DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 April) – The government will pursue peace talks with communist rebels to end the 50-year old insurgency, but this time it will be “directly engaging the people on the ground to address the fundamentals of the problem,” Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said.
This came almost a month after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the appointments of the members of the government panel holding negotiations with the communists.
In a statement Monday, Galvez said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict created by Duterte, who chairs the body, will facilitate “the success of the ongoing localized peace negotiations that have, thus far, gained a lot of dividends and headway.”
Galvez did not elaborate what these “dividends” are, but was apparently referring to the reported surrender of several New People’s Army rebels in previous months.
Last Saturday, Duterte said he was planning to form a new peace panel that would be composed of at least two civilians and three military officers.
Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison slammed Duterte’s plan to include military officers in the panel, calling it a “war panel” that would demand the surrender of NPA rebels.
In his statement, however, Galvez said the localized peace talks “includes the vital component of a security lens in this process, hence the need for former security officials to be part of the panel”.
He said Sison’s rejection of the idea raises question on whether the exiled rebel leader is for genuine peace.
He said the new peace panel is in line with the whole-of-nation approach as embodied in Executive Order 70 aimed at addressing the root causes of the problem.
He accused the communist leadership of using “lopsided” peace agreements not to pursue real peace but to advance its goal of overthrowing the government.
He added the rebels “continued with their manipulation of and attacks on the civilian communities and state security forces.”
Human rights groups have also accused government security forces of committing human rights violations against civilians and communities alleged to be supporting the CPP-NPA.
Along with other groups, they have pushed for the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front, the political umbrella of the CPP.
“No to local talks”
After the failed two-tier (national and local levels) peace talks with the Cory administration from late 1986 until early 1987, the CPP, citing lessons from it, had spurned the idea of holding local negotiations.
In a 1991 paper titled “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors,” the CPP said that the talks with the Aquino government showed that it wanted “the revolutionary forces to capitulate to its rule, its constitution and its armed forces; to split the revolutionary movement; and to surveil and attack the movement.”
The CPP said the framework for negotiating with government should observe the following framework:
1.) The strategic line is one of pursuing the national democratic line to attain a just and lasting peace.
2.) The NDF is a belligerent force in the civil war and not a mere insurgent force. It cannot negotiate with the reactionary government if not on an equal footing under international law.
3.) The legal and political frame is the set of mutually acceptable principles, the international norms, and the agreements that may be made.
4.) The substantive agenda includes the following: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law; social and economic reforms; constitutional, political, and electoral reforms; and the armed forces.
5.) There must be a reasonable timetable.
6.) The venue must be abroad for the mutual convenience and safety of the two sides.
7.) There must be a foreign state or interstate third Party acting in a certain capacity (intermediary, good offices or witness) to be agreed upon by the two sides.
8.) The domestic and foreign third party of non-governmental peace advocates can be consulted and be of help to the peace process.
The framework agreed upon by both sides during the Ramos administration adopted the items cited in number four as the points of negotiation. The government also agreed to hold the negotiations abroad and allow Norway to join the talks as third party facilitator. (MindaNews)