May 17, 2010
“The NDFP is committed to strive for a just and lasting peace in our country… On the basis of The Hague Joint Declaration and the other agreements already signed, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is willing and ready to resume formal peace talks with the new administration of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). We aim for peace talks that address the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental economic, social and political reforms.”
Esteemed Bishops Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr. and Solito K. Toquero, Co-Chairpersons of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon, Executive Secretary of the EBF, other members and staff of the EBF, and other participants in this EBF Forum on Peace, we in the NDFP Negotiating Panel warmly greet you. We thank you for your invitation to give a presentation in this peace forum, the first of a series you are sponsoring. We appreciate your desire to hasten the resumption of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
As a start to this dialogue and exchange of views, may we present some basic points about our standpoint on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
We take a long-term view of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, consider its fundamental aspects and then look forward to what can be achieved.
We consider it of vital importance that the basic framework for a well-founded and sustained process of peace negotiations has been forged in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and reaffirmed and further strengthened in subsequent agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of February 1995, the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels of June 1995, the Supplemental Agreement thereto of March 1997, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of March 1998.
These were followed by the Oslo Joint Statement of February 2004 and the Oslo Joint Statement II of April 2004 which led to the setting up the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Joint Secretariat (JS) with an office in Quezon City with the financial and moral support of the Royal Norwegian Government.
Principle of mutual respect and reciprocity in The Hague Joint Declaration
We stress the vital importance of The Hague Joint Declaration because it contains the crucially essential principle of mutual respect and reciprocity in the wise provision agreed upon by both Parties, that is, the principle of non-capitulation. This means that both Parties agree not to impose or demand capitulation, but rather seek a just negotiated solution by addressing the roots of the armed conflict through fundamental social, economic, political and constitutional reforms while respecting human rights and international humanitarian law all throughout the process,.
The wisdom of this principle enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration is clear when we look at the experiences of other peace negotiations. Wherever the roots of the armed conflict are not addressed and resolved and one party imposes capitulation or merely maneuvers to either destroy militarily or split the resistance movement, no just and lasting peace is achieved.
The Hague Joint Declaration basically defined the agenda for the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations: human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The RWC agreements of 1995 and 1997 spelled out the concrete details on how to tackle these agenda items in proper sequence.
Lessons from experience
It is important to learn concrete lessons from our experience. We must avoid the pitfdall and overcome the impediments that obstruct the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
Every attempt to derail the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations from the correct path — whether through a false amnesty program, or a so-called Social Integration Program, and the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) framework — has been firmly criticized and opposed by the NDFP as a violation of the principles enshrined in The Hague Joint Declaration. In the CARHRIHL, both Parties have achieved the bringing in of internationally recognized human rights and international humanitarian law conventions as a valuable and integral part of the framework of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Such instruments as the Geneva Conventions and Protocols additional thereto, the Convention against Torture and other UN Conventions are integrated in the CARHRIHL.
No doubt that it is a great challenge to both Parties, with the support of peace advocates in our country and abroad, to implement the CARHRIHL and thereby help create a favorable atmosphere for negotiating, forging and implementing agreements of social, economic, political and constitutional reforms. The NDFP considers these fundamental reforms necessary in order to achieve a just and lasting peace.
We have to state that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), especially under the Arroyo administration, has put up serious and numerous obstacles to the implementation of CARHRIHL through a great number of extrajudicial killings of civilians, enforced disappearances, frustrated killings, torture, uprooting of millions of civilians, etc. The recent illegal arrest, torture and continued illegal detention of 43 health workers is a blatant example. These violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the GRP have also affected NDFP consultants, panel members and staff. Those covered by the protection of JASIG, which protects all personnel from both Parties involved the peace negotiations, have been made targets for arrest, detention, surveillance, threats and other punitive actions by the GRP. Moreover, the functioning of the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee has been hampered by the submission of thousands of false nuisance complaints against the NDFP. It is of crucial importance that the new GRP administration seriously takes note of these violations and makes firm decisions to carry out appropriate corrective measures.
Firm foundation for moving forward
Despite the various illegitimate suspensions, declaration of collapse, and even termination, made by the GRP through the years, the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations have resulted in 12 bilateral peace agreements, which constitute a high standard and a good basis for working towards attaining a just and lasting peace in our country. Furthermore, we have the consistent and firm support of the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator. We have the Joint Secretariat holding office in Metro Manila. We have received the endorsement of the European Parliament. And we have your support and that of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform, the Pilgrims for Peace, the Philippine Peace Center and other peace advocates in our country and abroad.
We believe it is important to recognize the firm foundation that has been forged in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, carry out a review and assessment of the negotiations so far, learn the positive and negative lessons, and look forward and move forward. We are hoping that the new GRP administration will share this view.