What is the reason for the slow progress of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the CPP-NPA-NDF?

Since 1986, over 40 rounds of talks have been conducted by five (5) GPH panels. The talks have been disrupted over 15 times for various reasons, but mainly on the issues of sovereignty and the release of the captured Communist Party and NPA leaders who the NDF invariably claim to be its consultants in the peace negotiations.After 30 years of on-again-off-again process, it has become evident

After 30 years of on-again-off-again process, it has become evident that the crux of the problem is the CNN’s intractable paradigm for the talks. In the CPP’s perspective, like everything else in their legal struggle, the peace negotiations serve the cause of its armed struggle and is merely a tool to carry the Communist Party to final victory.In its 46th anniversary statement, the CPP made explicit the role

In its 46th anniversary statement, the CPP made explicit the role of peace negotiations in the attainment of this goal: “What is good about the peace negotiations is that the NDFP is able to broadcast the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and help bring about the victory of the revolution in the long run, or before then, help bring about truce and cooperation with a government that is not led by the Party but which adopts patriotic and progressive policies to deal with the severe crisis brought about by imperialism and reaction.”There have been a number of signed agreements over the years.

There have been a number of signed agreements over the years. Why have these not worked to move the process forward?The signed agreements between the GPH and the CNN – in particular,

The signed agreements between the GPH and the CNN – in particular, the Hague Joint Declaration (HJD) of 1992, the JASIG of 1995, and the CARHRIHL of 1998 have been used by the CPP in the pursuit of this paradigm that the peace negotiation is merely a means to an end, which to them is the victory of the armed struggle and establishment of a Communist state over which they have complete control. Critical is the use of these agreements to assert their status of belligerency under international law and a separate sovereignty within Philippine territory.This has been its intent and goal in the past 30 years.

This has been its intent and goal in the past 30 years.While the formal talks between the Aquino government and the

While the formal talks between the Aquino government and the CNN opened on an optimistic high note in February 2011, it quickly dissolved into an impasse when the CNN insisted that talks could not continue unless the GPH release “all or most” of its detained leaders.

The NDF and GPH paradigms, including the end product of the negotiations, have never been reconciled. There is no common vision, no shared interpretation of the goal of the negotiations. While the Government recognizes the need to address key conflict drivers through negotiations, the NDF aims primarily to create a political environment and opportunities for the CNN to shift its opposition to the parliamentary and electoral processes, to engage in peaceful competition for predominance of their political programs, to participate in reform processes though political structures on various levels. Government seeks to make violence unacceptable in politics. For the CNN, however, negotiations are one form of legal struggle against the government that serves the revolutionary armed struggle. Peace for them will come when the revolution has succeeded. With irreconcilable frameworks, after 30 years of talks, the GPH and CNN remain adversaries across the negotiating table.

Why did the GPH Panel call the Hague Joint Declaration a document of perpetual division?

The GPH affirmed the HJD and other past signed agreements with qualifications at the 2011 Oslo Formal Talks. Departing from the past practice of blanket affirmation of all past agreements at the start of formal talks, the GPH Panel closely reviewed these agreements and saw the need for the following:

  • To put on record the issues and provisions where there continue to be disagreements between the parties as well as its positions on those provisions with contested interpretations.
  • To categorically affirm that the GPH is the sole sovereign and taxing authority in the country.
  • To be honest, direct, transparent and up-front, and to commence negotiations on a note of reality.

The actual text of the GPH Qualification of the HJD is as follows:

  • “The Hague Joint Declaration does not stand in isolation but is qualified by the Breukelen Joint Statement of 14 June 1994, particularly Section II.8 which states that both sides recognize the need for further discussion on the provisions of the HJD that will lead to agreements in order to realize the objectives of the HJD. These provisions include concepts and principles stated but not defined in the HJD, specifically “mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice” and “the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”. To date, there exists no agreed upon understanding of these concepts and principles. It remains our position that the HJD is only a means to an end and was never meant to be a document of perpetual division between the Parties.”

The GPH qualification on the HJD is not an attack on the document; it is a statement of fact.

The HJD is a means to resolve the armed conflict, an agreement that was to enable the parties to begin dialogue in spite of recognized differences, to find commonalities and reach a peace settlement. The division results from unresolved differences in interpretation of basic concepts in the Agreement such as National Sovereignty, Democracy and Social Justice, mutuality and “inherent character of negotiations”, that, 24 years after the signing of the HJD, has kept the GPH and the NDF far apart with no resolution of the armed conflict in sight.

What is the 2011 Oslo Joint Statement and why is it important to the talks?

In spite of their differences, the Parties signed the Oslo Joint Statement (OJS) on 21 February 2011 which recorded the key discussion points and agreements reached at the formal talks. Among others, the Panels agreed to an accelerated schedule of committee- and working group- level meetings in order to complete the remaining substantive agenda of the talks (socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces) in the next 18 months, although the NDF qualified that this would be on a “best efforts” basis.

The Parties also agreed that the GPH would “continue to work on appropriate measures to effect the expeditious release of all or most of the fourteen (14) NDFP-listed JASIG consultants and personalities before the second round of formal talks, subject to verification as provided in the JASIG Supplemental Agreement dated June 26, 1996, or on the basis of humanitarian or other practical reasons…”. Four names were later added by the NDF, bringing the total number of their alleged consultants and personalities covered by the OJS agreement to 18.

After the Oslo Formal Talks, the NDF unilaterally postponed the other committee meetings, demanding the immediate release of its 18 claimed consultants and personalities under the JASIG. The NDF demand was a violation of the OJS which clearly stated that the releases were not unconditional but subject to verification and were to be carried out before the next round of formal talks.

What is the JASIG verification process and why was it held ?

The JASIG ensures free movement and immunity from arrest, surveillance, interrogation, and other such actions for those
accredited persons holding Documents of Identification (DI) as official participants in the negotiations, including negotiators,
consultants, staff, and security personnel. These safety and immunity guarantees cover acts, statements, materials, information, and data in connection with or resulting from participation or involvement in the GPH-CNN negotiations. JASIG verification is the agreed process of validating the real identities of those persons using aliases in the NDF list of DI Holders, with details provided in the JASIG Supplemental Agreement of 1996.

In July 2011, after the GPH noted the double use of an alias and seriously questioned the CNN’s claims that their detained leaders using aliases are covered by the JASIG, both parties agreed to use the JASIG verification mechanism that would prove or disprove their identity.

The verification process was conducted at the Rabobank in Utrecht, where the photos that would identify the alias-holders in the NDF’s JASIG DI list were deposited, with representatives of the GPH and NDF, the Third Party Depository and the RNG Third Party Facilitator in attendance. But the verification process failed due to the fact that the NDF violated the procedure agreed upon in 1996. Instead of depositing in a safety deposit box the actual photos of their consultants who used aliases in the DI list of JASIG-covered individuals, the NDF deposited encrypted diskettes into which they said they had uploaded the photos. During the actual verification, the NDF produced “decryption diskettes” which they said were needed to open the files. But they could not decrypt any photos and then claimed that their decryption diskettes were among materials confiscated by the Dutch police and must have been corrupted before they were returned. But the fact remains, that the failure of the verification was due to the NDF’s own fault.

What was the effect of the failure of verification on the alleged JASIG holders?

With the failure of the verification mechanism, it is not possible to validate that the NDF’s claimed consultants and personalities are in fact those to whom aliases on the DI list had been assigned. From then on, JASIG coverage was only possible for those in the DI list using their real names, and those who are not on the list but have been recognized by the GPH to be involved in the peace negotiations.

It has therefore not been possible to release any more of the NDF’s alleged consultants and personalities using aliases in the JASIG DI list. Of the 18 who claim to be NDF consultants and personalities, nine were released by the GPH to participate in the peace negotiations and as confidence-building measures. However, four of those released have reportedly returned to active armed revolutionary work.

Why has the GPH refused to accept a reconstructed JASIG list?

The GPH takes the position that the NDF was responsible for the failed verification, and accepting a new list with aliases would
compromise the integrity of the process. However, GPH is open to the issuance of safety and immunity guarantees to named personalities who are actually involved in the peace talks.

The objective of the JASIG is to provide safety and immunity guarantees (SIG) to persons who actually participate in the peace
negotiations. The primary purposes of SIG are: “to facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.”

Safety and immunity guarantees apply to the negotiation participants, their statements, activities, information, documents that
are part of the peace negotiations, and should not be used for the furtherance of the armed struggle.

The demand for the release of captured rebels has been an automatic claim by the NDF using the protective shield of JASIG. However, the JASIG does not exempt anyone from liability arising from acts in violation of penal and other existing laws.

How has the GPH dealt with the NDF’s insistence on the release of their detained comrades?

The GPH has been more than generous in releasing alleged political offenders (APOs). One of the first official acts of President Corazon Aquino in February 1986 was to grant executive clemency to over 400 political detainees, including Jose Maria Sison and other high profile detainees. This was a goodwill and confidence building measure meant to pave the way for peace negotiations.As his own confidence building measure, President Fidel Ramos

As his own confidence building measure, President Fidel Ramos created the Presidential Committee on Bail, Release on Recognizance or Pardon (PCBReP) in 1992 to review all cases of persons convicted for crimes against national security and public order, and violations of the Articles of War committed up to December 31, 1998. A total of 803 alleged political offenders (APOs) were released by the Ramos administration under the PCBReP. From 1986 to 2004, government released from jail a total of 1,366 APOs.When formal talks were resumed in 2011 under the Benigno S.

When formal talks were resumed in 2011 under the Benigno S. Aquino III administration, the NDF submitted a new list of 336 APOs. However, 122 names were removed outright by the GPH for the following reasons: 19 had already been released, 10 were covered by another mechanism under the peace agreement with the RPA-ABB, five had already died, one had escaped from jail, and 87 were not CNN personnel but alleged Abu Sayyaf members.

Of the 18 persons in the NDF’s separate list of alleged consultants and personalities referred to in the 2011 Oslo Joint Statement, some of whom are high ranking NPA leaders, nine were released from 2011-2014. However, four of the nine – Ma. Luisa Purcray, Glicerio Pernia, Danilo Badayos and Edwin Brigano – have reportedly gone back underground and returned to active revolutionary work. The nine who remain in detention are facing criminal charges in various courts, or have been convicted and are serving time at the National Penitentiary.

The NDF says the release of its consultants is an obligation of government under JASIG and CARHRIHL.

The NDF asserts that the release of its consultants is an obligation of the GPH under the JASIG and CARHRIHL but it is really a precondition that has held the talks hostage over the past six years. The NDF’s insistence on the release of its alleged consultants before  talks can resume is a violation of the HJD and the 2011 Oslo Joint Statement which says that releases would not be unconditional but subject to verification and were to be carried out before the next round of formal talks.

Why has CARHRIHL not been fully implemented?

The CARHRIHL states that until the parties have reached a final resolution of the armed conflict, the GPH and NDF will assume separate duties and responsibilities for upholding, protecting and promoting human rights and IHL principles according to their own political principles, organizations and circumstances. The full implementation of CARHRIHL is therefore dependent on the agreements on political and constitutional reforms, and on end of hostilities and disposition of forces, which have yet to be negotiated.

Since it cannot be fully implemented without these agreements, CARHRIHL implementation has focused mainly on each side’s
Monitoring Committee receiving and investigating complaints of human rights and IHL violations by both the NPA rebels and the government’s security forces.

Unfortunately, even as the CNN claims to promote the CARHRIHL, it has been using this agreement as a platform to assert a separate sovereignty within the Republic and its belligerency status under international law. It uses CARHRIHL provisions as a basis to assert its separate legal and judicial system, to claim “prisoner of war” status for its captives and a “political and legal basis under international law” for their release.

What is the Special Track and why was it necessary to pursue it?

In January 2011, while there was still a high level of goodwill between the two Panels, Jose Maria Sison discreetly proposed a parallel shortcut process to reach an agreement on Alliance and Truce”. This “Special Track” (ST) called for agreement on a Common Declaration on National Unity and Just Peace which would initiate an immediate nationwide ceasefire and the creation of an advisory Committee for National Unity, Peace and Development. The ST also focused on doable concrete socio-economic and political reforms and economic packages towards self-reliance for NPA fighters. Though still linked to the regular track (RT), the original proposal would have allowed forward movement without preconditions.

With the RT process at an impasse, the GPH pursued the ST as a possibly faster, more viable route to a peace agreement. ST Teams from each side held several discreet, informal and productive meetings from April 2011 to December 2012. Their discussions prospered up to an exchange of drafts of the Common Declaration in December 2012, with an agreement to finalize the Declaration and discuss their agreed four-point agenda at the next meeting in February 2013.

At the February 2013 meeting, however, the NDF presented a new set of documents that changed the agreed process, expanded the issues, and set preconditions for the immediate ceasefire provided in the draft Declaration. By violating the previous agreement, withdrawing its ceasefire offer and introducing unacceptable preconditions and demands, the NDF effectively rendered the ST as no longer viable.

Why was it necessary for private emissaries to talk to the NDF?

In the last quarter of 2014, when the NDF began issuing statements about their openness to resume talks, it was decided that a team of private emissaries under the guidance of the PAPP, be allowed to engage the NDF in unofficial private conversations to assess the NDF’s readiness to return to the table without preconditions.

Between September 2014 and February 2015, the emissaries went to The Netherlands to discreetly and unofficially engage Sison and the NDF Panel members. The initial discussions were positive, with proposals on the revival of talks without preconditions, starting with an Interim Peace Agreement, an agenda along the lines of the ST, a nationwide truce, and a roadmap to a final political settlement within the term of the Aquino administration with similar acceleration mechanisms (e.g. Working Groups preceding their respective RWCs) as previously agreed by the Panels in the 2011 Oslo Formal Talks.

However, the NDF’s proposed roadmap evolved to incorporate the release of claimed NDF consultants as a prerequisite to substantive committee discussions and the truce declaration. Furthermore, at the last meeting of the emissaries with the NDF, they were given a “non-paper” listing NDF demands relative to the resumption of talks that included the immediate release of 17 of its detained alleged consultants and at least 200 political prisoners, among others. The NDF’s continuing demand for releases severely undermined any possibility for resumption of the talks.In the end, the initiative could not progress for the same reasons that

In the end, the initiative could not progress for the same reasons that had led to the impasse: the NDF’s demand for the release of all of its detained leaders and followers.What were the other initiatives taken to try and break the impasse?

What were the other initiatives taken to try and break the impasse?

Following the ET initiative in which it acted as witness, the RNG offered proposals for trust–building to break the impasse. First, it tried to broker a secret informal meeting between the two sides to explore the possibility of reaching a common understanding of the goals, process and framework of formal talks and agreement on the parameters for resumption. The GPH readily agreed but the NDF asked for time for consultations, and then it set the usual preconditions expressed as “requested reassurances from GPH”.Entering into the second half of the year and still unable to get the

Entering into the second half of the year and still unable to get the parties together, the RNG shifted the focus from trying to get the Parties to face each other at the table, and suggested goodwill gestures (GWGs) that both sides could pursue to directly benefit the Filipino people. The RNG put particular emphasis on lessening the violence during the campaign and election period. The NDF rejected the proposed role of the RNG in overseeing and managing the process of generating GWGs.How can the peace process be revived and succeed in the signing of a final peace agreement?

How can the peace process be revived and succeed in the signing of a final peace agreement?

The GPH has tried to negotiate for peace within the narrow confines of the Hague Joint Declaration, the JASIG, the CARHRIHL, and other signed agreements. For all the good intentions behind these agreements, these have been used by the NDF to pursue its paradigm of pushing for the armed struggle across the negotiating table by getting as many concessions as it can from Government– mainly the release of its captured leaders – giving little in return to advance to a peace settlement.

Thus, while 30 years of peace negotiations have brought us nowhere near a final peace agreement, the CPP has used the peace process to assert a status of belligerency and a separate sovereignty with its own justice system, “kangaroo courts” and “revolutionary taxation”, and secure the release of its detained leaders.

For the peace negotiations to get anywhere, the CPP must change its  paradigm for the talks. Both parties must start with a common vision of peace, and agree to pursue their joint mission and goal as partners in peace. Both sides must commit to deliver the peace to the Filipino people who deserve to live free of violence after the three decades of armed conflict.

The process must include the Filipino public, the peace constituencies, as partners and participants, stakeholders and honest brokers in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous Philippines.

No party or individual should resort to arms or violence in putting their ideas across. There is no substitute for constant dialogue and more democracy to ensure that each voice is heard in a free and democratic discourse. No group must ever hold peace hostage simply because it has the force of arms and violence on its side.