Great news. President-elect Duterte’s chief negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd said yesterday in Davao City the new administration was going to declare a ceasefire in the war with the New People’s Army. This would follow the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF). He said the resumption of the talks and the ceasefire would likely happen before the new president delivers his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.
The government will declare the ceasefire first, then the Communist side will declare their ceasefire. Then the peace negotiators get to work.
Sent to Oslo last week by President-elect Duterte, Mr. Bello, with incoming presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, met with the CPP-NDF leaders to have preliminary and preparatory peace talks.
They said the Oslo meetings were positive. They government side succeeded in convincing the Communists to resume peace negotiations from which they walked out
During the talks, Bello said they agreed to finalize the talks within the first year of the Duterte administration. This timeline seems to be more feasible than the promise made by President-elect Duterte during the campaign for the May 9 election to end crime within three to six months of assuming the presidency. We in The Times think Mr. Duterte had street crime in his mind when he made that promise and not the “crime of the NPA’s rebellion.”
Some history of the talks
In December 1986, the Cory Aquino administration and the CPP-NPA agreed on a ceasefire and engaged in peace negotiations. But by January 1987, according to the government military’s version of what happened, the members of the CPP-NPA—wishing to trigger police and military brutality that would justify the Communist decision to jettison the peace negotiations–”infiltrated a group of peasants demonstrating outside Malacañang for genuine agrarian reform and turned the march into a possible threat to the President. Government forces shot at the protesters, killing thirteen. This scuttled the peace talks as, President Aquino declared total war on the CPP-NPA, which in turn carried out attacks.”
In 1995, when our president was Fidel V. Ramos, negotiations between the Filipino Communists and the government resulted in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The JASIG paved the way for future peace talks by guaranteeing free and safe movement—without fear of search, surveillance, or arrest—throughout the country for those involved in negotiations, whether Philippine government officials, CPP-NPA members, or other NDF members. The two sides reached another important agreement in 1998, the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was an attempt to protect civilians from the violence of government and CPP-NPA shooting encounters. However, talks broke down soon after CARHRIHL, and armed conflict resumed in the presidency of Joseph Estrada.
Under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who replaced Estrada in 2001, peace talks resumed. But these negotiations got halted after the United States government listed the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization in 2002. Thereafter the Philippine armed forces increased their anti-NPA operations and by 2010 was claiming to have drastically diminished the Communist army’s ranks.
When B. S. Aquino became president in 2010, the government again attempted to hold talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. But again these talks faltered and the ceasefire went up in gunfire smoke.
We hope the friendship between President-elect Duterte and Communist leader Jose Maria Sison, who is formally known as senior consultant, will lead to the end of the CPP-NPA rebellion once and for all.