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Analysis: 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
Bulatlat.com

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.�

Capitulation

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