The National Democratic Front (NDF) sees accelerated peace negotiations with the incoming government of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte because of his accommodating stance on the revolutionary movement.
“After 15 years of stalled NDF-GRP [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] peace negotiations, the Filipino people are highly desirous of progress in efforts to attain a negotiated political settlement of the long-running civil war,” the group said in a statement.
“Certain progressive aspects in Duterte’s discourse, his recognition of both the political legitimacy and armed political strength of the revolutionary movement and his history of cooperation with the revolutionary forces in Mindanao make possible the acceleration of peace negotiations,” it explained.
Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City for over 20 years, has built friendly ties with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Davao and other parts of Mindanao, often acting as go-between in the release of police, soldiers, and other captives seized by the rebels during guerrilla operations.
The NDF is the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA, which has been waging a decades-long armed struggle against the government.
According to the NDF, the CPP and other revolutionary forces welcomed Duterte’s plan to seriously pursue the peace negotiations as well as his plan to visit its senior political consultant, Jose Ma. Sison and the Netherlands-based NDF peace panel.
“The CPP fully supports the NDF proposal put forward by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, to pursue NDF-GRP peace negotiations under the Duterte government with the aim of forging an agreement to establish a government of national unity, peace and development,” the group said.
“Duterte and Prof. Sison can forge a plan for accelerated peace negotiations with the aim of forging comprehensive agreements addressing the substantive issues in a matter of a few months,” it added.
The NDF said the CPP and NPA may consider proposals for a mutual ceasefire during the definite period of peace negotiations.
“The revolutionary forces expect Duterte to recognize and uphold all standing agreements signed by the NDF and the GRP over the past 20 years,” it said.
These agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 which has served as framework and anchor of the negotiations, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law of 1998.
To boost peace negotiations, the communist group said that the Duterte government should first consider the release of all detained NDF consultants.
“They (NDF consultants) were treacherously arrested in violation of earlier agreements and made to suffer unjust prolonged imprisonment,” the NDF said.
According to human rights group Karapatan, there are 18 NDF peace consultants out of the 543 documented political prisoners in the country. Also, 88 political prisoners need proper medical treatment.
The formal peace talks with the communist movement was stalled in 2004 after the NDF withdrew from the negotiating table because of the inclusion of Sison and the CPP-NPA in the US terrorist list.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said that the government conducted several rounds of informal talks with the help of the Norwegian government which acted as Third Party Facilitator for the talks since 2001.
The OPAPP said the informal talks were stymied by prejudicial questions, impediments and preconditions raised at the negotiating table.