What went before: Peace talks between government and communist rebels
Peace talks between the government and communist rebels have been on and off for nearly three decades, with negotiations getting suspended several times.
In May, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison said he “remained willing” to meet with President Benigno Aquino III to help jump-start the stalled peace talks despite the arrest of alleged top CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Austria, in March.
Sison made the remarks via Skype at a forum in Hong Kong, which was attended by an audience of mostly domestic workers. At the time, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said “any serious proposal toward resuming peace talks should be coursed through our third-party facilitator and not through the media.”
Deles was referring to Norway, which is brokering the peace negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
It was the second time that Sison spoke about his willingness to meet with Mr. Aquino to revive peace talks with the communist insurgents, following the administration’s successful peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government and the MILF signed a peace agreement in March, ending more than four decades of conflict.
In July, the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP, released four policemen who were captured when the insurgents raided the Alegria municipal hall in Surigao del Norte province.
Malacañang said the release was a welcome development. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “We hope this is a groundbreaking event where the NDF-CPP-NPA would look forward to pursuing the peace process without any conditions. We have always stated government is ready to sit down with them. We are hopeful the peace table would move forward with respect to the left.”
Calls to resume talks
On April 1, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the peace panel of the NDFP, said the communist insurgents had long been calling for the resumption of peace talks, contrary to statements attributed to government peace negotiator Alex Padilla that the rebels revived calls for a return to the negotiating table only after the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria.
Jalandoni, in an e-mail statement, said he and Padilla met on Feb. 27 and Padilla at that time knew that the insurgents had wanted to resume the talks. The Tiamzons and five other alleged members of the CPP Central Committee were arrested three weeks later in Carcar City, south of Cebu City.
The insurgents’ recent call for the resumption of peace talks was a reversal of their statement in December last year. On its 45th anniversary, the CPP declared it would no longer pursue negotiations because of the Aquino administration’s “unwillingness to negotiate a just peace.”
“It has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations,” the CPP said.
Despite the party’s declaration that it would not be returning to the negotiating table during the Aquino administration, the government said that it remained committed to forging peace with the communist insurgents.
According to Sison, it was the administration that decided to terminate peace negotiations, but Deles said it was the NDFP, the political arm of the CPP, that “killed” the talks because of its insistence on preconditions before negotiations could resume.
In February 2011, the two parties met in Norway but failed to reach a settlement, particularly on such issues as the release of detained communist insurgents and the declaration of a longer ceasefire. The peace process has not moved since then.
In October 2010, the Aquino administration expressed desire to revive the negotiations with the formation of a new panel to talk with the NDFP and the NPA.
During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the peace talks also broke down.
In June 2001, the government unilaterally suspended the negotiations to protest the assassination, allegedly by the NPA, of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo and Quezon Rep. Marcial Punzalan.
In 2002, then Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jose Mabanta said a faction led by Tiamzon, who then headed the NPA, opposed peace talks with the government, adding that the leadership struggle was blocking the resumption of peace talks.
List of ‘terrorists’
In 2004, negotiations were scuttled anew with the NDFP accusing the Arroyo administration of “sabotaging” the talks by pressing for the insurgents’ surrender upon the signing of a final peace agreement.
Jalandoni said in a 2005 interview that the government wanted the NDFP to sign a “prolonged ceasefire” before the talks resumed, as well as a final peace agreement that would mean the surrender of the NPA.
He accused the government of being behind the listing of the NDFP as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union in 2002, and of using the terrorist tag to force it to sign the agreement.
Jalandoni said the NDFP would rather wait for a new administration than resume talks with the “crumbling” Arroyo administration.
In June 2006, then President Arroyo declared an all-out war on the communist rebels and set aside P1 billion for the military and the police to crush the insurgency.
In early 2007, Jalandoni said Norway was again willing to host exploratory peace talks in Oslo, but the Philippine government insisted that the NDFP first agree to a ceasefire before talks could resume.
In July that year, both Jalandoni and Sison rejected a proposal for a three-year ceasefire as a condition for resuming the talks. This aimed to “crush” the communist insurgency without dealing with the roots of the conflict, they said.
Sison said formal talks could resume only after the government did the following: stop extrajudicial killings, abductions, tortures, mass displacement of people and other human rights violations; stop the terrorist blacklisting of the CPP, NDFP and the NPA; and indemnify victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
In 2008, the government negotiating panel asked the NDFP to agree to a ceasefire as a condition but was rejected anew. The NDFP feared that as soon as it approved a prolonged ceasefire, the Arroyo administration would deem all previously signed agreements superseded, and surrender negotiations would take the place of substantive talks on basic reforms. Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives, opapp.gov.ph
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.