DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 August) – Indefinite ceasefire.
The Philippine government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have each declared a unilateral ceasefire that took effect at 12:01 a.m. on August 21 and will continue indefinitely as their ceasefire committees “reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral agreement within 60 days” from August 26.
The proposed bilateral ceasefire is a major breakthrough in the three decades of peace negotiations across six Presidential administrations — Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Simeon Aquino and the President Rodrigo Duterte — as it will only be the second since 1986.
The last bilateral ceasefire was signed in November 1986, to cover a 60-day period starting December 10, 1986 but was not renewed following alleged violations by the military, as well as the massacre of protesting farmers in Mendiola in January 1987. The NDF issued a statement on February 8, 1987 declaring it “cannot see any justification for extending.”
Both parties traded accusations of violations of the ceasefire.
The latest agreement was reached at the end of the five-day talks in Oslo, Norway, the first round of formal peace negotiations that ended Friday and will resume on October 8 to 12 to hammer out a peace agreement hopefully within one year.
According to the five-page Joint Statement on the Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks in the Peace Negotiations, the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will declare and issue “an indefinite unilateral ceasefire order” to the New People’s Army (NPA) when its seven-day ceasefire ends at 11:59 p.m. on August 27, in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order August 20 order to restore the indefinite unilateral ceasefire he declared on July 25, effective midnight on August 21.
Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, “to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.” He called on the NDF to “respond accordingly. “
Duterte lifted the ceasefire on July 30 after the NDF failed to reciprocate his ceasefire order as he had expected, when a CAFGU personnel was killed and three others injured in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on July 27. On August 5, five soldiers – four in Compostela Valley and one in Bukidnon were killed and 12 others injured, prompting him to warn the CPP/NPA/NDF in the early hours of August 7 to stop using land mines or he will call off the talks.
On August 19, the NDF declared a seven-day unilateral ceasefire that was to start at 12:01 a.m. on August 21 and end at 11:59 p.m. on August 27.
“A promise of just and lasting peace”
The parties also discussed the proposed adoption of annexes to the bilateral ceasefire agreement and the prospective role of a third party in ceasefire monitoring and mediation in case of complaints and alleged violations.
Both sides apparently want to avoid the problems that confronted the 1986-1987 ceasefire.
“We will go home with a promise of a just and lasting peace and our soldiers and the combatants of the NDF finally coming to terms that the war must end,” a press release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) quoted Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza as saying.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, concurrent head of the GPH peace panel, said the first round of talks ended “with much vigor to accomplish the bigger tasks ahead in peace building.”
“Ours was a leap of faith when we braved to re-engage each other last Monday after more than half a decade of impasse and indifference. But no matter how difficult it was, we choose to believe and today, we start receiving the dividends of that faith.
NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni told a press conference after the signing of the Joint Statement that there is “no statement that there is a deadline of one year,” adding it would be “realistic to leave it at best efforts.”
“We have to look at the concrete situation and make sure that the agreement will be stable and firm and there will be enough guarantees for something that will last for a long time.”
At the end of the first round of talks, the parties also agreed to “immediately recommend” to Duterte the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation, subject to the concurrence of Congress, for the release of prisoners listed by the NDF. The parties have discussed the content and language of the prospective Proclamation.
The NDF thanked the Duterte administration for the release of the detained NDF consultants and “for committing to cause the early release of prisoners (as listed by the NDF) who are sick, elderly, overly long detained and women based on humanitarian grounds.”
The parties reaffirmed all previous agreements since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and reconstituted the list of NDF negotiators and consultants who will be given safe conduct passes under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
The NDF submitted a list of 141 names, 54 of them publicly known while 87 are assumed names.
The panels also agreed to accelerate the peace negotiations and set the timeline for the completion of he remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms (SER), political and constitutional reforms (PCR), and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF).
The Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) on the SER or what is popularly referred to as CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on the Socio-Economic Reforms), “will endeavor to complete their work within six months from August.
The RWCs-SER will exchange proposed drafts on the CASER framework and outline on or before September 15 and submit their respective comments on or before September 30, through e-mail and will meet between October 19 and 30 to “discuss and finalize the framework and outline of the CASER, their work schedule and methods of work and other matters.”
The Reciprocal Working Groups (RWGs) on the PCR will also exchange drafts in September, meet in Oslo in October, proceed to “respectively enflesh the agreed common draft of the outline” by November and in December spend a week in Oslo to do the common draft on the CAPCR (Comprehensive Agreement on the Political and Constitutional Reforms). Before end of January 2017, the RWGs-PCR are expected to continue drafting until the full text of the proposed CAPCR is completed.
The RWGs-EHDF agreed to present their respective draft outlines for the Comprehensive Agreement on the EHDF during the next panel meeting in October.
The chairs of the Joint Monitoring Committee agreed to meet on September 20-21 in the Embassy of the Royal Norwegian Government, the third party facilitator, in Taguig or at a neutral venue identified by the RNG, to discuss a five-point agenda. (Carolyn O. Arguillas /MindaNews)