Cooperation of House, Senate needed for resumption of GRP-NDFP peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 March) – The cooperation of the Senate and House of Representatives is necessary for the resumption of peace talks between the government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison said in a statement Tuesday.

Sison was reacting to Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimental III’s statement on the need to resume the stalled GRP-NDFP peace negotiations to address the communist insurgency.

NPA rebels somewhere in Caraga Region. MindaNews file photo by ARIES SANDINO M. MORDENO

The CPP founder said he welcomes Pimentel’s statement favoring the resumption of talks and calling for the lifting of the President’s proclamation declaring the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist organizations.

“Pimentel´s statement is definitely encouraging to the NDFP and to all those interested in striving for just peace,” Sison, Duterte’s former professor in Political Thought, said.

The NDFP is willing to go back to the peace table, he said.

Pimentel said the concurrence of Congress is needed for a presidential amnesty proclamation for the release of political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) adopted by the GRP and NDFP on March 16, 1998.

He said this will be followed by a bilateral ceasefire as the first step towards the end of hostilities.

“But if President Duterte and his subordinates (Defense secretary) Lorenzana and (PNP chief Ronald) dela Rosa are unwilling to negotiate peace, the revolutionary forces and people represented by the NDFP have no choice but to concentrate single-mindedly on fighting those who lust for their blood, death and humiliation,” Sison said.

He added the CPP and NPA will “remain open to several possibilities such as that Duterte and his subordinates will change their minds and agree to negotiate peace or they are eventually replaced by a new administration of the GRP.”

Sison maintained 99 percent of the alleged NPA surrenderers are “civilian residents” in the hinterlands.

“The CPP will soon issue a statement on the 49th anniversary of the NPA to debunk comprehensively the claims of fake military victories and fake surrenders being made by the GRP, AFP and PNP,” he said.

Sison said the NDFP has more and bigger complaints against the government for “violations of human rights and international humanitarian during and outside ceasefire periods.”

“The best test of sincerity is to maintain sobriety and reasonableness in the peace process, comply with mutually approved agreements and concentrate on the negotiation and forging of agreements on social, economic and political reforms to lay the ground for a just and lasting peace for the benefit of the Filipino people,” he said.

In a statement on March 25, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (PAPP) secretary Jesus Dureza maintained that “an enabling environment will be the sole determining factor” for the resumption of the peace negotiations.

Dureza said they welcome the filing of House Resolution 1803 of 22 party-list representatives and 41 district representatives urging President Rodrigo R. Duterte to continue the stalled peace talks.

“The collective voice from Congress can very well contribute to that desired enabling environment that can be basis for the desired resumption of the peace talks,” Dureza said.

The House resolution urged both parties to continue discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), dubbed the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political Reforms (CAPCR).

It said they believe the resumption of the peace talks would “benefit the Filipino people most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreements on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for the economic hardships.”

The lawmakers added the GRP and NDFP must forge substantive agreements that will address the root causes of the nearly-five decade armed conflict.

Duterte signed Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017, terminating the scheduled fifth rounds on November 25 to 27 in Oslo, Norway “for lack of sincerity,” following the November 9 ambush of a police patrol car in Bukidnon by members of the NPA that killed four-month old Walysha Machorao.

The President subsequently issued Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

Both parties would have met in Utrecht, The Netherlands to polish the three previously agreed common drafts on November 23 and 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands before they would proceed with the supposed fifth round.

The common drafts included the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with CARHRIHL, coordinated unilateral ceasefires as the advance in January 2018, and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development of the CASER.

The resolution added that the lawmakers believe that both parties must resume the peace talks for the sake of “just and lasting peace”.

It added that under the Duterte administration, drafts of CAPCR were also crafted, the farthest point reached by both parties in the history of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)