The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has ended more than half a decade of impasse in resuming the formal talks from August 22 to 26 and coming to an agreement in all six items in the agenda.
“The joint statement that you are about to sign is unprecedented and a step toward just and lasting peace,” said Third Party Facilitator Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende in its opening statement during the signing ceremonies.
“You are the most kind and most warm negotiators I [have] ever met in my life,” a smiling Brende quipped during the signing ceremony, eliciting laughter from the panels and guests.
Luis Jalandoni, Chair of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, concurs. In his closing statement, he said, “We cannot achieve this successful and very significant step forward in the peace negotiations without the strong commitment of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the spirit of goodwill and friendliness of our counterparts: the GRP Negotiating Panel, its Chairperson Silvestre H. Bello, the panel members and other members of their delegation.”
The Panels signed the “Joint Statement on the Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks in the Peace Negotiations” on August 26, just before 12nn, at the Saga Hall of the Scandic Holmenkollen Park Hotel.
The Panels agreed on the following six points:
1. Reaffirmation of previous agreements. The GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels reaffirmed the previously signed agreements since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and resolved to conduct formal talks and consultations in accordance with said agreements. These include the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of February 24, 1995; the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWC) of the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels of June 26, 1995; and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of March 16, 1998, among others.
The panels also agreed that the affirmed documents shall be subject to further developments and enhancements as may be mutually agreed upon.
2. Reconstitution of the JASIG List. The NDFP Negotiating Panel presented the Reconstituted List of holders of the NDFP document of identification who are protected by the JASIG. The GRP Panel acknowledged receipt of the said list. Both parties agreed on the procedure and persons responsible for the documentation of the NDFP holders of identification, safekeeping of documents and verification of the holders of identification in accordance with the JASIG.
3. Acceleration of the Peace Negotiations. The Parties agreed to accelerate the peace process and set the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms; political and constitutional reforms; and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The meetings of the aforementioned shall be held in one venue to enable the Panels to supervise their work. The RWCs-SER will endeavor to complete their work within a period of six months.
4. On Releases. The NDFP expresses appreciation for, and the GRP acknowledges, the efforts of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to fulfill his promise to order the release of the NDFP consultants in pursuit of peace and with due consideration to JASIG, as recommended by the GRP Panel. Thus, the aforesaid consultants (16 of the 18 newly released consultants attended the talks in Oslo) are enabled to participate in the peace negotiations. The NDFP thanks the GRP under President Duterte for committing to cause the early release of prisoners (as listed by the NDFP) who are sick, elderly, overly long detained and women based on humanitarian grounds.
5. On Amnesty Proclamation. The Parties agree that the GRP Panel will immediately recommend to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation, subject to concurrence of Congress, for the release of prisoners who are listed by the NDFP and who have been arrested, imprisoned, charged, and/or convicted for alleged acts or omissions within the ambit of the Revised Penal Code or special laws in connection with alleged crimes in pursuit of one’s political beliefs. The Parties will discuss the content and language of the prospective Amnesty Proclamation.
6. On Ceasefire. The CPP and the NDFP shall declare and issue an indefinite unilateral ceasefire order to the New People’s Army (NPA) and the people’s militia, upon the end of their current ceasefire order on August 27, 2016. The aforesaid unilateral ceasefire shall be in response to President Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire which was effective indefinitely from August 21, 2016. The Negotiating Panels agreed to work through their respective ceasefire committees to reconcile and develop their separate unilateral ceasefire orders into a single unified bilateral document within 60 days from the date of the Joint Statement. Said document shall be subject to the approval of their respective Principals.
7. Next Meeting. The Panels agreed to meet again on October 8-12, 2016 in Oslo, Norway.
The agreements in the Joint Statement were signed by the heads and members of both negotiating panels. GRP signatories include Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Panel Chairperson Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, Panel Members Mr. Hernani A. Braganza, Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento, Atty. Angela L. Trinidad, and Atty. Antonio B. Arellano.
For the NDFP, Panel Chairperson Luis G. Jalandoni and Panel Members Fidel V. Agcaoili, Julieta S. de Lima-Sison, Coni K. Ledesma, Asterio B. Palima, members; NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
“I am sure that the Filipino people appreciate the work of the two negotiating panels and that they are elated by the results of the formal talks. These advance their struggle for national and social liberation and for a just and lasting peace,” Joma Sison said.
We all look forward to the second round of talks in the second week of October.
Randy Felix Malayao is an NDFP consultant in Luzon. He joined the negotiating team in Oslo, Norway.