Lorenzana wants conditions to talks, Joma disagrees
Preconditions should be observed before the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) are resumed, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday, echoing the stand of President Rodrigo Duterte for the “last chance” of the talks.
Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison however countered this, saying that setting of preconditions would not follow The Hague Joint Declaration signed in 1992 by former president Fidel Ramos and former NDF chairman Manuel Romero.
Lorenzana raised at least seven conditions: a bilateral ceasefire; no coalition in the government with the communists; no attacks of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on government forces and civilians; no extortion activities; no destruction of properties; no recruitment by the NPA; and no roaming around with firearms.
These were the same conditions laid down by the Defense chief on Wednesday, hours before Duterte ordered the “last chance” for peace talks with the communists.
Lorenzana had softened his stand on the peace negotiations but maintained that there should be a ceasefire from both parties.
During the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday night, the President ordered the resumption of the peace talks with the communists, with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza saying Duterte was also committed to provide support, “if necessary,” in replacement with the armed rebels’ “revolutionary taxes.”
The move was welcomed by Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDF, saying there was a need for the resumption of talks on “substantive issues and complaints.”
“In the same round of formal talks, as well as in preceding consultations, the panels can present conflicting positions and subsequently seek to solve the problems on mutually acceptable grounds,” the communist leader said in a statement.
Sison, who is in self-exile in The Netherlands, emphasized three agreements drafted before the peace negotiations stalled last year.
The first one was the “substantial consensus” between the two peace panels in terms of the agrarian reform, rural development, national industrialization and economic development, which Sison described as the “most important parts” of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).
“There is already a draft amnesty proclamation to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” Sison said.
Another deal, he said, was the draft agreement on the coordinated unilateral ceasefires, which he said is under the monitoring of a joint national ceasefire committee.
“This draft agreement is in effect at the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. It is a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces,” Sison emphasized.
Contrary to the suggestion of Lorenzana, he maintained that there should be no preconditions as it would not be in compliance with The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.
Under the declaration in The Hague, the NDF and the government stated that the holding of the peace negotiations must be in accordance with “mutually acceptable principles” including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice.
“[N]o precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations,” the declaration read.
This was echoed by Sison, adding that the two “conflicting” parties have become negotiating parties to thresh out differences and complaints, and to seek solutions in achieving a “just and lasting peace.”
“As a matter of course, the two panels shall reaffirm all the existing agreements by way of ending the previous termination of the peace negotiations,” he said.
“It logically follows that the two panels shall cooperate in doing away with the obstacles and hindrances to the agreements and to the entire peace process,” Sison added.
Lorenzana again expressed his openness as well to the possible resumption of the peace talks, saying that he would support the “last chance initiative” of Duterte.
NDF legal consultant Edre Olalia pointed out that The Hague declaration does not indicate any surrender or capitulation.
“[The peace talks] shall be able to resolve the roots of the armed conflict for a negotiated political settlement, the negotiations should have no submission or dictation by one party to the other’s jurisdiction or system, among others,” Olalia said.
“In short, no prior or pre-set condition before the talks or the negotiations are held. Precisely, such matters are the proper subject of negotiations, not the other way around,” he added.