SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
The chairperson for the national democratic alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), has criticized the Philippine government for abandoning peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP):
The impasse in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) brings to mind a popular tagline coined by the late Manuel Uy, a highly successful wholesaler of sweepstakes tickets from the late fifties onwards, to wit, “Ang nagwawagi ay di umaayaw; ang umaayaw ay di nagwawagi.” (A winner never quits; a quitter never wins.)
The GPH’s abovementioned pronouncements were widely interpreted to be a unilateral termination of the peace negotiations and reported dutifully as such by Philippine mass media. But the GPH has had to backtrack and has instead said that it remains open to peace talks. It appears that the GPH is still hard pressed to justify why it is pulling out of the peace negotiations and continues to buy time so as to convince the public that it indeed has a found a “new approach” to peace.
Objectively, however, the GPH has placed itself in a no-win position. For the GPH to be the first to quit or pull out of the talks would be tantamount to conceding that it lacks the political will and acumen to face – and trump – the revolutionaries at the negotiating table. The Aquino regime now appears to be defeatist and to have fallen prey to the mindset that sees the military solution as the only solution to an armed conflict rooted in social injustice.
Which is why OPAPP Secretary Deles, officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Presidential spokespersons have been busy trying to sell the GPH line that it is the NDFP that is the cause of the impasse and impending collapse of the talks and that there is a way to achieve a peaceful resolution to the armed conflict without engaging in peace negotiations with the revolutionary movement.
The GPH lies when it says the NDFP has hostaged the resumption of formal talks on the precondition of the release of its consultants despite failure of verification of their documents of identification (DIs) as per the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees. They conveniently omit the fact that the NDFP office and houses of its officials and staff in the Netherlands were raided by the Dutch police in 2003 and computers, flash and compact disks alike as well as documents were hauled away among which contained the encryption keys to the files that held the DIs. These keys had become corrupted while in the custody of the Netherlands authorities and failed to open the cyphered files containing the DIs.
The GPH lies when it says that the NDFP killed the “special track” by presenting three new drafts and imposing impossible preconditions such as the abolition of government programs such as the Conditional Cash Transfer, PAMANA and Oplan Bayanihan. In fact, it was the NDFP that proposed the “special track” to open the way to an extraordinary “truce and alliance” between the GPH and the NDFP that would be anchored on a declaration of unity to put in place several major and urgent reforms upon which an immediate truce could then be forged. The GPH shot this down by insisting a priori on a ceasefire and its version of the draft declaration. When the NDFP countered with its own comprehensive draft that it was willing to subject to negotiations with the GPH, the GPH representatives simply refused, saying they did not have the mandate to discuss the NDFP draft as well as other prejudicial issues.
To top it all, the GPH is lying through its teeth when it says that formal peace negotiations have not achieved anything and is leading nowhere. The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL is a landmark agreement on the first of the four substantive agenda of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations that speaks for itself. On the basis of CARHRIHL, a mechanism is now in place by which complaints of either side, or anyone else for that matter, with regard to violations by either party of human rights and international humanitarian law in the course of the armed conflict can be filed, investigated and justice rendered. That it is not able to fulfill this function effectively is the result of the inexplicable refusal of the GPH to convene the Joint Monitoring Committee mandated by CARHRIHL and not because the agreement is worthless.
In fact the regular track was poised to tackle the second substantive agenda, socio-economic reforms, and if the agreed upon timetable of 18 months was to have been pursued, the rest of the agenda, political and constitutional reforms and cessation of hostilities/disposition of forces would have followed.
Meanwhile Secretary Deles’ insistence on “reducing violence on the ground” departs from, undermines, and is not contextualized in achieving “a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict” but in fact imposes ceasefire as a precondition to talks. Moreover, the GPH is avoiding at all costs the continuation of the regular as well as the special track of the peace talks wherein both address urgent and systemic reforms that can result in a genuine and viable peace.
This time the GPH under Mr. Aquino has grossly miscalculated its gamble and, if it is effectively exposed and opposed, is bound to lose the political and moral high ground.