On the Prospect of Resuming the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations
Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
By Ma. Lourdes Barros, NDFP International Information Office
1. The Duterte regime and its military officials have declared so many times that they are out to finish off the armed revolutionary movement before the end of the Duterte term of office. The Marcos-Duterte tandem has also declared that it will continue the all-out war policy against the revolutionary movement. Can they really destroy the revolutionary movement in view of the root causes of the armed conflict, the worsening crisis of the ruling system and the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation?
JMS: To conjure the illusion of success in their military campaigns of suppression, Duterte and his military running dogs use the media agencies and resources of the reactionary government, the corporate media and social media to spread false reports that they have already wiped out more than three times the estimated total strength of the NPA supposedly because NPA commanders and fighters are surrendering voluntarily or getting themselves killed in focused military operations.
Duterte and his armed minions and the Marcos-Sara tandem are daydreaming about destroying the entire revolutionary movement through intelligence, psywar and combat operations. They are using the policy of state terrorism, the Anti-Terror Law so-called and the campaigns of military suppression in order to accumulate power through militarization of civilian functions and to escalate bureaucratic and military corruption from the ever increasing military budget.
The root causes of the civil war are not being addressed by the regime through its own initiatives because of its ultra-reactionary character. And it has systematically prevented peace negotiations and comprehensive agreements with the NDFP on basic social, economic, political and constitutional reforms as required by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. So long as such root causes of the armed conflict as foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism persist, the revolutionary forces of the people such as the CPP, NPA, NDFP, revolutionary mass organizations and organs of political power will continue to grow in strength and advance.
Duterte has completely terminated the peace negotiations since 2017 while aggravating the socioeconomic and political crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system in the Philippines. The Philippine economy persists as an underdeveloped, agrarian and semi-feudal economy, dependent on the export of cheap raw materials and cheap labor. He has bankrupted the economy with huge budgetary and trade deficits and is sinking it with a mounting foreign and local foreign debt. Inflation and new taxes will bedevil the people in the months and year to come.
Duterte is driving the youth and the people to join the armed revolution because of the ever worsening rule of open terror, high mass unemployment and widespread poverty. He is wittingly helping the Philippine revolution. Thus, he is called the chief recruiting and supply officer of the New People’s Army. He is expected to rig the 2022 elections in order to put in power Ferdinand Marcos, Jr and his own daughter Sara respectively as president and vice president and continue the brutal and corrupt rule of their respective parents and dynasties. The Philippine revolution is thus guaranteed to advance.
2. What do you see in the world situation that is favorable to the people’s democratic revolution in the Philippines?
JMS: The fertile ground for armed revolution is in the Philippines. The intolerable conditions of exploitation and oppression are driving the broad masses of the Filipino people to join and support the armed revolution. And to say the least, any incoming regime in the Philippines this 2022 cannot find enough relief from the increasingly crisis-stricken world capitalist system.
The world capitalist system is in trouble and in conspicuous turmoil. It is beset by serious multiple crises in a perfect storm, such as the unravelling of the neoliberal policy regime, extreme income inequality, economic depression, unsustainable public debts, escalating inter-imperialist contradictions, spread of state terrorism and imperialist aggression, threats of nuclear war, pandemic and the global heating.
In this global context, it is well recognized that underdeveloped countries like the Philippines will find themselves in much deeper economic and political trouble than ever before. There are now conditions that make the entire world capitalist system unstable and that generate anti-imperialist and democratic mass struggles in both developed and underdeveloped countries. I call the current period one of transition to the resurgence of the world proletarian-socialist revolution. The epochal struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has never been ended by the revisionist betrayals of socialism in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China
3. The Duterte regime and the Marcos-Duterte tandem in the elections reject The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, which was mutually agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP, as the framework for peace negotiations and comprehensive agreements, and insist on what they call “localized peace negotiations”. What is the difference between peace negotiations within the frame of The Hague Joint Declaration and “localized peace peace negotiations”?
JMS: The peace negotiations between the duly-authorized representatives and negotiating panels of the GRP and NDFP resulted in a series of important agreements towards a just peace. The agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on the Safety and Immunity Guarantees, Ground Rules in negotiating and drafting agreements, the Joint Agreement on the Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Operating Guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee.
These agreements were made despite the short periods of attention given by the GRP to the peace negotiations with the NDFP. And when Duterte pretended to be in a hurry to complete the peace negotiations from 2016 to 2017, the NDFP accommodated him by accelerating the negotiations and drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and there were even meetings to draft in advance the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms and the Comprehensive Agreement for the End Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.
But Duterte was never really interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP but obsessed with accumulating power and bureaucratic loot and easily decided to terminate the peace negotiations and scrap all agreements made with previous regimes of the GRP. He has chosen the so-called localized peace negotiations as a mode of intelligence gathering, psywar and combat operations, seeking to split the revolutionary movement and entrapping individuals, families, groups and communities suspected of being connected to the revolutionary movement.
Anyone who falls for the trap of the fake localized peace negotiations because of the false promises of bribes from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, Community Support Program and Barangay Development Program is subjected to close surveillance, red-tagging and misrepresentation as surrenderers. Then the military agents of Duterte have the option to kill the “fake surrenderer” anytime because they get a bigger reward for enemy casualties. They usually claim that their victim went back to the NPA and became a battle casualty. No different from Oplan Tokhang of the police in dealing with suspected drug pushers and addicts.
4. Most of the major opposition presidential candidates like Leni Robredo, Manuel Pacquiao, Isko Moreno, Leody de Guzman and Panfilo Lacson are desirous of resuming peace negotiations. What is your response to them according to the common or different positions that they have expressed?
JMS: I wish that the major presidential candidates other than Bongbong Marcos were more clear about wanting to resume the peace negotiations if they were elected president. Panfilo Lacson is most clear about being for fake local peace negotiations in which the target individuals, families group and communities suspected of being associated with the NPA are entrapped by the military, become subject to control and close surveillance and subject to becoming surrenderers and battle casualties. His idea of localized peace negotiations is similar to that of Duterte.
Even Leni Robredo has muddled her own wish to resume the peace negotiations if she became president by accepting the National Task Force-Elcac and its “whole nation” approach. There is no clarity and certainty that she is not for the fake localized peace talks and that she is really for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration.
Manuel Pacquiao sounds sincere about wishing to resume the peace negotiations and goes so far as to declare that had he not become a successful boxer he would have joined the NPA. In general terms, Isko Moreno has also declared the wish to resume the peace negotiations. Leody de Guzman has also declared the same general wish in order to address the roots of the armed conflict. But no one among the rivals of Bongbong has dared to reaffirm The Hague Joint Declaration and all the further agreements done within its framework.
5. When the CPP, NPA and NDFP were far smaller and weaker than now, they never offered to negotiate peace with the Marcos regime and the latter never offered the same. When are peace negotiations necessary or acceptable to the NDFP? Is it always necessary for the NDFP to engage in peace negotiations? When are they not necessary or acceptable?
JMS: You are correct in stating the fact that when the CPP, NPA and NDFP were far smaller and weaker than now, they never offered to negotiate peace with the Marcos regime and the latter never offered the same. From the beginning of the armed revolution in early 1969 to the downfall of the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986, a long period of 17 years, there was never any offer of peace negotiations from either the side of the Marcos regime and the revolutionary movement.
The offer of “ceasefire talks” came from the first Aquino regime, with the avowed purpose of using a six-month ceasefire agreement to set the agenda for peace negotiations. But the ceasefire agreement was broken as a result of the Mendiola massacre on January 23, 1987 and by Cory’s unsheathing the sword of war on February 7, 1987. And lessons had to be learned by the NDFP from the exposure of NDFP personnel and associates to enemy surveillance during the ceasefire talks because of the arrests and killings by the enemy that followed the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement.
In subsequent years, the NDFP has found it necessary and acceptable to engage in peace negotiations for the following concrete reasons: when she was threatened by coup attempts from 1988 onwards Aquino delegated Rep. Jose Yap to offer peace negotiations with the NDFP but she backed out of her offer by 1990. Yap continued to approach the NDFP for peace negotiations when Ramos became president. The NDFP decided to engage the GRP under Ramos in peace negotiations in order to further propagate the program of new democratic revolution, prevent Ramos from claiming that the NDFP does not want peace and encourage Ramos to repeal the Anti-Subversion Law and release hundreds of political prisoners. Indeed he repealed the Anti-Subversion Law but increased the penalty for rebellion.
It is not always necessary for the NDFP to engage in peace negotiations. It is not necessary if in the first place the GRP does not want peace negotiations. It takes two conflicting sides to mutually agree to negotiate peace. It is perfectly alright for the armed revolution to continue until complete victory if in the first place the enemy does not want peace negotiations. Thus, the revolutionary forces are not distracted by peace negotiations. It is fine when it is well known to the public that the enemy is the one that refuses to negotiate peace.
So-called localized peace negotiations under the control and surveillance by the GRP and its armed agencies are absolutely unacceptable. They resulted in many arrests and death of revolutionaries and sympathizers after the collapse of the 1986-87 ceasefire agreement. That’s why in the JASIG there is a provision for foreign neutral venue in order to enable the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Despite this prudence, when Duterte decided to murder NDFP consultants and staff personnel from 2017 onward, there have been costs and lessons for the NDFP to learn from.
6. Is it not necessary for NDFP to consider seriously and arrive at some resolution about the killing of the 16 NDFP consultants and staff personnel by the Duterte regime in relation to resuming the peace talks and guaranteeing the immunity and safety of NDFP negotiating personnel, consultants, advisers and resource persons?
JMS: Definitely, it is necessary for NDFP to consider seriously and arrive at some resolution about the killing of the NDFP consultants and staff personnel by the Duterte regime in relation to resuming the peace talks and guaranteeing the immunity and safety of NDFP negotiating personnel, staff, consultants, advisers and resource persons.
Justice must be demanded for the victims of Duterte’s murder campaign against more than 16 NDFP consultants and related personnel in violation of JASIG. They are mostly in their seventies and out of the battlefield. But they were exposed by their travels from the Philippines to abroad and back during peace negotiations. A human rights campaign must be carried out in the Philippines and abroad to seek justice for these advocates of a just peace.
If ever there will be any resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in the future, the JASIG must be improved to widen further the immunity and safety guarantees for negotiators, staff, consultants, advisers and resource persons. Whenever any of them has a well-grounded fear of persecution or faces an imminent danger from the GRP, he or should be able to apply for political asylum abroad. This point should be understood by the third-party facilitator and host governments in peace negotiations abroad.
7. What do you think of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration framework of the UN on the basis of experience in peace negotiations abroad?
JMS: In most cases that I know about peace negotiations with the DDR framework of the UN, Final Agreements are finally signed and the disarming and dismantling the revolutionary side are carried out without any substantial implementation of the agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms and guarantees for immunity and safety for the the cadres, members, fighters and the constituencies of the revolutionary movement. These become vulnerable to abductions, torture and slaughter by the reactionaries who remain in power.
8. In peace negotiations done by Latin American revolutionary movements, we know that they resulted in the disarming and liquidation of those movements. Won’t that happen to the revolutionary movement if it persists in peace negotiations in the Philippines or abroad?
JMS: The NDFP has been wise and prudent in engaging in peace negotiations with the GRP since the very start, whether this be the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration or the formal opening of peace talks in Brussels in 1995. The Hague Joint Declaration correctly sets the aims and purposes, the principles, the substantive agenda and basic methods for negotiating and arriving at agreements. And the resultant agreements are solid, just and reasonable and mutually agreeable at every step for both NDFP and GRP.
The NDFP learns positive and negative lessons from its own negotiating experience and from the negotiating experiences of revolutionary movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America, The best time really for the NDFP negotiating panel to negotiate with the GRP is when this reactionary government and its armed forces are already losing in the civil war and agrees to surrender or exchange prisoners in advance of the final offensive of the NPA.
There are also examples of negotiating experiences for two conflicting sides in a civil war to agree on forging a truce and alliance against a common enemy. Take for example the Communists and the Guomindang forging their truce and alliance against Japan in 1937. This lasted until Japan was defeated in 1945. And the Communists and the Guomindang again resorted to peace negotiations in an attempt to avert the resumption of the civil war after the defeat of Japan.
9. Is there a difference between liberal democratic teachings about people’s sovereignty and the US presumption of terrorism against revolutionary movements? What do you think of the presumption that the revolutionary forces of the people are nonstate actors and are chargeable for terrorism and all sorts of common crimes and that there is no more need to charge them with a political offense like rebellion?
JMS: There is a fundamental difference between the liberal democratic teachings about people’s sovereignty and the US imperialist presumption of terrorism against revolutionary movements. The US and its puppets have violated the principle of people’s sovereignty and the established laws on co-belligerency in civil war. The irony of it all is that since Hitlerite Germany US imperialism has been the worst of terrorist powers under the Nuremberg principle for killing 25 to 30 million people in wars of aggression after World War II.
It is wrong and unjust for the US and its puppets to misconstrue that the revolutionary forces of the people are nonstate actors and are chargeable for terrorism and all sorts of common crimes and that there is no more need to recognize the social roots of rebellion and to charge them with a political offense like rebellion. In fact, the revolutionary forces of the people in the Philippines have established their own government in the countryside. In any resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, Duterte’s designations of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP as “terrorist” must be done away with.
10. How can the GRP-NDFP peace negotiation be resumed if there are these anti-terrorist presumptions against the liberal democratic principle that rebellion is socially-rooted problem and can be solved politically and that the people have the right to rebel or revolt against the state which even if duly-constituted by basic law and by periodic elections turns tyrannical and oppressive?
JMS: After the Estrada regime terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in 1999, these could be resumed upon the reaffirmation of the The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements during the early months of the Arroyo regime. After the Arroyo suspended peace negotiations indefinitely in her own time, these could be resumed in 2016 in the time of Duterte upon the reaffirmation of the aforesaid declaration and subsequent agreements.
But I think that under current circumstances the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations can be done only after the following: the nullification of the Anti-Terror Act which is actually a law of state terrorism, the dissolution of the NTF-Elcac and the explicit withdrawal of the designation of the CPP, NPA and NDFP as “terrorist” organizations.
The devil Duterte has done everything to render impossible the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations during his regime and even thereafter. But that may be a blessing in disguise because all that Duterte has done to prevent peace negotiations compels and drives the people to wage the people’s democratic revolution until complete victory.
11. Will you still be willing to personally participate in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in the future?
JMS: Yes, so long as the NDFP asks me to perform a role that I can do competently. It is not the GRP or anyone on the GRP side who decides who works for a just peace on the NDFP side. It is quite absurd that the GRP and its military officials often prate that I am already disconnected from the Philippines, especially from the revolutionary forces, and yet they also abuse my name by putting it in their “terrorist list” or in every charge sheet against the NPA. At any rate, the focus of my work now is to consolidate my works in a series of books and make sure that my intellectual and political legacy is bequeathed to future generations of Filipino patriots and revolutionaries.
12. Have your ever regretted that you did not become a high GRP official or even GRP president and try to make the new democratic revolution from within the existing state?
JMS: Since I was 19 years old in 1958, I have dedicated myself to the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism and to the continuation of the Filipino people’s democratic revolution. Since my childhood, I knew what it would take to become a congressman, senator, governor and cabinet member because close relatives of mine have occupied such positions.
But I was never interested in attaining the level of corruption and demagoguery needed to become president. I think that becoming president in the current ruling system in the Philippines is not a sure sign of noble integrity, intelligence and competence for the benefit of the people. Crooks and butchers have become president in the Philippines.###