Attain Peace based on Justice and Progress*
Editorial, Ang Bayan
21 January 2011
The preliminary talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) on January 14-18 in Oslo, Norway bore fruit as the two panels agreed to proceed to the formal talks on February 15-21 and implement a concurrent ceasefire.
The talks had been suspended for the past six years due to the Arroyo regime's collusion with the US to include the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People's Army (NPA) and NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison in the US' terrorist listing. The regime also persistently violated past agreements and relentlessly waged counterrevolutionary war, sowed terror and perpetrated human rights violations. It likewise showed no interest in resolving the political, socio-economic and other roots of the civil war raging in the country.
Albeit difficult, the preliminary talks have had positive results. For one, the Aquino government has explicitly stated that it does not consider the CPP, NPA and Sison as terrorists. The GPH peace panel has pledged to comply with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which includes guaranteeing immunity from arrest of NDFP consultants who have gone into hiding and facilitatng the release of detained consultants. The two sides also affirmed all previous agreements, agreed to commence negotiations on socio-economic reforms and revive the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to oversee both parties' compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The GPH also expressed its openness to accede to the NDFP's demand to have other political detainees released.
The GPH peace panel agreed to guarantee the liberty and participation in the peace talks of three NDFP consultants (Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad). They had been attending talks and consultations on various agenda related to the negotiations before being slapped with trumped-up murder charges. To avoid state persecution, they were forced to go into hiding after arrest warrants were issued against them. One of them, Echanis, was arrested in January 2009 and temporarily released in August 2010.
The GPH peace panel has also promised to expedite the release of 14 other consultants within the first two rounds of the formal talks. They are Emeterio Antalan, Jovencio Balweg, Edwin Brigano, Pedro Codaste, Edgardo Friginal, Angelina Ipong, Randy Malayao, Alfredo Mapano, Glicerio Pernia, Maria Luisa Pucray, Eduardo Sarmiento, Eduardo Serrano and Jaime Soledad. All of them are NDFP consultants who were arrested after the Arroyo regime suspended its compliance with the JASIG in 2004. Added to this list is Tirso "Ka Bart" Alcantara, the Southern Tagalog region's representative to the peace talks, who was arrested on January 4 under the Aquino regime, even after the GPH had resumed compliance with the JASIG.
Considering the ruling regime's reactionary character and the sheer number of issues that have to be resolved and over which the GPH must be held accountable, the NDFP must continuously demand and ensure the GPH's fulfillment of its promises. This, the NDFP must do before forging other agreements.
Foremost among the agreements that the GPH must comply with are the JASIG and the CARHRIHL.
Aside from the release of detained NDFP consultants and staff, the NDFP has requested that the GPH comply totally with the JASIG by stopping criminal proceedings against consultants and other JASIG-protected NDFP personnel to enable them to freely participate in the peace negotiations. Many of these consultants had been branded as "enemies of the state" and slapped with trumped-up charges under the previous regime's "legal offensive."
The NDFP must also demand from the GPH the release of CPP, NDFP and NPA officers and members arrested during the December 16-January 3 ceasefire. Their arrests while traveling, visiting loved ones or seeking medical attention are but a few of the many violations of the GPH armed forces to the provisions of the concurrent ceasefire.
There are other issues regarding compliance with the JASIG that must be raised in future talks. The Aquino government must solve the abduction of other NDFP consultants, among them Leo Velasco, Rogelio Calubad and Prudencio Calubid and their staff. One of Calubid's companions who was able to escape has testified on how they were seized and tortured and how his comrades were summarily executed. The abduction and torture of NDFP consultants and staff and the continued refusal to surface them is a despicable violation of the JASIG and CARHRIHL and the overall peace process.
In accordance with the CARHRIHL, the revolutionary forces also demand the immediate release of close to 400 political detainees, just as the Aquino regime had released around 400 military detainees who had rebelled against the Arroyo regime. The concrete methods of releasing the political detainees must likewise be discussed. Their release must not be conditioned on any form of humiliation, such as forced admissions of guilt.
The GPH must also comply with a long-standing provision of the CARHRIHL to indemnify victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship. The NDFP must extract a concrete commitment from the GPH to comply with this provision within the year. Giving proper indemnification to the victims forms but part of their quest for justice and is not being done in exchange for withdrawing all cases against the Marcoses. Granting indemnification to opportunist groups whose only interest is to claim the money and abandon all demands for justice does not constitute compliance with the CARHRIHL.
The masterminds and main perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, terrorism and other fascist crimes against activists, serious critics of the regime and even innocent persons must be prosecuted, tried and punished. The Arroyo regime's human rights violations as well as continuing violations under the current regime must be immediately and systematically investigated, and the assistance of human rights organizations sought for this endeavor.
There must be continued vigilance and opposition to the maneuvers and dirty tactics of ultra-reactionaries and militarists within the Aquino regime who want their counterrevolutionary policies and measures to prevail and their fascist crimes, human rights violations, demonization of the revolutionary movement and derailment of the peace process to continue.
Even as the Aquino regime's declaration that it does not consider the CPP-NPA as terrorists is already positive, it should not stop at this. The Aquino regime must also undertake decisive measures to thoroughly do away with the results of the Arroyo regime's collusion with the US and other imperialist powers to falsely and maliciously include the CPP and NPA in their lists of "foreign terrorist organizations."
The NDFP faces a reactionary regime in the peace talks, with both parties holding diametrically opposing views on many issues, including the fundamental socio-economic issues that comprise the next substantive agenda. The agenda will cover the difficult issues of land reform, national industrialization and assertion of national sovereignty.
The foreseen difficulties in the negotiations cannot be underestimated, and the outcome remains uncertain. The NDFP must be principled, sharp and determined in facing the many challenges it confronts in the peace talks.
Nonetheless, it must seize this opportunity to put forward the interests and agenda of the revolutionary forces and the people and attain whatever it can for as long as it sees hope from the GPH side to continue the peace negotiations.
It is important for both parties to continue with their goodwill measures in order to create the best atmosphere for the conduct of the peace talks. The NDFP must strive to attain the maximum benefit possible for the revolutionary movement and the people through negotiations without laying down their arms.
The surest means of advancing the peace process and laying a firm foundation for peace based on justice and progress is for the revolutionary forces and the people to continue gaining strength by firmly and perseveringly waging armed struggle and vigorous people's struggles.