GPH, NDF peace negotiators upbeat on talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 April) – Two peace negotiators, one coming from the Philippine government and the other from the National Democratic Front (NDF) yesterday said the prospects for the recently resumed peace talks between the two parties were looking good.

GPH peace panel member Ednar Dayanghirang and NDF peace panel vice chair Fidel Agcaoili spoke in a forum yesterday at the Grand Men Seng Hotel here, on the updates of the peace process which resumed in Oslo, Norway in February.

Dayanghirang, however, said “kailangan din talaga ang (we really need) people’s participation” in building an atmosphere conducive to dialogue.

He said that based on lessons learned from the past negotiations it is necessary to secure parallel venues for the talks, acknowledge that military actions cannot resolve armed conflict, bring public voice to the negotiating table, and recognize the vital role of civil society and media.

Dayanghirang even joked about a photo the members of the two panels had with the Royal Norwegian Government. “Parang walang giyera. Naka-smile pa lahat” (It looks like there’s no war. All were smiling), he said.

“Pero pagdating mo sa Compostela Valley… halos araw-araw” (But when you come to Compostela Valley…almost every day), he said referring to the province where encounters between the New People’s Army and the military have frequently occurred.

Dayanghirang added the peace talks which he said was suspended four times by the NDF after its resumption in 1992, is one of the priorities of Aquino.

Agcaoili, who also gave a detailed discussion on lessons drawn from the negotiations, corrected Dayanghirang on the number of times the NDF had suspended the talks.

“Actually, the NDF postponed the peace negotiation only once, noong nalagay sa terrorist listing ng US at Pilipinas ang CPP at si Prof. Joma Sison (when the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] and Prof. Joma Sison were placed on the terrorist listing of the US and the Philippines), the rest of suspensions were declared by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“Now, both parties are working on mutually acceptable principles of democracy, national sovereignty, and social justice as our framework for the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said.

The NDF official insisted however on the release of rebels held as “prisoners of war” by the government as an expression of sincerity “in the same way that the New People’s Army releases the POWs as a statement of confidence building to the GPH”.

Peace negotiations with the NDF began in 1986, during the Corazon Aquino administration. The talks collapsed after the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre which left 14 protesting farmers dead. It resumed in 1992, during the first year of the Ramos government, and was able to produce the Hague Joint Declaration on September 1 of the same year.

The Hague Joint Declaration contains four items for negotiations: respect for human rights and International Humanitarian Law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1992. (Joan Mae Soco-Bantayan/MindaNews)