Remarks at the opening ceremonies of the 4th round of formal talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands
03 April 2017

Her Excellency Elisabeth Slattum, Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process,
Hon. Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Hon. Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Chairperson, Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)
Comrade Fidel V. Agcaoili, Chairperson, Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)
Dear compatriots in the GRP and NDFP Panels and Delegations
Distinguished guests and friends from various countries,

As Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front in the peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, I welcome you to this opening ceremony of the 4th round of peace talks as agreed upon in the 3rd round of talks in Rome on January 25, 2017. I thank you for your attendance and for your interest in the process to resolve the 48-year long civil war in the Philippines and establish a just and lasting peace.

We all are highly appreciative of both the GRP and NDFP principals and their respective negotiating panels in their determination to pursue the peace negotiations for the benefit of the Filipino people and in accordance with their own demand for peace, national unity and reconciliation. We have therefore been able to overcome some challenges, communication glitches and hitches.

President Duterte has been gracious to let the GRP negotiators go to the backchannel talks of March 10 and 11 in Utrecht and now to the fourth round of formal talks. The NDFP is most interested in the soonest possible forging of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms to respond to the people’s demand for substantive reforms. By its own public pronouncement, the GRP is most interested in obtaining a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the NDFP.

This is soon possible if President Duterte can put forward the amnesty and release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP. The GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels can validate and bind declarations of unilateral ceasefire as the interim bilateral ceasefire agreement in the Joint Statement to be issued at the end of the fourth round, pending the forging of a single joint ceasefire agreement co-signed by the conflicting parties. This joint ceasefire agreement, more elaborate and more stable than the interim bilateral ceasefire agreement can be immediately consequent to the signing of CASER by the two Negotiating Panels.

We are desirous that through the peace negotiations we can create and develop the conditions to build a strong sovereign and independent nation, with expanded democracy and social justice for the oppressed and exploited people, enjoying the bounty of economic and social development through genuine land reform, national industrialization, ample social services and benefits, and solidarity with all peoples and countries.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are necessary to address the roots of the armed conflict and to agree on the social, economic, political and constitutional reforms in order to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace. We are clearly advancing within the framework set by The Hague Joint Declaration on September 1, 1992. I mention the date to let you anticipate and prepare for the 25th anniversary of this historic document.

The GRP and NDFP have availed of and reaffirmed the major agreements that have been forged within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration in order to overcome problems and even disruptions and impasses in the peace process.

So far, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as the first item in the substantive agenda had been approved and signed by the GRP and NDFP principals since 1998. It is within the broad framework of international law, especially the International Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions.

I continue to be optimistic that within this year, it is possible for the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels to forge and sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the consequent joint ceasefire agreement. I have read and studied the drafts of the proposed agreements from the GRP and NDFP and I have also examined the comparative matrices. I observe that there are enough concurrences and similar positions as common ground for forging the agreements. But I wish to stress as a matter of principle that the people demand that CASER be a step ahead of the joint ceasefire agreement, unless these agreements can be signed at the same time by the panels and then by the principals.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) can be forged and signed by the panels within three months after CASER because the drafting is already done in advance by the Reciprocal Working Groups on CAPCR. As I stated previously, the NDFP is willing to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines with the GRP and cooperate in making the necessary amendments in the 1987 GRP Constitution, provided provisions are retained to prevent dictatorship, dynasties and corruption, uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect human rights, realize social justice and ban foreign military bases, forces and weapons of mass destruction.

The Reciprocal Working Committees on CASER can proceed to unify their respective drafts at an accelerated pace during rounds of formal talks and work meetings of bilateral teams between said rounds. After signing by the panels and principals, the ultimate common draft should be the guide and framework of executive orders and legislation to carry out genuine land reform, lay the foundation of national industrialization, ensure the protection of the environment and wise utilization of natural resources, uphold the people’s rights, improve the wage and living conditions, expand the social services (especially free public education at all levels and free public hospitals and clinics) and develop international economic relations within the context of an independent foreign policy.

All previous land reform programs in the Philippines are bogus because the scope is limited and the landless tillers cannot pay for the redistribution price. It is necessary that this early the negotiating parties find out how much land has been grabbed under various pretexts for so many decades from the indigenous people and poor settlers, especially in logged over areas.

Such land can be returned for free to millions of rightful owners and their successors who also need to be provided with credit, technical assistance and infrastructure support to increase production and cooperation in agriculture and related occupations like handicraft, animal husbandry, poultry, fishing, forestry, horticulture, arboculture and food processing.

Idle or abandoned agricultural lands are almost always the result of violent conflict between the landgrabbers and the dispossessed tillers and must be returned to the latter as the rightful owners. In cases of land expropriation, landlords who did not acquire their lands through land-grabbing can be paid in cash to a certain extent and in larger part in industrial bonds for investing in the industries.

The backbone of feudalism and land-grabbing by bureaucrats and corporations must be broken. It is a matter of social justice that such principle of voluntary sale by the landlord under the 1987 GRP Constitution as well as the equivalence of just compensation to fair market value under EO 228 (July 17, 1987) must be nullified. The stock distribution option in the CARP law must be struck down as a device of corporate swindle, as we have seen in Hacienda Luisita and elsewhere.

With increased agricultural and related production and development in the rural areas, the domestic market for industrial production expands in a self-reliant economy. We can begin in earnest to break the vicious cycle and chronic crisis of underdevelopment, unemployment and poverty. The pattern of exporting raw materials, semi-manufactures and cheap labor, importing finished products and depending on foreign loans and portfolio investments from abroad to cover trade deficits must be broken. We must lay down the foundation for our national industry, process our own natural resources and prevent the extreme and rapid loss of these and the devastation of our environment.

We must reclaim our economic sovereignty, conserve our national patrimony and carry out an independent investment and trade policy, realize the substance of national sovereignty, put in the principal position the combination and cooperation of the public sector and the private sector of Filipino entrepreneurs and managers and put into full play the Filipino scientists, engineers, technologists and mass of workers. We resort to foreign suppliers of capital goods and a minority of foreign investors only to effect needed technology transfer within reasonable periods of time.

The GRP and NDFP must cooperate to achieve the social, economic, political and constitutional reforms that the people need. These require the agencies, documentation and public funding that the GRP can provide. They also require the GRP and NDFP to form a Joint Social and Economic Council to ensure the implementation of CASER. The most important role of the NDFP and its revolutionary components is to avail of their long intimate relations with the people and their ability to further arouse, organize and mobilize the people for the adoption and implementation of reforms, especially against the forces of imperialism and the local reactionaries.

I hope that my remarks can somehow help to illuminate and accelerate the forging of the CASER and CAPCR. If these are indeed signed by the principals soon enough, we might even be able to see their initial two years of implementation before the signing of the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces by the principals.

Thank you.