Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume IV,  Number 4              February 22 - 28, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines


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Another Standoff in GRP-NDFP Talks Looms

The lack of sincerity of the GRP in forging peace with the NDFP and the continued foreign meddling are proving to be the main obstacles to the peace process. The government remains bound to its archaic and inflexible position that the only way to peace is for the NDFP to surrender. What the GRP is asking is not peace but a prolonged war.

By Bobby Tuazon

NDFP panel chair Luis Jalandoni (left) signs the Oslo joint statement as GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III (center) and government peace adviser Teresita Deles beam. The signing concluded the recent formal talks between the two parties held in Norway.

Only a week after a joint statement was issued in Oslo, Norway peace talks between the Macapagal-Arroyo government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) appear headed for yet another breakdown. The next formal talks between the two sides, now currently facilitated by the Norwegian government, may not even be held late March as agreed upon.

It now appears that the GRP (for Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel interprets the Feb. 14 joint position, particularly on the issue of “terrorist” tag on the NDFP, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the Front’s chief political consultant miles apart from  that of the NDFP. What’s new, however, is that the U.S. government – which has been 

monitoring the talks – appears to be exerting pressure on the GRP to remain intransigent against its counterpart.  

Top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have also sent word implying they will not honor the joint position signed by their own civilian superiors. They are demanding that the NPA stop collecting permit-to-campaign (PTC) fees and desist from the use of “violence.”

Salient in the Oslo joint position is the agreement by both panels that “effective measures” be undertaken to resolve the outstanding issue of the “terrorist” listing of the CPP-NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison. The agreement also points out that the listing is not in consonance with bilateral agreements already forged by both parties particularly the The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Among others, the bilateral agreements clarify that the decades-long armed conflict between the government and the NDFP is internal and that its resolution, which includes the peace process, should never be an object of foreign meddling. The “terrorist” listing, according to the NDFP, is an act of foreign intervention and remains one of the major deterrents to the peace process.

“Effective measures”

Part of the “effective measures” is for both the GRP and NDFP to, jointly and separately, urge the U.S. government, the Council of the European Union (EU) and other concerned states and governments “to support the efforts of the parties in resolving the outstanding issue.” The third party facilitator – Norway – will also convey the Oslo joint statement to the international community

Implied in this agreement is for the GRP to make sure that the CPP-NPA, NDFP and Sison be stricken off the “terrorist” lists of the EU, the U.S. and other foreign governments concerned.

However, arriving in Manila on the day after the conclusion of the peace talks in Oslo, Secretary Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, indicated that the GRP had a different slant on this specific agreement. “The inclusion of the CPP, NPA and Sison in foreign terror lists were sovereign acts of these states, independent of the GRP disposition regarding these matters,” Deles, also head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said.

The remark was made after the U.S. state department, through Joseph Mussomeli, U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires in Manila, said it will remove the “terrorist” tag on the communists only after a final peace agreement is reached. Delisting the CPP from the list of FTOs, he said, would be an incentive for it to forge peace with the Philippine government.

Reacting to Deles’ statement, NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said it smacked of “treachery, malice and deception.”

“It is reprehensible for continuing to insist that the U.S. government has the sovereign prerogative to violate the national sovereignty of the Filipino people and the territorial integrity of the Philippines by usurping jurisdiction over revolutionary entities and events in the Philippines,” Jalandoni said. “The Macapagal-Arroyo regime must not engage in deception. It must cease to insist so arrogantly that the delisting would happen only after the capitulation of the revolutionary forces. In this regard, it should not act like the yelping dog of the U.S.”

It was not clear whether Deles’ position was cleared with Bello who chairs the GRP panel. In countless times, the predisposition of Bello – who has been identified as not among the government hardliners on the peace issue – had been skirted by other outspoken members of the GRP side. It has been reported that he once blew his top after finding some of the hardliners in his panel were trying to undermine his leadership by making precipitate moves to the NDFP without consulting him.

How it all began

Bulatlat.com sources revealed that as early as November 2001 during her first visit in Washington, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had taken up with U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr. the “terrorist” listing of the Philippine guerrilla forces. This was followed up in August 2002 when U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell announced a few days after meeting Macapagal-Arroyo in Manila the inclusion of the CPP-NPA in the U.S. FTO list.

Following Powell’s announcement, the U.S. treasury department imposed financial sanctions including the freezing of alleged assets of the CPP-NPA and Sison. The Dutch government followed suit by tagging the CPP-NPA and Sison, who is a political exile in The Netherlands since 1987, as “terrorists.” It also froze Sison’s bank account containing allowances he received as a recognized political refugee.

In October that same year, then Foreign Secretary Blas Ople announced that the government special mission he headed had successfully secured pledges from European Union member-countries to include the CPP-NPA and Sison in the EU Council’s list of “terrorists.”

In back-channel talks with the NDFP in January the following year, the GRP panel submitted to the NDFP government’s “final peace accord (FPA).” Among others, the draft accord called for the acceleration of the peace process and, following a peace agreement, the surrender of arms by the leftist guerrillas.

At almost the same time, Ople confirmed what the NDFP had all along suspected: the “terrorist” tag was being used as a blackmail to force the guerrillas to agree to government’s peace proposal and capitulate. “Once there is a peace agreement,” he told reporters, “I will request the EU, the United States and other countries to delist (the rebels) as terrorists. If they sign (the FPA), they will no longer be terrorists.”

As for Sison, Ople had this to say: “Our entire focus now is for Sison to sign a final peace agreement…If he signs the peace agreement, then he will be covered by the blanket authority…a total and absolute amnesty.”


But Jalandoni called the “peace accord” a piece of paper that says nothing about resolving the roots of the civil war to ensure a “just and lasting peace.” It is all about “outright capitulation” by the NDF, he said. One final provision of the GRP package prescribes the surrender of arms by the NPA and the identification of all guerrillas to entitle them to a general amnesty.

Based on Ople’s own words, the government has the political will to ask the U.S. government, the EU and other foreign states concerned to remove the CPP-NPA and Sison from the list of FTOs. All indications also point to the fact that tagging the revolutionary forces as “terrorist” could be considered not solely as an independent move by the foreign entities concerned, as Deles would put it, but an act of collusion hammered out by both the Macapagal-Arroyo government, the AFP and Washington officials to force the Marxists to surrender.

The collusion to gang up on the NDFP is as clear as the day given what U.S. Charge d’Affaires Mussomeli also said last week: “The NPA has been on the FTO list several years now. That’s where they belong. They can talk. If they reach a peace accord then they can get off the list. The FTO list is really an incentive to them to start talking and give up terrorism.”

If the GRP is to honor its commitment to the Feb. 14 Oslo agreement all it needs to do is to pull out from the act of trickery and blackmail it had forged with the U.S. government and other foreign governments to force the NDFP to surrender and accept a disgraceful peace pact. Considering the depth of international meddling that the GRP has allowed to develop in the peace talks – and the depth of its economic and political ties to the foreign entities concerned – asking for the removal from the “terrorist” lists of the revolutionary forces would be the last thing the GRP leaders will do.

Foreign meddling

Indeed the Philippine government does not hide the fact that, through its own special economic and military ties with the U.S. government, the civil war in the country has long been internationalized and that foreign meddling is nothing new. For decades, the AFP has been able to sustain its bloody counter-insurgency campaigns against the NPA – and other rebel forces like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – largely through U.S. military assistance and training. The U.S.-initiated war on terror and the FTO listing have given the GRP and its military units a further license recently to harass, maim and kill hundreds of activists and organizers belonging to legitimate organizations and political parties. The same license virtually grants immunity to military commanders, soldiers and intelligence agents from investigation and prosecution.

The GRP cannot even assert its own sovereign right and civilian supremacy to release political prisoners, including Donato Continente – suspected of killing a U.S. intelligence specialist in 1989. Their release has been on hold because of strong opposition by both the U.S. state department and the AFP. Yet the release of political prisoners had long been agreed upon by both the GRP and NDFP panels in 2001.

Despite the recent Oslo agreement, the release of political prisoners and the indemnification of Marcos torture victims remain in limbo in the light of GRP’s intransigence to interpret all agreements according to its own subjective eyes and subject to new conditions and blackmails it will impose on the NDFP.

Since peace talks began in 1987, both panels have long agreed to seek a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the civil war and to pursue an agreed-upon agenda and timetable no matter how long and arduous the negotiations are. They have long affirmed the primacy of bilateral agreements to enable both sides to move the peace process forward. However, the lack of sincerity of the GRP in forging peace with the NDFP and the continued foreign meddling are proving to be the main obstacles to the peace process. The government remains bound to its archaic and inflexible position that the only way to peace is for the NDFP to surrender. What the GRP is asking therefore is not peace but a prolonged war. Bulatlat.com

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