Friday, September 3, 2010

Letter to Mountain Province Provincial Peace and Order Council

Letter to Mountain Province Provincial Peace and Order Council*

Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan
Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front
September 1, 2010

Gov. Leonard Mayaen
Chairman, Provincial Peace and Order Council
Mountain Province

S i r:

Warm greetings!

I have not received any formal invitation from the Mountain Province Provincial Peace and Order Council to attend your next meeting. I think that I need not wait for it. I understand that where to address the invitation would be a practical dilemma for you. However, allow me to respond to what I have read in the local weeklies. I am sending this reply through available channels that can reach you.

I am pleased to be invited in the next PPOC meeting, even if the invitation is least expected. I am amused that the suggestion to invite me came from former Gov. Jaime K. Gomez, father of BGen. Rommel A. Gomez, commanding general of the 5th ID. It amuses me more to think how on earth would I stand there amidst military hawks with no interest for serious peace talks according to The Hague Joint Declarations and whose primary purpose is to co-opt and reduce the revolutionary forces to irrelevance? On a personal note, I recall that it was former Gov. Gomez who encouraged me to enter government service right after college, and acted as a good mentor during my frustrating stint in the reactionary government.

The former governor and the rest of the members of the PPOC may have the best of intentions to seek a respite from armed conflict and pursue an earnest quest for a just and lasting peace that we all want. However, it is sad to note that this intention may not be heeded by the GRP and AFP as they are hell-bent to utilize elders and local leaders as pawns in counterinsurgency program. This is very clear from their espousal of their so-called Convergence Approach, a variant of the failed "Oplan Bantay Laya" counter-insurgency plan.

We all want peace. Not just the empty rhetoric, but genuine and lasting peace based on justice. I believe the revolutionary movement alongside the oppressed majority of the Filipino people are open for a political settlement of the armed conflict, that is why since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship the National Democratic Front (NDFP) has been holding peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

There have been zealous attempts by militarists in the GRP to derail the peace process. But it is worthy to note that both negotiating panels have arrived at agreements that include The Hague Joint Declarations which defines the principles, framework and sequence of the peace agenda; the Joint Agreement for Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG); and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Sadly, the past administration chose to disrupt the peace process by lobbying the United States and the European Union to include the NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison in the list of international terrorist organizations. Suffice it to say that a recent ruling by the European Union Supreme Court cleared the NDFP and Prof. Sison and declared the accusations against them baseless.

The NDFP has informed the new Aquino administration that it is ready to resume peace talks based on The Hague Joint Declaration and other previous binding agreements. Until now, the Aquino administration has made no decision regarding the peace talks.

Under these circumstances, I would prefer to solicit your support for the resumption of the peace talks at the national level. The local peace talks being pushed by the AFP is an old divide and rule tactic intended to give them time to consolidate their offensives and rest their troops. The crucial and broad issues of socio-economic and political reforms to address the root cause of the armed conflict is best discussed at a national level where comprehensive policies are made.

The GRP and the AFP have called for the surrender of arms and the cessation of hostilities as preconditions for the resumption of peace talks. This is unreasonable. Even tribal elders involved in the settlement of tribal conflicts do not demand the surrender of arms before the start of a peace pact.

Every peace pact holder knows that the involvement of a third party is crucial to the success of the pagta. Historically, peace pacts were resolved in neutral territories that encouraged the building of mutual trust and respect. This is also true to the current national peace talks. Third parties have helped a lot in achieving substantial results, and neutral venues for the talks ensured the security of both negotiating panels.

My appearance before the PPOC at this time will be premature and out of place. For one, the PPOC is not a neutral body, it is afterall a creation of the GRP for its counter-insurgency program and cannot provide neutrality and security. I believe that when formal peace talks resume between the NDFP and the GRP, a credible body can be created to provide a venue for information dissemination and public opinion. I am willing to appear in any forum where we can openly discuss and exchange ideas once the GRP stands by its commitment to honor the JASIG. The JASIG, being a formal binding agreement between the GRP and the NDFP, is a relatively better guarantee than a "safe conduct pass" to be issued by the 5th ID.

To end, we iterate our desire for peace. But the cessation of hostilities can only come about if there is an end to the exploitation and oppression of the basic masses. It is sad to note that the AFP's call for peace talks is cloaked with deceit, and by their ongoing massive militarization of the Cordillera, they negotiate with a gun held ready under the table.

We look forward to further fruitful dialogue and exchange with you and your office. Salamat! Matagu-tago taku am-in!

Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan
Cordillera People's Democratic Front

CC: Atty. Jaime K. Gomez
Ex-Governor, Mt. Province

* Url: