From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 27): What went before: Peace talks between government and communist rebels
Peace talks between the government and communist rebels have been on and off for nearly three decades, with negotiations getting suspended several times.
In May, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison said he “remained willing” to meet with President Benigno Aquino III to help jump-start the stalled peace talks despite the arrest of alleged top CPP leaders Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Austria, in March.
Sison made the remarks via Skype at a forum in Hong Kong, which was attended by an audience of mostly domestic workers. At the time, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said “any serious proposal toward resuming peace talks should be coursed through our third-party facilitator and not through the media.”
Deles was referring to Norway, which is brokering the peace negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
It was the second time that Sison spoke about his willingness to meet with Mr. Aquino to revive peace talks with the communist insurgents, following the administration’s successful peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government and the MILF signed a peace agreement in March, ending more than four decades of conflict.
In July, the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP, released four policemen who were captured when the insurgents raided the Alegria municipal hall in Surigao del Norte province.
Malacañang said the release was a welcome development. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “We hope this is a groundbreaking event where the NDF-CPP-NPA would look forward to pursuing the peace process without any conditions. We have always stated government is ready to sit down with them. We are hopeful the peace table would move forward with respect to the left.”
Calls to resume talks
On April 1, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the peace panel of the NDFP, said the communist insurgents had long been calling for the resumption of peace talks, contrary to statements attributed to government peace negotiator Alex Padilla that the rebels revived calls for a return to the negotiating table only after the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria.
Jalandoni, in an e-mail statement, said he and Padilla met on Feb. 27 and Padilla at that time knew that the insurgents had wanted to resume the talks. The Tiamzons and five other alleged members of the CPP Central Committee were arrested three weeks later in Carcar City, south of Cebu City.
The insurgents’ recent call for the resumption of peace talks was a reversal of their statement in December last year. On its 45th anniversary, the CPP declared it would no longer pursue negotiations because of the Aquino administration’s “unwillingness to negotiate a just peace.”
“It has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations,” the CPP said.
Despite the party’s declaration that it would not be returning to the negotiating table during the Aquino administration, the government said that it remained committed to forging peace with the communist insurgents.
According to Sison, it was the administration that decided to terminate peace negotiations, but Deles said it was the NDFP, the political arm of the CPP, that “killed” the talks because of its insistence on preconditions before negotiations could resume.
In February 2011, the two parties met in Norway but failed to reach a settlement, particularly on such issues as the release of detained communist insurgents and the declaration of a longer ceasefire. The peace process has not moved since then.
In October 2010, the Aquino administration expressed desire to revive the negotiations with the formation of a new panel to talk with the NDFP and the NPA.
During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the peace talks also broke down.
In June 2001, the government unilaterally suspended the negotiations to protest the assassination, allegedly by the NPA, of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo and Quezon Rep. Marcial Punzalan.
In 2002, then Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jose Mabanta said a faction led by Tiamzon, who then headed the NPA, opposed peace talks with the government, adding that the leadership struggle was blocking the resumption of peace talks.
List of ‘terrorists’
In 2004, negotiations were scuttled anew with the NDFP accusing the Arroyo administration of “sabotaging” the talks by pressing for the insurgents’ surrender upon the signing of a final peace agreement.
Jalandoni said in a 2005 interview that the government wanted the NDFP to sign a “prolonged ceasefire” before the talks resumed, as well as a final peace agreement that would mean the surrender of the NPA.
He accused the government of being behind the listing of the NDFP as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union in 2002, and of using the terrorist tag to force it to sign the agreement.
Jalandoni said the NDFP would rather wait for a new administration than resume talks with the “crumbling” Arroyo administration.
In June 2006, then President Arroyo declared an all-out war on the communist rebels and set aside P1 billion for the military and the police to crush the insurgency.
In early 2007, Jalandoni said Norway was again willing to host exploratory peace talks in Oslo, but the Philippine government insisted that the NDFP first agree to a ceasefire before talks could resume.
In July that year, both Jalandoni and Sison rejected a proposal for a three-year ceasefire as a condition for resuming the talks. This aimed to “crush” the communist insurgency without dealing with the roots of the conflict, they said.
Sison said formal talks could resume only after the government did the following: stop extrajudicial killings, abductions, tortures, mass displacement of people and other human rights violations; stop the terrorist blacklisting of the CPP, NDFP and the NPA; and indemnify victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
In 2008, the government negotiating panel asked the NDFP to agree to a ceasefire as a condition but was rejected anew. The NDFP feared that as soon as it approved a prolonged ceasefire, the Arroyo administration would deem all previously signed agreements superseded, and surrender negotiations would take the place of substantive talks on basic reforms. Inquirer Research.
This political party, according to many volunteers, is first of its kind in the country, being “a Principled Political Party”. The multitude crowd shouted full support to the UBJP and chanted “my party, your party, our party”.
The conglomeration composes of cross sections of our society residing in all over the Bangsamoro core territory and its neighbouring provinces. Ranking public officials present in the assembly were: Congressman Jesus Sacdalan of North Cotabato, former Cong. Didagen P. Dilangalen of Maguindanao, former Cong. Jerry Salapuddin of Basilan, former Cong. Datu Michael O. Mastura of Maguindanao, Mayor Datu Nathaniel Midtimbang of Talayan, Maguindanao, former Mayor Datu Tocao O. Mastura, former Mayor Hadji Datu Ali Midtimbang of Talayan, Mayor Datu Midpantao Midtimbang of Guindulongan, USM Professors Dr. Palasig U. Ampang, Dr. Alimen Sencil, Dr. Abubakar A. Murray, Prof. Abhoud Sayed Lingga of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of Mindanao Peoples Caucus, and many others who did not showed up on the stage but joined the crowd.
Day one was marred by traffic congestion as several hundreds of motor vehicles ferrying the participants over flowed on the streets going to the venue. Many people had to walk two kilometers going to the hub of the assembly as vehicles moved like ‘turtles’.
There were more or less 57 speakers that addressed the crowd as follows:
1) Ustadz Zainudin Bato of Northern Mindanao who expounded to the crowd that we are now on the hinge of leaving “jihad sager” or small jihad, meaning armed struggle; towards “jihad kabir” or bigger jihad, meaning struggle against one’s own-self. He termed political struggle as essentially a struggle against one’s own-self.
2) Munzier Salahudin in his welcome address implored thousands of goodness and thousands of blessings upon the crowd in arriving at the site of the gathering.
3) Former Mayor Datu Tucao O. Mastura of Sultan Kudarat recalled that there was no single encounter between the AFP and the BIAF during his incumbency as mayor of the town. That symbolizes his ever willingness to accommodate such a gathering led by the MILF in his hometown. He said, we are now leaving the handling of metals, meaning guns in favour of ball pens or peace.
4) UBJP Secretary General Sammy Al Mansour briefed the crowd on the history of the founding of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) until the convening of the instant gathering taking placed.
5) UBJP Vice President for Southern Mindanao Mohagher Iqbal in his speech lectured the crowd on our now entirely new horizon, new struggle. During our armed struggle days, we have only two companions: the sincere ones and the informer ones. Now, we have multi-sector companions whom we do not know who are our friends and who are our foes. Politics in the Philippine is divisive and we are humanizing it. Our party has ideology which is unity for the Bangsamoro and for everybody. Our political party is service oriented, not self-interest.
6) The Secretary General of the Haiatul Ulama, Ustadz Said Salendab represented by Ustadz Abdulrasad expressed full support to the UBJP.
7) Prof. Abhoud Sayed Linga of the professional sector assured full support to the UBJP on three reasons, namely: It is principled; One of its aims is to continue the unfinished agenda of the Bangsamoro struggle; and it is for unity.
8) The Academe sector represented by Dr. Palasig U. Ampang, Vice President of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) who expressed full support the UBJP.
9) Datu Abdulnasser Ismael representing the Sultanates sector expressed full support to the UBJP.
10) Atty. Raissa Jajurie, representing the women sector gave full support to the UBJP.
11) Marjani Mimbantas, the son of the late MILF Vice Chairman for Military Affairs Alim Abdul Aziz Mimbantas, after saying touching words on his experiences in the jungle with his late father assured of everlasting full support to the UBJP.
12) Datu Lukes or oldman of Talayan former Mayor Hadji Datu Ali Midtimbang of Talayan gave full support to the UBJP.
13) Representative of PaZamBaSulTa non-government organization gave full support to the UBJP.
14) Dr. Abdulmanan Gayak of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace after narrating his led mass actions for peace in Mindanao gave strong and full support to the UBJP.
15) Commissioner Timuay Melanio Ulama , who represents the Teduray Tribe pronounced full support to the UBJP such that it is a symbol of unity.
16) Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, a former leader of the Mindanao peoples Caucus, after learning of the new form of politics waged by the UBJP registered full support to it.
17) Hadji Nor Mangatong representing the OFW’s assured support to the UBJP in the coming years.
18) Hadji Abdulrakman Datudacula representing the senior citizens categorically said that they fully support the UBJP.
19) Labor Sector Representative Hadji Abdullah Said fully support the UBJP.
20) Transport Leader Bai Linang Ayunan promised full support to the UBJP, speaking on behalf of the transport sector and her barangay constituents of Mother Kalanganan, Cotabato City.
21) Former Congressman Jerry Salapuddin of Basilan, the author of RA 9054, Organic Act of ARMM, saluted the good vision of the MILF in the new political party which the MNLF had not done hence he supports and saluted the MILF and the UBJP.
22) Von Al Haq, former Chairman of the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) assured his strong full support to the UBJP.
23) Ustadz Abdulhadie Gumander representing the religious sector and the OFWs declared full support to the UBJP.
24) Commander Jack Abbas of the MILF declared full support of his entire command to the UBJP.
25) Front Commander Jordan speaking for the 104th, 106th and 107th Base Commands promised full support to the UBJP.
26) Commander Bravo (Hadji Abdullah), represented by his Deputy on Planning assured 100% support to the UBJP by his Base Commands in North Western Mindanao.
27) Commander Jannati Mimbantas of the North Eastern Mindanao, in representation of his Base Commands, namely: 101st, 103rd, Busra, and National Defense declared full support to the UBJP. He quoted a saying of a famous person, read as follows: If there are 1,000 best persons, be one of them; If there are 500 best persons, be one of them also; If there are 100 best persons, be one of them also; and If there is one best person, be that one best person”. That is how he is best supporting the UBJP.
28) Commander Gordon of the 105th, 118th and the Interior Command of Central Mindanao declared full support to the UBJP.
29) National Guard Commander Hadji Samir Hashim, the brother of the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim represented by Anwar Alamada expressed voluntary support to the UBJP as my party, your party and our party.
30) Front Commander of Western Mindanao Mushawirin Abubakar on behalf of the 113rd, 114th, 115th and 117th Base Commands declared unconditional full support to the UBJP.
31) Base Commander Alibaba (Jerry Davao) Abdullah promised 100% support to the UBJP.
32) Base Commander Ulim Kasan of the 106th Base Command committed full support to the UBJP because it is a principled political party in contrast with others.
33) Base Commander Suaib Acob of the 113rd Base Command, Western Mindanao declared full support to the UBJP.
34) Base Commander Castro Imran of the 104th Base Command assured full support to the UBJP.
35) Base Commmander Abdulwahid Tundok of the 118th Base Command assured that no one under his command will be against the UBJP.
36) GHQ Base Commander Abdulkuddos Balitok expressed full and unconditional support to the UBJP.
37) UBJP Vice President for Western Mindanao Hadji Mahmor Estino assured full support of his constituents to the UBJP.
38) Social Welfare Committee Chairperson represented by Engr. Aida Silongan assured all concerned that the women under them are fully supportive and behind the men of the UBJP in support of the principled UBJP.
39) Hadji Rashi Iklaman promised full support to the UBJP.
40) Executive Officer of the UBJP from Davao (known as Arafat) declared all out support to the UBJP.
41) Engr. Cesar Alid of Sulu also declared full support to the UNJP.
42) Engr. Mohmin Tomawis promised full support to the UBJP because it would no longer be a failed government.
43) Ustadz Zainudin Bato of Lanao Norte promised all out support to the UBJP. He said, we were beside you in the battlefront and now we will also be beside you in the political struggle.
44) A speaker known as Brother Saidal from Davao del Sur also expressed full support to the UBJP.
45) A certain Brother Jamadil of Zamboanga City, amidst Political opposition to the Bangsamoro in his city, expressed very strong support to the UBJP and the BBL.
46) Utto Taik of Tawi Tawi declared all out support to the UBJP.
47) Board Member Manny Pidtamanan of North Cotabato, though residing outside of the Bangsamoro Core Territory, expressed unconditional support to the UBJP.
48) Atty. Abdul Dataya, an Executive Officer of the UBJP- Maguindanao Province, after pronouncing all out support to the UBJP reported that his entire provincial political setup already filled. He invited the crowd to give attention to COMELEC registration.
49) Alim Ali Solaiman, in his opening statement in the afternoon affairs gave assessment to the women’s participation as having accomplished their part. Accordingly, its now the turn of the MILF Panel to exert its utmost efforts for the success of the undertaking.
50) Abu Huraira Udasan, MILF Grand Mufti explained Islam as not only a religion but a complete way of life. Hence, we need a political party to realize our vision in enjoying life under Shari’ah.
51) UBJP Vice President for Eastern Mindanao Hussin Muñoz spoke delving on the Qur’anic verse: “Verily, Allah will not change the condition of the people, unless they change it themselves”.
52) UBJP Advisory Council Chairman Datu Michael O. Mastura, counselled the audience in speaking that we must not be afraid of “jihad” being used as a term for terrorist in the CNN because it is our home-grown custom to use it in our legitimate struggle. We are now moving from armed struggle to parliamentary struggle.
53) Oath taking of the President, Vice Presidents, and other executive officers of the UBJP followed. Thereafter, mass oath taking of the volunteers came next. The Head of the Shari’ah of the MILF administered the activity.
54) The Chairman of the MILF and now concurrent President of the UBJP, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim addressed the mammoth crowd reciting the last revealed verse in the Holy Qur’an with the explanation that Islam is not antagonistic to other religions in the world. We need this new formed political party as our vehicle to transport us to the mainstream Philippine politics. But this is not the end of our struggle. Our struggle has to be continued so that it will bear fruits to the benefit of everyone. Our political party differs from other political parties on the following:
a) It serves as our vehicle towards our vision and mission in the UBJP.
b) As principled political party, it aims to change the present political system of “three Gs or gold, guns and goons”, and
c) It aims to transform our electoral system to real democratic and Islamic way.
Had this gathering now of volunteers been done by other politicians, it would cost them around millions or even billion but we spent nothing for it. The people voluntarily brought with them their food and ate them here.
Concerning news that there are some who are recruiting for the UBJP membership for money, do not believe on them because they are fake officers or members, and I warn them. Also those recruiting for allegedly Bangsamoro Police, do not believe on them, and I warn them because not even the qualification for police had yet been set. We will take appropriate action against them if complaint is brought before us.
55. Cong. Jesus Sacdalan of the 1st District of North Cotabato apprised the crowd about the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress with expression of his support to the UBJP.
56. Another speaker declared the same strong support to the UBJP.
57. MILF 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar and now concurrent UBJP Vice Chairman for Central Mindanao closed the program with address to everyone for strong and unconditional support to the new political party. He talked to his comrades as the youth of yesterday and now mostly with white hairs to support the UBJP. He talked to the Honorable men of Congress with a very touching appeal to see to it that the cause on the occurrence of widows and orphans be stopped, and it now depends in their hands as legislators.
The affair was very peaceful. The fatality of one dead was not a criminal act but due to cardiac arrest. And the fainting of few individuals were due to the heat of the glazing sun but were instantly revived by numerous medical volunteers that assisted them.