017

Her Excellency Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum,
Honorable Jesus Dureza of the OPAPP,
Honorable Silvestre Bello III
Comrade Fidel Agcaoili,
Beloved compatriots in the Panels and Delegations of both the GRP and NDFP,
Distinguished guests and friends,

We in the NDFP thank the Royal Norwegian Government and its special envoy for facilitating the Philippine peace process. We thank all of you who are present at this opening ceremony. We heartily welcome each other today with confidence that we shall continue to move forward towards a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

We are riding on the momentum set by four successful rounds of talks and by unilateral meetings and bilateral consultations between rounds. We in the NDFP appreciate once more that President Duterte recently received and conversed with the Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel Fidel Agcaoili, Panel member Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

To stay on course in the peace process, we must firmly adhere to the major agreements that the GRP and NDFP have reaffirmed since the first round in August last year. We must follow the substantive agenda set by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.

We must assure all the openly known participants in the peace process of both sides and the holders of documents of identification that they are entitled to, protected by and enjoy safety and immunity guarantees under JASIG. It is highly desirable and necessary that all the participants in the peace process are not subjected to any kind or degree of duress, such as surveillance, harassment or threats of arrest or even worse.

We must resolutely comply with and diligently implement the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The hundreds of political prisoners listed by the NDFP must be released in the most expeditious manner. Even while in the mode of carrying out its all-out war policy, the GRP and its armed forces, police and paramilitary auxiliaries must be guided and bound by CARHRIHL. Likewise the NPA and the people’s militia must comply with CARHRIHL as they engage in self-defense and counter-offensives.

Frankly speaking, the NDFP is unwilling to engage in any kind of prolonged and indefinite ceasefire agreement before there are substantive agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms which are significantly beneficial to the people. The NDFP does not wish to fall into the trap of capitulation and pacification, betraying the trust of the oppressed and exploited masses of the people. It also does not wish to preoccupy the peace process with accusations and counter-accusations of ceasefire violations and put aside the people’s demands for basic social, economic and political reforms.

The Filipino people and both the GRP and NDFP are aware of the fact that on February 5, 2017 GRP Secretary of National Defense Lorenzana declared an all-out war policy against the NPA. In this connection, President Duterte terminated the JASIG and in effect the entire peace negotiations. He also issued on March 7 the order to the AFP to use artillery fire and aerial bombing against the NPA on a nationwide scale. Despite the March 11 backchannel agreement for the GRP and NDFP to resume peace negotiations and to issue simultaneous and reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declarations, President Duterte did not order the issuance of the GRP declaration of unilateral ceasefire, according to a public statement of Lorenzana. The NPA has had no choice but to engage in self-defense and counter-offensives.

The cause of intensified fighting between the armed forces of the GRP and NDFP is the GRP all-out war policy and threat of martial law. It is wrong for anyone to blame the NPA and claim that it has gone out of the command and control of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NDFP. The NPA maintains high fighting morale and iron discipline under the absolute leadership of the CPP. It is even more absurd to claim that the NDFP negotiating panel has lost its authorization from the NDFP to negotiate with the GRP negotiating panel and to make recommendations to the NDFP principal.

If the objective of the intrigue is to justify the GRP all-out war policy and extract a bilateral or joint ceasefire agreement ahead of any substantive comprehensive agreement on basic reforms, the GRP is practically terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations or daydreaming that it can destroy the NPA by force of arms in the course of the peace negotiations. The NDFP Executive Committee has already informed the NDFP Negotiating Panel that the NPA is intensifying the people’s war under the absolute leadership of the CPP to resist and defeat the all-out war policy of the Duterte regime and the scourge of martial law for Mindanao and possibly for the entire Philippines.

However, in so many examples of successful peace negotiations in various countries, it is possible to negotiate while fighting goes on in the battlefield. We were able to forge the CARHRIHL in only six months in 1998, even as the civil war went on between the belligerent forces. It is possible to continue to accelerate the negotiations and forge the CASER within the current year and the CAPCR within the first quarter of the next year on time for the framing and ratification of a charter founding the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

It is preferable to accelerate the peace process rather than overburden or lay this aside with what the NDFP cannot accept: the negotiation of an interim Joint Ceasefire Agreement in violation of the substantive agenda set by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. While the civil war continues, the GRP and the NDFP can demonstrate their respective causes and fighting capabilities within the framework of CARHRIHL. The battles ought to prove that the peace negotiations are necessary.

A prolonged and indefinite interim joint or bilateral ceasefire agreement may be negotiated and drafted in advance but should not be signed and approved by the principals of the GRP and NDFP ahead of any of the substantive agreement even by a split second. We in the NDFP do not wish such a ceasefire agreement to preempt the substantive agreements, especially CASER. The NDFP also considers it desirable and necessary that the basic reforms are being implemented for at least two years before the permanent truce can be formalized in the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

It might be relatively easy for the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels to forge the CASER as a policy agreement. But it might be more difficult to obtain from GRP as annexes to the agreement the executive orders, legislation and constitutional amendments needed to implement CASER in view of the predominance of pro-imperialist and reactionaries within the different branches of the GRP and in view of their priorities which run counter to genuine land reform and national industrialization and which divert economic and financial resources from these.

The security cluster of the Duterte cabinet is interested only in the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary movement through a combination of all-out war policy, martial law and a lopsided joint interim ceasefire agreement. The economic development cluster of the Duterte government is dominated by the neoliberals who oppose social and economic reforms. We refer to the problems in order to solve them.

If used by the Duterte regime to aggravate its all-out war policy against the revolutionary forces, martial law will increase the power of the pro-imperialists and reactionaries within the regime and will incite the revolutionary force and the broad masses of the people to intensify the people’s war. The only conceivable instance when the NDFP can agree with the Duterte regime on the proper use of martial law is when there is an alliance to combat the armed collaboration between US imperialism and local reactionary forces. Otherwise, the regime has to reckon and contend with a broad united front against a Marcos-type martial rule.

They are peace spoilers within and outside the Duterte regime who wish to impugn the credentials of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and the NDFP Chief Political Consultant. The fact stands that the principal of the NDFP Negotiating Panel is the NDFP National Council and its Executive Committee. These include the representatives of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, with the former having command and control over the latter. They make their consensus on whatever policy and course of action to take in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations by relying on the reports and recommendations of the NDFP Negotiating Panel to the NDFP National Council.

The major points that I have presented and stressed in these opening remarks come from the latest appraisal of the situation and the instructions that the National Executive Committee has given to the NDFP Negotiating Panel. The NDFP Negotiating Panel has no command and control over the NPA, just as the GRP Negotiating Panel has no such command and control over the AFP and PNP. But it provides to its principal the reports and recommendations as basis for decision-making.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel through its Chairperson will elucidate to its counterpart the latest instructions that it needs to know.

Thank you. ###