It has been 22 years since the signing of the landmark agreement The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, which provided the framework for the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – On the 22nd anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD), peace advocates called on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume peace talks based on the historic agreement.
In a forum organized by the Pilgrims for Peace, Silvestre Bello III, former GRP peace panel chairman, called on both parties to respect the THJD and go back to the negotiating table. Bello, who was involved in the GPH-NDFP peace talks from 1992 to 2004, said the The Hague Joint Declaration is an important guide for both parties.
Bello underscored three important provisions of the landmark agreement signed on Sept. 1, 1992 by the GPH (then referred to as the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or GRP) and the NDFP.
First, the THJD lays down the four substantive agenda of the formal talks: 1) respect for human rights and international humanitarian law; 2) socio-economic reforms; 3) political and constitutional reforms; 4) end of hostilities and disposition of forces. Bello said the first in the agenda has been signed – the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Second, the THJD prohibits setting of preconditions to the talks. “Ceasefire is the product of peace talks, not a condition to the peace talks,” Bello said, referring to the GPH’s demand for ceasefire before talks could begin.
Bello added that the NDFP, on the other hand, should not also make the release of political prisoners a precondition to the talks.
To this, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo reacted. Ocampo clarified that the release of detained NDFP consultants is a fulfillment of an obligation set forth in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and not a precondition.
Bello replied, saying both parties must undertake goodwill measures to create a conducive environment for the peace talks.
Bello said the GPH and the NDFP should honor all the previously signed agreements.
“If you signed an agreement, you are obliged to respect it even if you realized later that you erred in signing it. Otherwise you lose credibility and no one would believe and negotiate with you” Bello said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Bello said there have been attempts to render the THJD ineffective. He said that if the GPH has reservations over the framework agreement, the best thing to do is go back to the negotiating table and discuss the proposed revisions with the other party.
In the same vein, Raymond Palatino, chairman of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) – National Capital Region (NCR), deemed as a major hindrance to the resumption of peace talks the GPH’s position to do away with the THJD.
Pointing at the copy of the THJD, Palatino said during the same forum, “This document is so short, containing important provisions. I don’t see any reason why the GPH called it a document of perpetual division.” Palatino was referring to a previous statement by President Peace Adviser Teresita Deles on the THJD.
Proceed with socio-economic reforms
In a statement, Kapayapaan – campaign for a just and lasting peace – urged both parties to proceed with the next substantive agenda item: socio-economic reforms.
Dr. Lito Manalili, Kapayapaan spokesman and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), said formal peace talks have been on impasse for long. “If both parties resume talks and adhere to the wisdom and the spirit of the THJD, they could proceed to craft the agreement on social and economic reforms which address the problems that breed armed conflict,” Manalili said.
Kapayapaan said by discussing the drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms, both parties would have the opportunity to arrive at a consensus about the socio-economic problems and the corresponding reforms.
The Pilgrims for Peace also urged both parties to make a priority the discussion of the situation of the poor.
“This is definitely a better venue than railroading the economic Charter Change in Congress which would only benefit the rich and foreign corporations to the detriment of the majority,” Manalili said.
Speaking in the same forum, Dr. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, said that poverty and injustice must be eradicated for peace to reign.
Mrs. Burgos said that because of the situation right now, there are those, like her son, who go to the rural areas to serve the poor and the marginalized. She lamented that those who give more of themselves are branded as subversives.
“Injustice after injustice is happening right now,” Mrs. Burgos said. She said that the preferential treatment accorded to retired Army Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. as a form of injustice. Palparan is the primary suspect in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of two missing students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
“Why peace?” Mrs. Burgos said. “So our children and our children’s children would live in a society where helping, serving, caring for others is the norm, without fear of being branded and demonized then disappeared.”
“So that the original right of man to freely choose his destiny, which is to live in peace, would be the option of all and not only of the rich and the educated,” Mrs. Burgos added.
Amid the impasse on the formal peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP, Palatino said it is necessary to broaden the peace constituency.
“We should make our voices heard so that our President would not only hear the voices of Ballsy, Pinky, Viel, Kris or Joshua,” Palatino said, referring to President Benigno Aquino III’s siblings and nephew.
For his part, Bello vowed to continue with his personal efforts at making possible the resumption of the peace talks. He also challenged peace advocates to remain steadfast.
In a statement, the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace said that although the 22 years has been marked by many delays, impasses and deadlocks, there were 17 agreements signed. These, the alliance said, are real achievements that serve as building blocks for a future peaceful society.