Of late, there has been a lot of confusion and misunderstanding as to the prospects and developments regarding the present peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF). As a fellow student of the peace process and having had the privilege of observing its dynamics, allow me to contribute my own perceptions and analysis of the same.
Let me start by quoting from Sun Tzu. He said:
“The skilled general subdues the enemy’s army without fighting a single battle.”
Centuries later, our own President, Fidel V. Ramos said:
“Our peace initiative has succeeded beyond our expectations. It has brought the military rebels and southern secessionists to the conference table, and fragmented the insurgent communist party to its core (underscoring supplied).”
W A R A N D P E A C E
War, it is said, is the continuation of politics by other means.
To a military mind, peace may be merely the absence of war, a lull in the fighting, a breather during protagonists prepare for the next battle. War and peace are merely two faces of the same coin. Or more aptly, they are the two blades of the same sword with which the enemy must be struck, pierced, and vanquished.
To a military mind, peace is also a weapon, at a times a more potent and lethal one, because it can deceive. Peace becomes the continuation of the war by other means.
In his Inaugural Address a year and a half ago, President Ramos announced that he would work for the attainment of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace. He called on “mutinous soldiers and radical insurgents to give up their armed struggle;” created the National Unification Commission (NCU) and task it with the recommending a viable general amnesty program and peace process; asked the Congress to repeal Republic Act (RA) 1700 and fashion out an amnesty policy that will “enable errant reformists to reenter civil society.”
He announced his government’s intention to negotiate with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the military rebels; and facilitated the release of a number of prominent political prisoners as a confidence-building measure.
Coming from one of the planners and chief implementors of counter-insurgency campaign during the past two decades, including the martial law years, these moves were received with a measure of skepticism by peace advocates and cause-oriented people’s and non-government organizations. The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), for example, entitled their assessment of the Ramos administration’s human rights policies and record “Is the President Working for Peace, or is the General Preparing for War?”.
The NDF and other armed groups responded positively, but without wariness and suspicion. After all, it was then the Chief of Staff and later Defense Secretary Ramos who repeatedly blocked and rejected all of the NDF’s overtures for the resumption of talks from 1987 to 1992, by insisting on the laying down of arms as pre-condition, and the acceptance of the 1987 Constitution as a framework for negotiations.
Further, Gen. Ramos persistently pushed, alongside massive military campaigns, a program of surrender and co-optation. He did so by promoting and encouraging peace talks with local rebel cadres and commanders, offering amnesty and personal benefits disguised as a rehabilitation programs and transparent bid to divide the revolutionary movement. He argued for the retention of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGUs) and the arming of vigilante groups despite their notoriety for committing human rights violations. He also reconstituted the Peace and Order Councils (POCs) that would coordinate the counter-insurgency efforts of military and local government officials.
Nonetheless, the administration’s peace initiative was lauded by a symphatetic press and the public at large, if only because it appeared to indicate an unexpected but welcome departure from Ramos’ previous hardline stance against negotiating with the armed rebel groups, particularly the NDF.
It has been generally understood that the Ramos government’s peace initiative and peace process consists of holding peace talks with the NDF, the MNLF and the military rebels, and arriving at the agreements that would lead to the resolution of the armed conflict.
It is also generally agreed that the bilateral talks with the NDF form the most crucial and substantial part of the peace negotiations. The armed conflict between the government and the NDF has persisted throughout the archipelago for more than two decades, with an intensity and scale that dwarfs the conflict between the government and the MNLF or the military rebels.
Tracing the history of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) shows that the number of its armed cadres has increased considerably in so short a time since it was first formed. In 1969, there were only 88 guerillas, 192 young recruits and 140 combat supporters. In 1988, even government figures showed that the CPP-NPA had a total strength of 23,060 as of end-December (Armed Forces of the Philippines reports, 1989).
Moreover, it is the NDF that has presented by far the most comprehensive critique of Philippine society and proposed the national democratic programs as an alternative. It has mobilized hundreds of thousands Filipinos from a cross section of society but mostly from the workers, peasants, and petty bourgeoise in the democratic struggle, and influenced millions more.
That the NDF has survived and even grown under the powerful attacks and the adverse conditions heaped upon it by both the Marcos martial rule and the Aquino administration, coupled by the AFP’s failure to deliver its claim of achieving the victory over the NPA year after year conclusively demonstrates the futility of using military might to defeat the movement. It underscores the need for the government to pursue other means of resolving the conflict, by going beyond a negotiated political settlement as a conductive atmosphere to address the structural causes of the armed conflict.
In its dealings with the NDF purportedly to enter into bilateral talks, events would show that the government has more than peace negotiations in mind when it speaks of the peace process. The NUC had preoccupied itself not much with the bilateral talks – rather it has extensively consulted with “all sectors concerned,” drawing up an amnesty and rehabilitation program independent and ahead of the negotiations, and even facilitating the surrender of rebel leaders despite an avowed policy not to negotiate with rebels on local levels.
T H E P E A C E P R O C E S S : F A L T E R I N G , S T A L L I N G
The quest for genuine peace, notably when armed conflict is rooted in iniquitous social conditions, has never been easy endeavor. The Philippine struggle in particular is no exception.
While the government has repeatedly claimed the success in its initiatives and pictured the peace process as steadily and dramatically surging forward, real progress has been slow sporadic. In sum, we can describe the process as sometimes faltering, sometimes stalling. Perhaps, the only positive thing that can be said of the Ramos peace initiative is that it is still alive and continues to plod, albeit deceptively.
The most significant development does not lie in the fact that the armed hostilities with the MNLF and military rebels have ceased, even if temporarily, and formal peace talks between the GRP and the NDF, not to mention numerous historical precedents here and abroad, show that neither formal talks nor truce of any form guarantee the resolution of the armed conflict. Unfortunately, government measure the success of its policy by the degree it has neutralized and pacified the armed opposition, even to the extent of gloating, albeit prematurely, at how the peace initiative has disintegrated the communist insurgency.
With the genuine peace as the ultimate goal, real progress can only be measured in terms of how much closer the process has moved towards addressing the roots of the armed conflict, i.e. towards bringing about genuine, basic social change.
It can be said then, that the most significant step so far taken has been the NDF and GRP’s formal and official approval of the Joint Declaration signed in the Hague on September 1, 1992. Not only does it set the substantive agenda for formal talks, to wit:
“The substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations shall include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces (underscoring supplied)
but it is also the objectives and modalities that might enhance their success.
With the Joint Declaration, the GRP and the NDF are placed in equal footing once negotiations are underway; furthermore, there is a positive recognition that it is only by the addressing the basic social, political, and economic problems that the armed conflict can be resolved.
Its objective goes beyond a conclusion of hostilities, amplifying the focus for the negotiations on trying to achieve a just and lasting peace, with no preconditions whatsoever.
A marked deviation from the old GRP framework is the provision declaring that negotiations should be held “in accordance with mutually acceptable principles (underscoring supplied), including national sovereignty, democracy, and social justice and no preconditions shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiation.” The Joint Declaration finally puts into agreement the above-mentioned principles as a common foundation on which the talks can be based.
While the agreement was forged only during the first round of exploratory talks, it far surpasses whatever was achieved in the 1986-87 talks, providing greater guarantees that the substantive agenda, the raison d’ etre for the talks, shall be given due importance and attention.
If there appeared to be little progress with respect to the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF for the entire year following the signing of Hague Joint Declaration, it was because the GRP, mainly through the NUC, hedged and hawed in negotiating in accordance with the provisions of the Joint Declaration.
The GRP approved the Joint Declaration subject to proposed refinements to the substantive agenda (underscoring supplied), but the ambiguity of the proposed refinements require another round of talks for clarification. GRP then set a precondition to any further talks by insisting that these be held in a local venue. It went on to delineate a peace process that would supposedly address the roots of the armed conflict, conveniently limiting these roots to age-old, innocuously-phrased issues as poverty, inequity, injustice and poor government, completely ignoring more fundamental issues such as the absence of economic sovereignty and the agrarian problem. Worse, the AFP continued its military offensives against NDF areas and predicted a military victory over the NPA by the end of 1993.
By August 1993, the GRP proposed that the next round talks be held in Vietnam. On September 15, Congressman Jose Yap of the GRP negotiating panel held preliminary talks with the NDF’s Luis Jalandoni and Jose Ma. Sison to discuss the possibility of holding talks in Vietnam. On the same day, President Ramos signed Executive Order (E.O.) 125 – “Defending the Approach and Administration Structure for Government’s Comprehensive Peace Efforts.”
E.O. 125 unilaterally delineates a “comprehensive peace process” and stresses that this process, including the negotiations, shall be approached and pursued within the context of the Philippine Constitution. The NDF charge that the E.O. 125, the GRP was once again imposing the Philippine Constitution as framework for the talks, a condition the NDF had rejected at the outset because it negates the inherent character of the negotiations. (The Joint Declaration provision that the talks be held on the basis of mutually acceptable principles was precisely a safeguard against this imposition.) While the GRP denies this, the NDF insists on the withdrawal of E.O. 125 as guarantee that the second round of exploratory talks shall be held in accordance with the Joint Declaration.
Furthermore, the said E.O. also outlines that “ a comprehensive peace process should be community-based, reflecting the sentiments, values and principles important to all Filipinos” and that “it shall be defined not by the Government alone, nor by the different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one community” as one of its underlying principles. The NDF likewise assails this because it believes that whatever is agreed upon would have to be subjected to the subterfuge of a plebiscite, thereby exposing the process to the danger of manipulation. In short, the NDF believes this may be another insidious attempt to situate the talks within the Constitution, a condition the NDF has already rejected.
It is significant to note that the GRP and the military rebels did not experience any such difficulty in proceeding with the formal talks, since the Memorandum of Agreement signed by both parties as early as December 23, 1992 specifically provided that the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa-Young Officers’ Union renounce the use of violence in pursuit of their political goals and that the talks be held within the context of the Philippine Constitution. Similarly, the MNLF, in the tripoli Agreement, recognize the sovereignty of the Philippine government.
But even with ceasefires and formal talks officially in progress between the GRP and the MNLF and military rebels, little progress if any has been made on the substantive agenda of their talks. Thus, there has been no significant movement towards the attainment of a genuine and lasting peace even with respect to the basic problems raised by the Moro people and the military rebels. Instead, there is an increasing and marked impatience over the government’s dillydallying over substantive issues, and a growing suspicion that the government is not sincere in discussing, much less addresssing, the roots of the armed conflict.
The NUC, reportedly upon direct instructions of President Ramos, even deliberately slowed down the talks in anticipation of the so called “big split” in the CPP and NDF.
Despite the slow and erratic progress, or more accuretely, in the peace negotiations, a lot has been gained towards informing the people and generating greater interest and concern on the peace issue. Or more appropriately, on the issues behind the armed conflict, and the necessary structural changes that would lead to genuine peace. People’s organizations, alliances, and NGOs have joined the ranks of peace advocates and have significantly intervened in the peace process: studying the issues from a broader and deeper perspective, taking informed and studied positions, and generally making their voices heard and their numbers count.
Contrary to the Constitutional policy of transparency in government, President Ramos has withheld the NUC’s full report from the people for still unclear reasons. But its main components and thrusts have been announced, and the entire trajectory of the peace program is clearly discernible from Ramos’ policies and actions.
The important questions are:
Will the Ramos Peace Program lead to a just and genuine peace?
Or will it be a mere pacification program that will attempt to subdue the armed challenges to the State but fail to bring peace in the long run?
Has the Ramos government discarded the worn framework of cooptation and surrender, or has it merely repackaged this into a more deceptive, if not attractive and sophisticated peace program?
T H E R A M O S P E A C E P R O G R A M U N F O L D S
Philippines 2000: Formula for Peace and Development?
The peace program which the Ramos administration is attempting to carry out is best seen in the light of its overall program of government.
This overall program has been articulated as Philippines 2000, the Ramos vision and strategy for peace and development.
It calls for the restoration of political and civic stability as the first requisite for “putting the house in order” before the development agenda could be carried out. The two other requisites are “opening up the economy” by dismantling monopolies and cartels, and addressing the problems of graft and corruption. (Ramos, Inaugural speech, 30 June 30 1992; SON address, 26 July 1993; Almonte “Notes on the Armed Challenges….” January 1993, and “Philippines 2000: Vision or Illusion?” 16 July 1993)
Viewed in this context, the peace strategy, encapsulized, consists first of a series of measures to lower the level of fighting and neutralized and pacify the armed rebel movements in the short run. Thus is attained a certain level of political stability that allows the economic development plan to be set into motion, alongside social and political reforms.
Philippines 2000 – a promise of NIC-hood as measured and exemplified by a $1000 per-capita income and growth rate of 7% – is not only the Ramos government’s avowed strategy for development. Its ostensible objective is to institute social and political reforms, an objective which cannot be gainsaid to be laudable on paper. For who can argue with a noble program having for its objectives, for instance, the dismantling of cartels and monopolies and the eradication of graft and corruption in government?
However, to ensure the attainment of NIC-hood, Philippines 2000 embraces two main characteristics which puts to doubt and serious contraindication the main goal of attaining an improved quality of life for all the Filipinos: that the economy will be foreign investments-led and aid-dependent. The equation LIC+NUC = NIC becomes apparent as the framework of this much-ballyhooed program. In short, to guarantee the attainment of a newly-industrialized country, the peace and order situation must be assuring for foreign investments and the extension is aid. In order to achieve this situation, the elements of low-intensity conflict and attraction of amnesty is wielded as the carrot and stick solution.
Seen in this light, Philippines 2000 appears to be a cleverly-disguised vehicle for further coopting and neutralizing the armed movements opposing the state. The promise of dismantling cartels and monopolies, wiping out graft and corruption in government, and finally alleviating poverty – reminiscent of Marcos’ crusade in the early years of his rule – has already been hailed as President Ramos’ program for addressing the roots of the armed conflict (Almonte, 1 July 1993).
Aside from leveling the economic playing field, political reforms ostensibly to level the political playing field as well, will be dangled to lure rebel leaders into abandoning the armed struggle and carrying their struggle to the parliamentary arena. Along with an amnesty and rehabilitation program that is pursued outside the frame of negotiations, this is expected to drive the wedge deeper between the so-called moderates and the hardline leadership of the revolutionary movement. The aim is to isolate the latter and render it politically irrelevant and military vulnerable (Almonte, January 1993; 1& 10 July 1993).
The efficacy of the initial neutralization and pacification measures depends only on the credibility and attractiveness of Philippines 2000. But the ultimate success of the peace program, even from the government’s viewpoint, hinges on its actual implementation and outcome.
A critique of Philippines 2000 belongs to another paper. Whether or not it could even take off the ground is still debatable. Even granting that the government gets the resources – estimated by government at around P690 billion – and the momentum to launch it, Philippines 2000 is bound to get caught in its own web of contradictions.
For one, it counts heavily on the goodwill and civic spirit of the very elite it claims – or pretends – to threaten.
As Almonte puts it, Philippines 2000 seeks to “conscienticize the rich.” It claims to establish and uphold free enterprise, as though monopolies and cartels were not the enivitable products of such an open system.
For another, it imposes additional sacrifices from those it claims would be the eventual beneficiaries – the people. Despite all the cosmetics and repackaging, the formula is much too worn-out to escape recognition. It is the same old promises: sacrifice, civic spirit, etc. for progress.
The government is faced with the formidable task of convincing the people to shoulder the cost and sacrifice and is preoccupied on how to handle the social forces that will oppose its programs. The marginalized population stands to suffer more because Philippines 2000 maintains the same old state of affairs: inconsistent economic policies will remain, e.g wanton land conversion, regressive tax system, preferential treatment to foreign investors. Mang Pandoy can only ask, how can there be redistribution of wealth when there is no redistribution of pain?
But a serious flaw of Philippines 2000 lies in its blind spot insofar as foreign domination of the economy is concerned. Even as it cites the experiences of the new Asian tigers, it conveniently over looks and omits these NICs’ defiance and rejection of International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) impositions in charting their development course.
It is the same flaw in the NUC-Ramos peace program. Foreign domination of the economy is not singled out as one of the major roots of the armed conflict. Thus, sovereignty and freedom are taken for granted rather than identified as requisites for genuine peace.
Neutralization and Pacification
Peace signifies not simply the absence of war and conflict, but also eradication of the structures which divest individuals of their full human potential. We are looking for a sign that peace looms in the horizon. Could this be realized in the Ramos peace program?
The Ramos peace initiative, eventually taking on more definite form as NUC’s proposed amnesty and peace program basically has the following components:
- Social, economic and political reforms;
- Consensus-building and empowerment for peace;
- Peaceful negotiated settlement with the different rebel groups;
- Reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation;
- Address concerns arising from armed hostilities; and
- Build and nurture a climate conductive to peace.
An initial perusal of the said components would indicate that the peace initiative can be reduced into a strange combination of the following characteristics:
- Amnesty and rehabilitation program;
- Community-based consultations and peace constituency;
- Continuing negotiations with the rebel groups;
- Continuing military operations; and
- Socio-economic and political reforms.
A deeper analysis, however would uncover graver flaws.
The Ramos peace program actually embarks on the following in order to implement its peace program;
- Pursue an immediate pacification or neutralization of rebels by sugar-coating surrender campaigns under an amnesty and rehabilitation program, an offer of peace talks even to extent of going through the motions of negotiation, an invitation/challenge to compete in the preliminary arena, and a promise of constitutional and electoral reforms to even up the playing field.
- Build the so-called nationwide community-based peace constituencies as base of support for the government peace program which is similar, if not a reactivation of Cory Aquino’s Peace and Order Councils or POCs. These peace constituents will be tasked to generate people’s vision and sentiments on peace favorable to or in accordance with government’s vision and program, particularly as a component of the third stage of consolidation under the Total Approach Strategy.
- An immediate, superficial political stability that is provisionally achieved will allow the implementation of the economic measures under Philippines 2000; in particular, incurring additional foreign loans and enticing foreign investments into the country. This will further fuel the programs under the Medium Term Development Plan. The government will undertake, as it has been long doing, to project the Philippines 2000 as the solution to poverty and inequity, therefore as the means to addressing the roots of the conflict. The Ramos government wagers that once the Philippines 2000 is in place and picks up, coupled with countryside development programs especially in critical areas, insurgency will further lose adherents and insurgents will become politically irrelevant.
- Pursue and intensify the Total War Policy to maintain pressure and ensure the elimination of the armed insurgents, dismantle the political and military infrastructure of the CPP-NPA whenever the opportunity arises; the total war policy was conceived not only to achieve the above but also to protect the interests and maintain the support of landlords, loggers, big business, and other members of the ruling elite.
- Maximize the ongoing debate among the CPP-NDF members on strategy and tactics to further divide their ranks. To gain strategic victory, the government may sabotage the efforts of the CPP to consolidate its ranks through intensified psychological warfare and intelligence work. This in effect will drive the wedge deeper, sow intrigues, foment disunity and abet demoralization. Cooptation and promise of reforms will further isolate the hardliners.
- If all these prove to be successful in implementation, all these will lead to the continuing demoralization and surrender of cadres and rank and file members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, the loss of support/sympathy for the CPP-NPA-NDF from the people, and the isolation of its hardcore leadership from a large section of the organization – rank and file and moderates – that may be attracted to peaceful reforms. Oplan Lambat-Bitag can be pursued to its conclusion with minimal opposition.
- The National Unification Commission. The government formed a nine-person NUC as a government body tasked to implement and supervise government’s peace initiatives and recommend to the President a peace program and an appropriate amnesty program after consultations with all concerned sectors.
a. Composition of the NUC – the NUC was a combination of highly credible and respected personalities, known peace and human rights advocates on one hand, (Commission on Elections Chairperson Haydee Yorac, Senator Wigberto Tañada, Bishop Fernando Capalla, and Protestant leader Feliciano Cariño) with the President’s trusted aides, mostly former close military aides (Defense Secretary Renato de Villa, General Eduardo Ermita, and Senator Rodolfo Biazon), plus an emissiary to the NDF (Representative Jose Yap) and a legal bureaucrat (Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon) on the other.
De Villa played a dominant role in the NUC; he practically; spoke for the President in the NUC, but maintained a relatively low profile and the public. This was in turn camouflaged by the high-profile stance of Yorac, Yap, Biazon, Drillon, Cariño and Capalla.
Only Senator Tañada and Congressman Yap had, in some instances, expressed views and taken positions contrary to the government line and framework, but because of this they were marginalized in the NUC.
The composition of the NUC purports a democratic process taking shape considering the variance in the political backgrounds of the members. However, despite the difference in political backgrounds, not to mention the fact that several have a common military background, all NUC members have no choice but to work within the constraints of the existing government policy.
b. The occasional NUC supra-government stance created an illusion of independence, but in truth, taking all events into consideration, the NUC never really took a position contrary to the old government framework.
c. The NUC facilitated and/or stalled negotiations with armed groups. The facilitation or stalling depended largely on whether the had gained headway in coopting the other party to enter the 1987 Philippine Constitution frame, and whether propaganda points could be gained by the government.
One motive behind GRP’s insistence to put the bilateral talks within the frame of the GRP Constitution is that the Hague Joint Declaration is seen as a concrete recognition on the part of the government of the international stature of the Philippine armed conflict. A belligerency status is forthcoming from the international community so the GRP has tried to downgrade the efficacy of the Hague Joint Declaration by forcing the issue of putting the talks within the context of the Constitution.
On the other hand, the talks with military rebels are pushing through because to begin with, there is no disagreement on the Constitutional frame; it even becomes easier because the military rebels are willing to renounce the use of violence, enter into the parliamentary arena, and recognize the AFP as the sole legitimate armed force.
d. The NUC recommended a peace program that is basically a blueprint for surrender, cooptation, and token reforms that will preserve the status quo rather than address the real roots of the armed conflict. Reliable sources report that De Villa and company have been reported to have railroaded certain important provisions in the final NUC report, including those dealing with the conduct of the war and disposition of forces. This information puts into further doubt GRP’s sincerity in pursuing a genuine peace proram.
- Attract rebels. GRP has embarked on an all-out thrust of attracting rebel-mainly those still in the field or in the underground. It is not likely, however that political detainees may also be a tempting target. The process involves offers of amnesty and rehabilitation, and a rosy prospect of participation in the parliamentary arena.
a. Surrender, surface/safe conduct—-The surrender contemplated here is not necessarily surrender with honor or dignity but rather a surrender that would play on the battle fatigue or demoralization of the rebels; however way the surrender would be premised, the financial package and benefits (which includes cash awards such as cash-for-arms. Reward money given to surrenderees, and livelihood programs) shall definitely accompany each surrender.
b. Surrender with “honor and dignity”—- This surrender would project the viability of continuing their struggle through parliamentary means. The Government has ostensively cleared the way for the rebels to return to the fold by repealing the Anti-Subersion Law (RA 1700), a repressive law of Marcos descent which was made especially handy during the Aquino Administration. The GRP tries to bait the rebels by promising Constitutional amendments that would address the root causes of the armed conflict, particularly political and electoral reforms to even up the playing field and delegate to Congress the task of amending the Constitution to institute reforms. Congress is therefore expected to make amendments that will appear to be far-reaching and basic reforms, but in truth these reforms will itself perpetuate the very system which convinced the cadres to resort to armed struggle in the first place.
c. Surrenders of prominent national and loose personalities in the revolutionary underground such as Hector Mabilangan are given big publicity. This publicity is meant to picture the revolutionary movement as a fast depleting force. It is not far-fetched however that the so-called prominent personalities in the underground movement are in fact deep penetration agents of the government posing as revolutionaries.
It has been observed that there seems to be an unrsolved issue as to whether amnesty should be general, unconditional or selective (the main proponent of which is the Department of National Defense); but there is a general agreement that amnesty should be offered regardless or independent of the negotiations with armed groups.
- Pursue bilaterals talks but “canalize” and limit these to talks within the framework of the RP Constitution. In response to the consistent refusal of the NDF to be situated within the framework of the Constitution, and realizing further that GRP’s propaganda points have become scarce, the NUC eventually tended to downgrade the provisions of the Hague Joint Declaration. Their constant pronouncements of sincerity could not conceal the real purpose as unmistakably reflected in their actuations, to wit:
- The GRP insisted on a local venue for the formal talks. Their insistence on a local venue was to emphasize and project that the insurgency problem was internal in nature. If successful, they could effectively deprive foreign sovereigns a consequential basis for recognizing the NDF as a belligerent.
- The GRP reformulated the substantive agenda of the peace talks to downplay the NDF proposed substantive agenda; it also used consultations to water down the roots of the armed conflict which they have for so long refused to address.
- The GRP engaged in hard selling the option of reforms and agreements within the frame of RP Constitution, especially in the form of immediate “doables.”
It can be said further that the GRP had consciously embarked on a deliberate and systematic misrepresentation and distortion of facts regarding the ongoing negotiations. This campaign helps project the GRP as an entity clothed with reasonableness and with an undersigning interest in holding the talks while projecting the exact opposite and discrediting all sincere efforts insofar as the NDF is concerned.
- Build a community-based constituency and generate a mass-based and community-based support for the government’s peace program.
a. The peace constituency is patterned after, and is in fact basically a continuation of, the Peace and Order Council concept. The community-based peace constituency becomes the third leg of the POC with the local government and the military comprising the two other legs. A sound appreciation of this pattern can be made if we could recall the POCs’ relevance to the Total War Policy.
As backgrounder, the Total War Policy or Strategy implemented during and after the Aquino administration, consists of four phases or stages, which are (1) Clearing (2) Hold and Defend (3) Consolidation and (4) Development. POCs were utilized to assist in the last three stages of the Total War Strategy. In fact, during the last round of peace talks, POCs became visible and conducted localized peace talks with the armed groups in the regions. Their aim was to divide the armed movement and draw the rebels back into the mainstream, promising a new life under a cooperative system, and a financially rewarding livelihood program.
b. The NUC consultations were ostensibly meant to:
• generate inputs from all sectors of society, for the formulation of a peace program;
• generate awareness and interest among all the citizenry, whether organized or not, in the issue of peace;
• mobilize the citizenry’s active support for and participation in the peace process, in both the formulation and the implementation of a peace program…
The NUC consultations were held principally to serve a counter-insurgency function. The NUC maneuvered and geared consultations to reflect ultimately the government’s principles, premises and design, relegating and in fact downplaying the NDF alternatives for a genuine and lasting peace.
c. The roots of conflict were watered down to issues on poverty, inequity, injustice, graft and corruption, totally ignoring and muddling the basic issues raised by national formations, people’s organizations, and NGOs such as land reform, national sovereignty, nationalist industrialization, debt repudiation and IMF-WB impositions.
d. The Peace Consultations were availed by the government as a pretext to open talks with and offer safe-conduct passes to local cadres. This practice is in direct contravention of the spirit and letter of the Hague Joint Declaration, thereby downgrading and sabotaging the bilateral talks at the national level. When the NUC claims that no talks are being held with the local leaders, it is clearly engaging in falsehood. In the meantime, it seeks out and offers safe-conduct-passes to local readers who may want to participate in the consultations.
- Continue military operations. As universally understood, government military operations are meant to protect our democratic ways and preserve our gains; sadly however, the military operations are meant to:
a. Maintain pressure on the CPP-NPA-NDF and dismantle its political and military infrastructure without seriously seeking to resolve the root causes of the armed conflict. It appears the government has not learned well from the history of the Philippines armed movement; with the death of one cadre, more are sure to take his place. The cycle can only be broken once government comes into terms and faces head-on the root causes of the armed struggle.
b. Protect the interests of the ruling elite. This explains why logging operations closely follow military operations and why CAFGUs are being subsidized by the landlords, as have been observed in the Negros islands.
c. Terrorize the broad masses of the people and keep them from joining, much less supporting, the revolutionary movement.
d. Implement Oplan Lambat-Bitag III: conduct general military offensives and achieve strategic military victory over the CPP-NPA.
- Economic Development Program. The government shall embark on a national economic program and implement local development programs having as its apparent objectives, the “alleviation of poverty’, “eradication of graft and corruption”, “bringing government services to the people,” and many other “development” programs emphasizing the people’s interest in all cases. This is nothing but the implementation of the development phase of Oplan Lambat-Bitag. In actuality:The Meduim-term Development Plan of Philippines 2000 does not offer new strategies for growth and development; great emphasis and great faith is placed on the private sector and promises an even playing field as though big business will not exercise control to their own benefit.
MTDP and Philippines 2000 do not address the problems of land reform, debt management, financing, etc. but instead relies heavily on foreign investments and external aid.
The management of finances focuses more on pouring millions of pesos into identified critical areas in the name of development. These critical areas are the areas so identified by the military which demand infusion of resources to support the counter-insurgency program.
The Ramos Peace Program, as designed and currently being carried out, cannot lead to a lasting, just and geuine peace. It fails to identify the true root causes of the armed conflict and therefore will be unable to address these root cases.
Instead of a blueprint for basic structural reforms to remove the roots of rebellion, it is a hodgepodge of token reforms and palliatives that will only tend to perpetuate the unjust social system and in the long run aggravate the conditions of the exploited and oppressed.
Rather than pursue a negotiated settlement with the armed opposition, especially with the NDF, the Ramos Peace Program offers an amnesty and rehabilitation program which is nothing more than a charade of cooptation and surrender. And to entice the more principled who would not give up their arms in exchange for mere personal benefit, electoral reforms are promised to even up the playing field and draw the rebels into the parliamentary theatre.
The Ramos Peace Program has not departed from the old GRP framework of seeking peace by cooptation and surrender of the rebel groups, especially the NDF. It continues to insist on working exclusively within the context of the Philippine Constitution.
“The ultimate aim,” Pres. Ramos said, :is for legal and constitutional processes to prevail…” The ultimate objective is to stamp out rebellion and achieve political stability.
There is only one criterion for making recommendations—- that these should be departures from past policies which have proven to be failures.
The criterion for alternatives must be progressive, in the sense that these are improvements of existing policies and are characterized by substantial changes. The alternatives may also be described to an extent as radical (from the root word radix, meaning roots), since they attempt not only to cure the symptoms, but to get to the roots of the problem.
In this light, we venture then to advance the following initial recommendations:
- The people must actively intervene in the peace process. People’s organizations, NGOs, and concerned individuals should underscore the basic issues and the real roots of the armed conflict that need to be addressed in order to bring about genuine and lasting peace.
- The Government should pursue bilateral talks with the NDF in earnest and immediately and sincerely work for a negotiated political settlement based on the agreement outlined in the Hague Joint Declaration.
- The offer of amnesty and the eventual disposition of forces should be pursued in the context of a negotiated political settlement and not as a mere subterfuge to coopt the elements of the armed struggle and decapitate its ranks through surrender.
- The Government should adopt goodwill measures and build a favorable climate for the peace process such as the release of political prisoners and the halting of their total war against the people. The NDF should also release their prisoners of war as a counterpart goodwill measure.
- The Government should respect the revolutionary integrity of the NDF and should therefore desist from exploiting their internal problems by sowing dissension and bloody intrigues; they should also desist from engaging in localized talks and from granting so-called amnesty and rehabilitation programs outside of the substantive agenda of the bilateral talks.
- The Government should revoke Executive Order 125. It should realize that EO 125 is an elemental obstruction to the process.
- The Government should not be over-cautious over the belligerency status of the NDF. It should adopt a uniform norm or standard with respect to the issue of belligerency in dealing with all revolutionary forces.
A P P E N D I X
HAGUE JOINT DECLARATION
We, the undersigned emissary of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the undersigned representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have held exploratory talks at the Hague, the Netherlands on August 31- September 1, 1992 and have agreed tp recommend to our respective principals the following:
1. Formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF shall be held to resolve the armed conflict.
2. The common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
3. Such negotiations shall take place the parties have reached tentative agreements on substantive issues in the agreed agenda through the reciprocal working committees to be separately organized by the GRP and the NDF.
4. The holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.
5. Preparatory to the formal peace negotiations, we have agreed to recommend the following:
a. Specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations; and
b. The substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations shall include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
Signed on September 1, 1992 at The Hague, The Netherlands.
Rep. JOSE V. YAP LUIS JALANDONI
Rep. Eric D. Singson Coni Ledesma
Teresita de Castro Byron Bocar
Jose Maria Sison