On the impending GPH-NDFP peace talks in Oslo*
Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
Interview by Mynardo Macaraig, Agence France Presse
February 11, 2011
I am a reporter for the international news agency, Agence France Presse, Manila and we are doing a story on the impending peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
As someone familiar with the operations of the NDFP, I hope you would answer some questions on the prospects of the negotiations.
Some of these questions are as follows:
1. Do you think the talks can succeed considering the recent spate of attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) ?
JMS Reply: Please bear in mind that the armed conflict is two sided. The military, police and paramilitary forces of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) wage armed offensives against the New People's Army (NPA) like the NPA does. There are peace negotiations precisely because there is a two-sided armed conflict going on. The peace negotiations can move forward and succeed if the The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements are reaffirmed and the two conflicting sides negotiate in order to address the roots of the armed conflict with basic social, economic and political reforms and thereby establish the basis for a just and lasting peace.
2. The government negotiating panel has put a three-year deadline for peace talks to succeed? Do you think that is realistic? Do you think the NDFP will demand an extension?
JMS Reply: In tactful terms, the GPH negotiating panel chairperson Alex Padilla has declared that best efforts be exerted by both sides to forge comprehensive agreements on the three remaining items in the substantive agenda and thus to make the over-all peace agreement within three years so that this can be implemented in earnest in the last three years of the Aquino regime. The GPH has not made any threatening deadline or ultimatum. I think that the three year estimate for making the comprehensive agreements is reasonable and realistic and may be even too long if the two sides are earnest in negotiating and making agreements along a patriotic and progressive line.
3. What will the NDFP ask for in the talks? Congressman Satur Ocampo has said that they will call for a complete reversal of Aquino's economic policies. If this is true, won't this virtually assure that the talks will reach a stalemate?
JMS Reply: The NDF asks for nothing from the GPH, except for what is just and beneficial to the Filipino people as a matter of national and democratic right. The two sides ought to agree on asserting and strengthening national independence, widening democracy by empowering the working people, carrying out economic development through land reform and national industrialization, promoting a patriotic, scientific and democratic culture and fostering international relations for peace and development.
The US-dictated policy of neoliberal globalization has brought about a severe crisis in the Philippines and entire world capÃtalist system. For his own good, Aquino should veer away from that policy as Satur Ocampo has suggested. He should also veer away from the policy of state terrorism and from the US Counterinsurgency Guide. If he is willing, the NDFP and the Filipino people can help him in overcoming the social and economic crisis through a patriotic and democratic alliance and truce.
4. Will the NPA ever agree to disarm even if the talks are successful? Will the NDFP negotiators walk out if the government calls for the disarming of the NPA?
JMS Reply: The end of hostilities and disposition of forces are the last item to be negotiated in the substantive agenda. This is not up for discussion in the forthcoming Oslo talks this February. The comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms and that on political and constitutional reforms must first be made by the two sides and approved by their principals before any side can propose the disarming of the other side.
Even in the future when the comprehensive agreements are reached on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms but are not yet fully implemented, it is best for the two sides to opt for a truce rather than for one side to demand the disarming of the other side. At the moment, it is premature to talk about disarming any side in the ongoing armed conflict.
5. The government has said there will be no pre-conditions in the talks. But are there issues that the NDF considers non-negotiable, where they will stop the talks unless the government gives in to them?
JMS Reply: The NDF agrees with the GPH that there should be no preconditions to negotiations, But existing agreements require the joint or separate compliance by the negotiating parties. Both sides have agreed that formal talks of the negotiating panels can be resumed upon the validity and full effectivity of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).The GRP-NDFP negotiations have produced twelve (12) agreements since 1992. These must be respected, reaffirmed and complied with so that the peace negotiations can move forward.
6. How much is the NDF willing to concede to keep the talks alive? Will they call on the NPA to stop their attacks? Will they drop such previous demands like the de-listing from the US and EU 'terror' lists?
JMS Reply: I do not know exactly what you mean by asking what the NDFP is willing to concede to keep the talks alive. The GPH has not demanded that the NPA stop the revolutionary armed struggle or else stop the peace negotiations. Neither has the NDFP asked the AFP, PNP and CAFGU to stop their counterrevolutionary armed struggle. There are prior items to negotiate in the substantive agenda.
Regarding the terrorist blacklists of foreign governments, the NDFP continues to demand that the GPH withdraw its treasonous acts of having requested the US, EU and other foreign governments to put the CPP, NPA and myself in the so-called terrorist lists and stop arguing shamelessly that those foreign governments have the sovereign right to intervene in the internal affairs of the Filipino people.
7. Do you see the possibility of the public turning against the NDF if they are seen as being intransigent?
JMS Reply: The Filipino people will always fight for their national and democratic rights and build and support such revolutionary forces as the CPP, NPA and NDFP. It is the Aquino regime that will become totally isolated and detested by the people if it continues to serve the interests of foreign monopoly capitalists, the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. No amount of doleouts, palliatives and psywar can prettify a puppet, corrupt, brutal and mendacious regime. The people are already asking why Aquino has failed to deliver on his promise of holding the Arroyo clique accountable for corruption and human rights violations.
8. Critics say the NDFP is engaging in talks simply for publicity mileage and have no real desire to seek peace. They predict that once they get enough attention, the NDFP will find an excuse to call off the talks? Do you think that is true? Will the NDF use the talks for other purposes?
JMS Reply: Would such critics prefer that the NDFP withdraw from the peace negotiations? Would not the NPA also make publicity mileage by intensifying the armed struggle? I think that the NDFP is negotiating in good faith. It has devoted so many years of hard work in the peace negotiations and has gone so far as to propose to the GPH a concise agreement for an immediate just peace through alliance and truce in order to strengthen national independence and transform the agrarian economy to an indusrial one through land reform and national industrialization. Of course, if the Aquino regime spurns such a patriotic and progressive demand of the people, then the revolutionary forces of the people would be further motivated to wage armed revolution and gain further ground in the crisis-stricken Philippines.