Joma: Series of deal breakers from Duterte side

Jofelle Tesorio, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Jul 04 2018 08:48 AM

Joma: Series of deal breakers from Duterte side 1
National Democratic Front chief political consultant Jose Maria "Joma" Sison. Jofelle Tesorio, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

UTRECHT, The Netherlands - What led to the tit-for-tat between the Philippines’ Left and the government recently?

During the stretch between March and June this year, four backchannel talks were held in Utrecht, The Netherlands to pave way for the signing of a peace accord between the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

According to NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison, during these backchannel talks, the two parties agreed to include in the package agreement the following: 
1) coordinated unilateral ceasefires, 
2) GRP certified copy of presidential proclamation to amnesty and release of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP and 
3) Agrarian Reform & Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development sections of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms). 

This interim peace package would have been signed during the resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway in June 28-30. During this period, the two parties remained hopeful and even laid the prospects of Sison, who is exiled in the Netherlands for 30 years, coming home to the Philippines in late August. 

However, on June 14, President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the resumption of formal peace negotiations to be held in Oslo. He wanted a 3-month review of the agreements reached during back-channel talks and all peace accords by the past administrations.

While the GRP panel maintained the government is still open to negotiation and the NDFP council said it will wait for the results of the three-month cancellation of formal talks, in Sison’s opinion it is a deal-breaker, taking this as an excuse of the government for backtracking and not honoring agreements.

According to Sison, “it is difficult for the NDF to expect that Duterte will come out of its three-month suspension of reviewing the entire process and all agreements since 1992.”

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said while this suspension is being imposed, Proclamation Number No. 360 (which terminated peace negotiations last Nov. 23) and Proclamation No. 374 (designating CPP-NPA as terrorist organization) are still in place.

Another deal breaker, Sison added, is the insistence of Duterte and other government officials to hold the peace talks in Manila instead of a neutral venue abroad, which he said is a violation of the earlier Joint Agreement on Safety and Security Guarantees (JASIG).
“Duterte cannot just impose Manila as the venue. We wouldn’t want...peace negotiations to be under the control, surveillance, manipulation and duress of Duterte and the military…You cannot use that demagogic line that as being Filipinos we should talk in Manila. We are Filipinos indeed, but we are not friends. We are fighting a war,” Sison said.

On June 28, Sison gave a 10-point presentation suggesting that the resumption of peace talks will be rendered impossible if the GRP demands that the venue for peace negotiations be shifted to Manila. "Instead of participating in peace negotiations it is relatively easier and more productive for the NDFP to participate in the Oust Duterte movement and to prepare for peace negotiations with the prospective administration that replaces the Duterte regime," he said. 

Flash back two years ago when Duterte was elected. Sison’s Facebook timeline on June 30, 2016, which he also reposted as memory on June 30, 2018, contained a message entitled “Sa Selebrasyon ng Tagumpay sa Pagbabago Ni Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Guro at Kaibigan ni Presidente Rodrigo Roa Duterte”. 

The message also had caricature of him and Duterte holding a peace dove being released from a cage and another edited picture of him and Duterte together with the word ‘unity’ in the background. 

In this message, Sison said that he was proud that Duterte became his student in political thoughts in Lyceum of the Philippines. He also mentioned that since June 15, 2016, the government and the NDF agreed to resume peace negotiations that will lead to just and lasting peace for the country.

But these days Sison’s Facebook’s posts contain memes and reports on Duterte’s failure to live up to his campaign promises. 

Sison, in an interview in Utrecht, admitted there was reason to believe the sincerity of Duterte then. 

“I gave face value to what Duterte said. He would like to become the first Left president of the Philippines. He professed to be a socialist but not a communist. He was a former member of the Kabataang Makabayan and so on and so forth. And of course when he said he was my student, it was very welcome to me,” Sison said, adding he talked to Duterte via Skype on April 25, 2016. 

Since, according to Sison, Duterte had the background of cooperating with the revolutionary movement in southern Mindano region, he “had some basis to give him the trust”. 

All changed quite soon.

“I think he started to become a clear bad shot; not so trustworthy person when he backed out of his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners. The enthusiasm that we had for him or the level of trust and confidence would be diminished by this failure to fulfill a promise,” he said. 

Yet, Sison added that when it comes to paying forward Duterte’s so-called patrons, he is good at keeping his words.

“He was very good in fulfilling promise to other people. He said he would get [former president Gloria] Arroyo out of her plunder case. In just a few months he did it. He promised the Marcos family to bury Marcos as a hero in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, he did it…”