Category: peace talks

SONAkakasindak 2017

imagine. the president who disappeared on us twice last june (including on Independence Day) for several days at a time due to undisclosed health issues — nagpahinga lang daw — delivered a two-hour speech in congress, then went outside the batasan and berated the leftist rallyists for some fifteen minutes, and then went back in for an hour-long press conference.  all this with nary a hint or whine of weariness.  awesome performance for a 72-year old.  i wondered what he was on, some upper, surely?  or maybe he was just still super high from the overwhelming support of the house and the senate that had recently okayed the extension of martial law in mindanao for another 5 months?

whatever.  the speech was vintage duterte.  belligerent, brusque, bellicose.  unrelenting on the drug war.  no apparent change in strategy: first, kill the demand, that is, kill the addicts.  second, stop the supply, that is, the drug lords, and so he continues to seek the death penalty.  meanwhile, or should i say, otherwise, nakita naman natin ang nangyari kay espinosa the druglord at kay marcos the policeman.  yung una na-rub-out while in jail, yung huli nasuspend sandali tapos naibalik rin sa puwesto at tila mapo-promote pa in 6 months.  ika nga ni duterte sa minamahal niyang mga pulis at sundalo, yang mga human-rights-human-rights, wala yan! I.HAVE.YOUR.BACKS!  ang sweet, di ba.

but i must say, he pushed the right buttons a few times — calling out the mining industry that pollute farms and seasides  and, even, calling for industrialization, wow!  calling out the supreme court for the RH TRO, and, even, america for refusing to return the bells of balangiga — quite effectively confounding critics, raising hopes anew, even if only a little.  cheap thrills.

the bad news — though good news to many — is that the president seems to be gearing up to call off the peace talks with the Left.  i suspect that if there had not been that ambush on his PSG the week before the SONA (No ceasefire, no prior notice: Joma explains attack on PSG convoy.  read also satur ocampo’s Gov’t ceasefire demand snags peace talks anew) the president’s men would have come up with some other reason anyway.  sa joint session of congress pa lang nuong july 22, when it convened to vote for the extension of martial law in mindanao, maya’t maya ang ungkat sa CCP-NPA, almost in the same breath as the maute and abu sayyaf and other terrorist groups.

but the peace talks, the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) round, especially, is our only hope for a truly “comfortable life for all.”  without it, duterte’s campaign promise of a new economic model that will lift the masses from poverty will remain just that, a promise.  balik na naman tayo sa trickle-down eklat and dole-outs just because the president’s economists are loathe to give up the goose that lays their ilk (and only their ilk) the golden eggs, pardon the cliche.

nakakasindak sa lahat, of course, is that the mayor who called for a stop to lumad killings in 2015 is now the president who threatens to bomb lumads and their schools to extinction for being allied with the Left.  if the president follows through on this, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  again, pardon the cliche. (we have become a nation of cliches.)

i guess, like erap, the president made campaign promises vis a vis corruption and the economy that he didn’t realize were undoable until he was himself in the driver’s seat?  i guess it was too good to last, the president’s accommodation of the Left that is, was? unprecendented in recent history.  and then, again, Can DU30 afford a break with the Left?   read marlen v. ronquillo:

A year ago, in his SONA, Mr. Duterte promised a “peace for the living“ with a peace pact with the Left and the Muslim secessionist groups in mind. His accommodation of the Left is unprecedented in recent history. Through a series of tactical moves—naming Leftists to his official family, convening a serious peace panel that promptly opened up peace talks with the leaders of the Left, and supporting that peace process wholeheartedly—his strategic goal was to make history by going the way of Colombia in dealing with the FARC.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte dealt with the Left. He left the Left alone and the Left left him alone to pursue his Davao agenda. But that was a smaller, more manageable setting.

Now, all of these grand initiatives on a national scale are in jeopardy.

Question: Can DU30 afford a break with the Left, the one sector that he wants on his side and did a lot of political accommodation to win it?

The Left is often dismissed as a “sunset group” but the application of that is limited. As a rebel group with an agenda of seizing state power to put in place a government of central planning guided by Marx, Lenin and Mao, that is deemed as next to impossible. Its chosen road to state power, that of encircling the seat of power from the countryside and peasant hordes overwhelming the reactionary forces of the state, is now a failed approach. As far back as the 1970s, a group of heretics led by the late Popoy Lagman wanted to change strategy from the Maoist version to the Nicaraguan model.

… While the Left has a very narrow path to seizing state power, it remains the most potent enemy of the established order. It is the only group with an above-ground force, an army of ideologues that can argue from the mainstream, a cadre of Marxist intellectuals that can speak from a perch of high moral ascendancy. There is nothing more morally right than preaching from a perch of liberating the poor, the huddled masses.

The Left is spread out and almost omnipresent. It has leaders and advocates from the academe, the small businesses, organized labor, the peasantry, the Church and almost every institution that matters.

There are uninvolved people who nonetheless believe in the rightness of economic parity, social justice and egalitarian causes, which makes them sympathetic – and closer to the left-wing beliefs – than any other belief system, including the flawed liberal democracy. I know of many good and decent people under this category.

And when the Left opposes a particular government, it is with fire in the belly and the rage is not dictated by focus groups and survey results. The mainstream oppositionists would not oppose a President as popular as Mr. Duterte. The Left will fight and fight to the death the most popular President on the planet.

Mr. Duterte knows this. Deep in his heart, he does not want an enemy as relentless and as committed as the Left.

What the strategists of Mr. Duterte fear most is a tactical coalition between the Left and the mainstream groups. Once this happens, the opposition to Mr. Duterte will not be of the timid, calibrated kind. But the type and kind of protests that embody the fury of the Left – go for broke and without heed of the consequences.

At this point, the last thing Mr. Duterte needs is the Left protesting on the streets with fury in the eyes and fire in the belly.

duterte, joma, peace talks

wrapping up the anti bio of national artist ishmael bernal, trying very hard not to be distracted by president rodrigo duterte’s mind-blowing first days in office, but happening to catch the new prez addressing the armed forces and talking about joma sison like he was the nicest man in the world! that calls for a blogbreak.  joma and ishmael were classmates in UP diliman in the late fifties, and when ishma was claimed by the communist party when he died, his sosyal showbiz friends were so scandalized.

anyway, ishma always thought it was crazy of joma to continue leading a revolution long-distance via the internet, sana umuwi na lang siya.  oo nga naman.  so it was good news that joma was talking of coming home for peace talks, basta may ceasefire at palalayain ang political prisoners.  ‘yun nga lang, joma’s CCP and NPA are on the US state department’s list of terrrorist orgs, and so medyo tagilid, delikado, nanganganib ang pag-uwi unless the president can prevail upon the US to give peace a chance, hope springs eternal.

meanwhile, this piece on the history of the peace talks initiated by FVR in 1992 is essential reading.

Goodby again, this time for good
Paulynn P. Sicam

I’ve said goodbye to government work four times. The first was in 1994 when I retired from the Commission on Human Rights. Working in government was not at all on my radar screen, but when President Cory Aquino called to ask me to fill a vacancy at the CHR, I could not refuse. I was too invested in the struggle for freedom and her presidency to say no.

It was alternately frustrating and satisfying being a human rights commissioner. The cases we handled were horrifying and plentiful, but my work was in human rights education and I felt we made real progress inculcating human rights values in the military and police officers we trained. My group had developed a human rights training module that was interactive and personal, and had caught the attention of other human rights educators, including UNESCO, which gave it a prize in 1994.

Before long, I was back in government. Peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines represented by the National Democratic Front were brewing and I was asked to be a consultant to the Philippine panel led by the venerable Ambassador Howard Dee. It was hard work, requiring much discussion, thought and analysis. There I learned that universal concepts such as national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, confidence building measures and safety and immunity guarantees, do not necessarily mean the same on different sides of the peace table.

The much-anticipated formal talks opened in Brussels in June 1995, only to collapse the following day when the NDF refused to show up for the next session until we brought to Brussels their comrade who had been arrested. It would be the first in a series of impasses and adjournments on the issue of release of detained communist leaders that would render the peace talks inutile and fruitless for the next 20 years.

Although the talks proceeded and many documents were signed, it was merely a game of basketball where all we could do was dribble, per President Ramos’ order, to keep the talks going. The strategy suited the Communists well. When the process began in 1992, the CPP-NPA was in deep trouble. It had killed off hundreds of its own people in massive internal purges, and many of its intellectuals had either quit or were expelled for disagreeing with Joma Sison on matters of strategy and ideology.  By the end of the Ramos presidency, the Party had rebuilt itself, thanks to the free movement of its leaders made possible by safety and immunity guarantees given them by government.

President Arroyo was chummy with Bayan Muna, the leftist party list, and she promptly re-opened peace talks after Estrada resigned and she took over Malacañang.  But after two years, the table was in trouble. The EU and the US had issued separate terrorist lists that included the CPP-NPA and Joma Sison himself. When government refused to intervene, the NDF panel walked out of the talks.

A new panel was organized in 2005 and I was invited to be one of three women in a group of five to try and re-open talks with the NDF.  But after several exploratory meetings in Oslo and actual agreement to re-open talks, the same issues festered: terrorist listing and the release of jailed CPP-NPA leaders. By the time President Noynoy Aquino took over, the talks had been on a seven-year impasse.

I was relieved to leave government and the intractable peace process, but in 2011, I was again invited to join the technical committee of the new panel, this time for my so-called “institutional memory.” Although the talks began with a lot of goodwill among friends who had fought against the dictatorship together, it quickly deteriorated into another impasse, on the same issue that the Communists have always insisted on — the release of their jailed leaders. As they did with every panel, the NDF declared that they would just wait for a more open, friendlier government to resume talks with.

They seem to have hit pay dirt with President Duterte who calls himself a leftist, a socialist, and a friend of the CPP-NPA. It is looking like the party will finally get its way: the impending release of their jailed leaders, appointments to key Cabinet posts, and virtual clearance from the president to continue “taxing” corporations and ordinary citizens in exchange for leaving them alone.

I leave the peace process for good with mixed emotions. Several generations of negotiators, including members of the present team, have tried to build on past friendships and common histories to reach a peace agreement with the CPP-NPA-NDF, to no avail.  After dealing with the NDF for 22 years, I am convinced that to the communists, the peace process is a one-way street that they are on only to get as many concessions as they can from government without conceding anything in return — until they reach their goal either of a coalition government or total political victory over our constitutional government.

I truly wish the Duterte government and its recycled peace negotiators better success in dealing with the CPP-NPA’s tired old scheme.