Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dismantle the stumbling blocks to the peace talks-NDF

Dismantle the stumbling blocks to the peace talks

Editorial, Ang Bayan
November 7, 2010

Four months after taking power, the Aquino regime was at last able to form a panel to conduct peace talks with the National Deocratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Among those appointed by Aquino were personalities known to be genuinely interested in the peace process.

This is the first positive step taken towards the resumption of the talks that have long been stalled and stuck in a quagmire. The NDFP, on the other hand, had declared months ago its readiness to face the Aquino regime in the peace talks once the latter demonstrates its seriousness on this matter.

The talks are expected to resume by the start of 2011.

But there are more daunting challenges in the peace talks. Many things have to be put in order for the talks to be set on the proper course. Foremost among this is the need for the GRP to do away with the obstacles it had put up that block the way to the formal talks' resumption.

Far beyond appointing his emissaries, Aquino must manifest his seriousness about the talks by showing respect for previously signed agreements between the NDFP and GRP. He must do away with all the steps taken by the previous regime that were detrimental to the peace talks.

The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which provides protection to consultants and staff of the parties engaged in the negotiations must be respected and strictly adhered to. The Arroyo regime had repeatedly shown its contempt for the JASIG by attacking the NDFP's consultants and staff.

Justice must be meted for the abductions of Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, Rogelio Calubad and other NDFP personnel. Six other NDFP personnel who are in prison must be released immediately. The arrest warrants issued for NDFP negotiating panel chair Ka Luis Jalandoni, NDFP chief political consultant Ka Jose Ma. Sison and others who have been slapped with trumped-up charges prevent them from freely participating in the peace talks. So long as the GRP does not issue a categorical statement on its adherence to the JASIG, Jalandoni's plans to come home to the Philippines in December to hold consultations with the revolutionary forces and other sectors remain suspended.

The Arroyo regime had several times reneged on agreements to release all the other political prisoners. The Aquino regime must rectify this by releasing the Morng 43 and more than 300 other political prisoners languishing in jails and military camps across the country. The importance of such a move becomes even more striking in the face of Aquino's orders to free almost 400 jailed military rebels, in addition to the fact that he has condemned the 15-year incarceration by the military dictatorship in Myanmar of its foremost critic Aung San Suu Kyi.

The work of the Joint Monitoring Committee which checks violations to the first substantive agreement—the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)--must be enhanced. The GRP's armed forces have been committing widespread violations of this agreement. Aquino has no far not shown any indication of seriously observing human rights. There has been no letup in the bloody military terrorist campaigns against the people. Aquino can show goodwill for the talks by ordering a stop to the brutal military operations, extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture and harassment of activists and the masses perpetrated by the GRP's military and security forces.

A CARHRIHL provision requiring the indemnification of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship has likewise not been implemented.

Aquino must also take decisive measures to reverse the results of a collusion between US imperialism and the Arroyo regime to include the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People's Army and the NDFP chief political consultant in the “terrorist listings” maintained by the US, European Union and other imperialist countries. The GRP entered into an agreement in 2004 to undertake political, diplomatic and other initiatives to undo this but has so far not done anything to this effect.

Aquino must also observe The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 that laid down the guiding principles agenda and conduct of the peace talks. The Aquino regime's backtracking from its previous demand for an immediate ceasefire as a precondition for the talks' resumption is a positive development. Such preconditions are violative of The Hague Joint Declaration.

There should be decisive steps taken to pave the way for negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) which constitutes the second substantive agenda in the talks. After CASER, the next agenda involves the drafting of an agreement on political and constitutional reforms. Only then can talks begin on ceasefire and the disposition of the armed forces of both parties.

The pacing of the talks can be accelerated if the Aquino regime signs the Concise Agreement to End the Civil War and Achieve Just Peace proposed by the NDFP National Council in 2005. (see proposed 10-point agreement in sidebar)

These are but some of the issues that the GRP and NDFP could take up in their preliminary talks. The objective is to lay down the best possible conditions for the talks to continue smoothly and for the peace process to become a relevant means of resolving the roots of the civil war now raging in the country.

Proposed 10-point agreement

1. ESTABLISH a clean and honest coalition government for genuine national freedom and democracy against imperialist domination and control.

2. RESPECT the democratic rights of the toiling masses and provide for their sufficient representation in a coalition government.

3. CARRY OUT national industrialization and land reform and oppose imperialist plunder and corruption in the military and bureaucracy.

4. CANCEL foreign debt and reduce budget allocations for the military and other armed organizations of the GRP.

5. UPHOLD a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture.

6. RESPECT the right to self-determination of the national minorities.

7. INVESTIGATE and prosecute government officials with cases of treason, corruption and human rights violations.

8. IMPLEMENT a genuinely independent foreign policy.

9. MAINTAIN trade and diplomatic relations with other ASEAN countries, China, South and North Korea, Japan and Russia.

10. IMPLEMENT a ceasefire between the armed forces of the GRP and the NDFP.

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