Sison: ‘Enabling environment’ will come after signing of all draft agreements

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 March) – An “enabling environment” will come after the finalization and the signing of all draft agreements, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison issued the statement on Wednesday after Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said on March 25 that only an enabling environment would be the sole determining factor for the resumption of the government and National Democratic Front (GRP-NDFP) peace negotiations.

The communist leader maintained that the agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces is the last item in the substantive agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, preceded by Comprehensive Agreements on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration.

“I am sure that the enabling environment for the successful conduct of the peace negotiations would ensue from the finalization and signing of the draft agreements in the aforesaid package,” he said.

Sison, a former professor of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, said he believes it would be easy for the respective negotiating panels to finalize and sign the draft agreements once the peace table reopens.

The GRP and NDFP signed CARHRIHL on March 16, 1998. Both parties were supposed to discuss CASER and CAPCR during the fifth round of peace talks on November 25 to 27, 2017 in Norway.

It was aborted after Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017 “for lack of sincerity,” following the NPA ambush of a police patrol car in Bukidnon on November 9 and killed four-month old Walysha Manchorao.

The President subsequently issued Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and New People’s Army, its armed wing, as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

Before the cancellation of the fifth round, the GRP and NDFP had already agreed on three common drafts: on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with CARHRIHL, coordinated unilateral ceasefires, and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of CASER.

Sison said the NDFP responded to the expressed desire of GRP to draft a ceasefire agreement more effective and more sustained than the previous unilateral ceasefires.

“GRP and NDFP back channel teams have already drafted an agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefire to be monitored by a joint ceasefire committee of the GRP and NDFP at the national level,” he said.

On March 22, at least 22 party-list representatives and 40 district representatives filed House Resolution 1803 urging Duterte to continue the peace talks.

The resolution said the lawmakers want the GRP and NDFP negotiating peace panels to return to the peace table with the communist group and continue the discussions on Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), dubbed as the “heart and soul” of the peace talks, and 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 that the government (GRP) and NDFP must forge substantive agreements that will address the root causes of the nearly five-decade armed conflict.

In a statement on March 27, Presidential spokesperson Harry S. Roque maintained that the enabling environment that the President wants in order to resume the peace talks is for the NPA to cease their hostilities against innocent civilians and government forces; end their extortion activities, violent streaks and wanton killings; lay down their arms and return to the fold of law and restart to live normal lives.

Roque said talks will resume only if the CPP-NPA-NDF shows “genuine sincerity.”

“Right from the very beginning of his term, the President’s position has always been clear and consistent: He remains committed to peace. However, we find it unfortunate that the communists have become spoilers of peace because of their penchant for double talk and treachery,” he said.

Roque added that the “government efforts at forging peace with communist rebels have been gaining ground” even without peace talks, with more alleged NPA rebels going back to the government fold.

This was contested by Sison himself who said that 99 percent of the alleged NPA surrenderees are civilian residents in the hinterlands.

“Rest assured that the government will exhaust any and all means to achieve lasting peace towards unity and progress,” Roque said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)