Gov't peace negotiator with NDF close to giving up

by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2013 02:09 AM | Updated as of May 04 2013 10:09 AM

government chief peace negotiator Alex Padilla -- opapp.gov.ph

Padilla says end of communism in the PH, not peace talks, is way to achieve peace

MANILA - Short of saying he has all but given up on peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), government chief peace negotiator Alex Padilla is optimistic that peace would be attained with the death of communism than by agreements at the negotiating table.

This, after peace negotiations between the government and the NDF – the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - reached yet another impasse as announced at the end of April.

“Magkakaroon ho tayo ng kapayapaan sometime in the future, hindi ko alam kung kailan, pero mangyayari ho yan whether they go back to the table or not,” said Padilla.

“Ang ibig sabihin ko dyan ay either marerender irrelevant ang mga komunista, dahil sa mga reporma rin na gagawin ng ating pamahalaan, at yung mga susunod pang mga administrasyon. Either mawawalan sila ng isyu na mapag-uusapan, o talagang igigive up na nila yung cause dahil wala nang ipaglalaban.”

Padilla believes the NDF destroyed whatever progress was made in peace negotiations since the resumption of talks in 2011, when, he said, CPP founder Joma Sison reneged on an earlier agreement to negotiate without preconditions.

RELEASE AS PRECONDITIONS

It was these preconditions in the Regular Track, Padilla said, that hampered and slowed negotiations in the past years, such as the NDF demand for the release of all NDF consultants under detention.

Sison himself proposed the Special Track with no preconditions, Padilla said, which both panels embraced as a viable way to expedite the talks.

In December of 2012, Sison and the NDF presented the panel with a Draft Declaration of National Unity, which would have created a committee that would pursue the Special Track.

When the two sides met again February of this year, Padilla said they expected the discussions to center around the said Draft Declaration.

But, Padilla said, they were surprised when Sison made 3 new demands, which government was not prepared for.

“Akala ho namin yan ang pag-uusapan (the Draft Declaration). Kaya lang pagbalik ho namin sa Amsterdam eh iniba ho ni Joma ang diskusyon. At pinipilit na niya na mayron pang ibang kondisyon na kailangang itupad, katulad ng pagtatanggal ng CCT o Conditional Cash Transfer, yung Pamana ng OPAPP, at yung Oplan Bayanihan ng atng AFP at DND.

"Sabi namin, hindi ito ang pinag-usapan. Itigil na muna natin.”

OVERSIMPLIFYING

But Attorney Edre Olalia, Legal Counsel of the NDF, accused the government panel of oversimplifying the NDF’s demands.

Olalia said the 3 demands are not new, but mere reiterations of the demands the NDF has been asking for from the beginning.

“Tingin ko deliberate yung misrepresentation, para lumalabas na kontrabida yng aking mga kliyente,” Olalia said, referring to the NDF.

“Bad faith na nga ang tinatawag ko dyan eh. Kasi ipinapatampok nilang yug mga malilit na bulubok na mga issues nang hindi naman talaga yun yung ugat ng suliranin ng armadong tunggalian."

The real issues they are fighting for, Olalia said, are far more systemic and far more complex than the existence of specific projects.

“Bakit backward ang ating agrikultura? Bakit sandamakmak ang paglabag sa karapatang pantao? Bakit mayrong foreign intervention? Bakit nagkakasakit yung mga bata sa simpleng sakit? Bakit milyun-milyon sa ating mga Pilipino ay napipilitang lumabas ng ating bansa? Maraming sakit ang lipunan natin, buksan lang natin ang mata at isipan natin, makikita nating dapat malalim, at seryoso, ang usapan.”
 
IT WAS THE CEASEFIRE

Both sides admitted that the huge blow to the talks was the failure of both sides to reach an agreement on the terms of a ceasefire.

The government wanted a unilateral and long-term ceasefire before negotiations were even to begin.

Padilla said the attack on the convoy of Gingoog City Mayor Guingona by the New People’s Army (NPA) was a glaring indication of the need to lay down arms before negotiating.

“Ang latest nga itong kay Mayor Guingona. Mukhang pasama nang pasama ang mga insidente ng karahasan. At nag-uusap pa rin, at parang walang nararating yung pinag-uusapan. Kaya kung ganun lang din, eh ayoko naman na parang niloloko natin ang tao na parang nag-uusap nga tayo, eh wala namang nangyayaring maganda sa lupa o sa ground,” said Padilla.

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP. The group has since apologized for shooting at the Guingona convoy, but reiterated that they were only implementing “revolutionary policies,” including disallowing candidates’ escorts from entering rebel-controlled areas with firearms.

The NDF, meanwhile, likened the demand for a unilateral ceasefire as an invitation to enter a boxing ring with one arm tied behind their backs.

“Walang national liberation movement sa buong mundo na basta basta na lang isusuko ang armas na walang dahilan. Siguro papayag sila kung makikita nila na mayrong katapatan, may pundamental na pagbabago, at mayron talagang good faith na nakikita,” said Olalia.

To the NDF, the government’s failure to release 13 more NDF consultants under detention demonstrates a lack of commitment.

“Ang ayaw (ng NDF) ay yung papasok sila sa isang ceasefire na walang pagtugon dun sa mga dahilan ng kanilang pakikibakang tinatawag. Pacification o surrender ang tingin nila dyan. Bakit sila susuko? Kung susuko sila nang walang dahilan, parang sumuko na lang sila nang walang katuturan.”

‘WALA NANG NANINIWALA SA KOMUNISMO’

Padilla made no attempt to mask the panel’s frustration at the latest impasse, and was candid about his own exasperation.

“Well ako ho, medyo pagod na rin ho ako. At siyemore disappointed ako sa sarili ko, dahil mukhang wala nang nangyayari dito.” Padilla said.

”Akala ko dahil kakilala ko ang mga ito, at dahil pinaglaban ko rin naman yung paniniwala nila noong panahon ng diktadura. Akala ko may mako-contribute ako sa prosesong pangkapayapaan. Binabawi ko ang aking sinabi.”

Padilla also admitted that he himself is still doubtful of the other side’s desire for a successful peace negotiation.

“Mukhang wala hong pagbabago sa kanilang stance,” said Padilla. “Nababasa ko rin ho, sinusundan ho natin ang kanilang literature. At consistent ho ang sinasabi nila na gagamitin nila ang peace negotiations para lang isulong yung armadong pakikibaka, para lang sa overthrow ng ating pamahalaan. Kaya ho ako’y nalulungkot din don.”

Nor does the chief government negotiator believe in public support for the CPP-NDF-NPA’s ideologies. “

“Kung tutuusin ho kasi, even ngayon, alam naman natin na wala nang naniniwala sa komunismo. Alam naman natin na ito’y patay na sa international arena, wala na rin silang suporta rin, wala na hong natitirang communist party of any significance. It’s an ideology that is long – well – mawawala na rin ho yan eventually, pero yun nga, it’s just taking a little more time pagdating ho dito sa Pilipinas.”

In response to Padilla’s words, Fidel Agcaoili, member of the NDF Panel, had this to say:

“Alex (Padilla) mistakenly views the demand for land reform and national industrialization as ‘communist’ demands , when they are simply patriotic and progressive demands to push the development of the economy and alleviate poverty in the country. (Padilla) is spewing these anti-communist statements in order to cover up the responsibility of the GPH in killing the peace talks with the NDFP in refusing to abide by its signature or word of honor in all previously signed bilateral agreements.”

Despite heated statements from both sides, both the government and the NDF have reiterated their desire to resume talks, and find a new approach that would allow the negotiations to move forward.

Neither of them has closed the door on the pursuit of lasting peace, and the end of the 44-year long armed struggle.

The dream remains the same. But the path to the dream remains elusive.