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Socio-Economic and Political Realities and Need for Peace Negotiations
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
1 June 2005
(Delivered at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway)

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Greetings of solidarity!

Thank you for inviting me to speak at your well-known institution. I am delighted and honored by your invitation. I have long appreciated your work in peace research and in providing support to peace negotiations.

I wish to describe the socio-economic and political realities in the Philippines and proceed to a discussion of the need for peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Socio-Economic Realities

Many people, including Filipinos, think that the Philippines is a small country. In fact, it has a population of 84 million, which is the 12th largest or within the top 6 per cent of national populations. It has an area of 300,000 square kilometers, which is the 73rd largest land area or within the top 38 per cent of the 191 member-states of the United Nations. At nominal prices, the gross domestic product for 2004 is PhP 4.843 trillion or USD 86.482 billion. It includes a lot of overvaluation in the industrial sector and a lot of false estimates in the agriculture and service sectors.

The estimated output value share of agriculture is 14.8 percent, industry, 31.9 percent and services, 53.2 percent. The output value share of agriculture is understated. It does not cover the considerable part of the agricultural product which the peasants consume. The estimated employment share of agriculture is 36 percent, of industry 16 percent and of services 48 percent. Based on this, the peasants are responsible for more than 69 percent of the basic production of goods and the industrial workers for nearly 31 percent.

The Philippine social economy remains underdeveloped, despite all previous official rhetoric about development. It is still basically agrarian and pre-industrial in terms of the development of the productive forces. The principal means of production is still agricultural land, which is mainly for domestic food consumption and secondarily for export crops (coconut, sugar, bananas, pineapple, etc.).

The degree of mechanization in agriculture is limited and is concentrated on estates for export crops. In 2001, only some 11,500 tractors and 700 powered harvester-threshers were available for over 13 million hectares of agricultural land. Only 30 percent of the country's total farm area is irrigated as of 2002. Land ownership is heavily concentrated with less than 1/3 of landowners owning more than 80 percent of all agricultural land.

The Philippines has rich natural resources and most of the minerals for industrialization. But after extraction, the mineral ores do not go beyond the primary stage of processing and are exported as raw materials. There is a certain amount of modern industry but this is based on equipment, fuel and other inputs from abroad. The industrial sector produces neither capital goods nor basic metals and chemicals.

Export-oriented low-value added semi-manufacturing, which have come into favor with policymakers and investors since the late 1970s, is far more import-dependent and provides less regular employment than the repackaging and reassembly for import-substitution and domestic consumption in the 1950s and 1960s. It has reduced output value and employment since the 1997 economic and financial crisis in Southeast Asia.

The crisis of overproduction of semi-manufactures for reexport since the middle of the 1990s (1994 for garments and 1996 for electronic assembly) has come on top of the earlier crisis of overproduction of raw materials since the late 1970s. However, despite the continuing global oversupply of low value-added semi-manufactures, the Philippines has continued to stick to electronic assembly and garments. These account for 75 per cent of gross export earnings. However, the high imported content of the semi-manufactures - up to 85-95 percent in the case of electronic equipment - yield a very small amount of net export earnings.

The Philippine economy is a neocolonial adjunct of the US and world capitalist system. It is exceedingly dependent on direct investments, loans and trade with the global centers of capitalism. It is bound by policies dictated by major capitalist countries bilaterally or through multilateral agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite its external linkages, the Philippines retains a distinct system of socio-economic relations. These are precisely called semi-feudal. The comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class are the basic exploiting classes and together constitute a fraction of one per cent of the population. The basic exploited classes of workers and peasants are 15 and 75 per cent of the population, respectively. The intermediate social strata are the middle bourgeoisie and the far more numerous urban petty bourgeoisie.

The Filipino people have long clamored for genuine land reform and national industrialization as integral factors for breaking the persistence of large feudal holdings and realizing Filipino-owned industrialization in order to raise the level of economic development and change social relations for the better. But one reactionary regime after another has done nothing more than to pay lip service to land reform and national industrialization.

After the US and other capitalist powers shifted policy stress from Keynesianism to "free market" globalization, the reactionary regimes in the Philippines have obscured the need for land reform and national industrialization by harping on the need for raising productivity for the global market. In this regard, the real drive has been to further allow the foreign monopolies to take over natural resources, privatize public assets, get more tax exemptions and tariff cuts, and dump their surplus goods on the Philippines.

The Philippine economy is in a chronic state of crisis. This has rapidly deepened and aggravated under the current policy regime of unbridled "free market" globalization under which foreign monopoly capitalism is actually on a rampage. The semi-feudal economy is incurring huge foreign trade deficits faster than ever from the unequal exchange of its raw-material exports and consumption-driven manufactured imports. The foreign trade deficits have not been relieved but in fact been aggravated by the export-oriented low-value added semi-manufacturing because this involves a high amount of overvalued imported content.

The huge trade deficits and rising debt service result in chronic current accounts deficits and unfavorable balance of payments. But the deficits are often covered by new debts at more onerous terms, including short-term portfolio investments and the flotation of bonds by state corporations in the capital market. These render the economy more vulnerable. The foreign debt is ever mounting. The foreign exchange remittances of overseas contract workers are in fact used for further import-dependent consumption but are often cited as a resource for paying a major part of the foreign debt.

The high level of government budgetary deficit is due to economic depression, the sale of income-generating state assets, reduction of tariffs, tax evasion by the exploiting classes including tax holidays and exemptions, bureaucratic corruption and high military expenditures. Moreover, the reactionary government and its various corporations enter into onerous loan and supply contracts with foreign banks and companies that aggravate the deficits to be covered by local public and foreign borrowing.

The Philippine economy and the reactionary government in particular are bankrupt. But they are kept afloat by exporting ever larger volumes of certain goods whose prices keep on sinking, by rescheduling of old debts and incurring new debts at ever more onerous terms under various programs dictated by the IMF and the World Bank, by privatization of government assets and by capturing the foreign exchange remittances of Filipino overseas contract workers who now constitute 10 per cent of the population and whose annual remittances have grown to USD 8.5 billion in 2004.

We can trace the deterioration of the Philippine economy by looking at the growth and uses of foreign and domestic borrowing, from one regime to another. The Marcos regime was the very first one to dramatically raise the level of foreign borrowing from the level of USD 600 million in 1965 to USD 27.2 billion in 1986.. The regime used the foreign funds to finance the graft-ridden construction of sugar, coconut, copper and nickel mills, irrigation systems, roads and bridges and tourist facilities. This was mainly under the auspices of the Keynesian policy stress of the World Bank before 1980.

But at the onset of the 1980s, economic policy stress would shift to monetarism and neoliberalism in the US and in the world capitalist system. Supposedly the time had come to act decisively against so-called wage inflation and social spending by the state. Both were blamed as the cause of the stagflation problem. While the US sought to attract funds from abroad by offering high interest rates in the market, the World Bank was made to cut down on concessionary official lending and the IMF was made to whip up trade and investment liberalization, privatization and deregulation as payback from the third world debtors.

The tight international credit situation in the 1980s compelled the Aquino regime to raise the level of local public debt from PhP 144.4 billion in 1986 to PhP 521 billion in 1992. The Aquino regime restricted imports and brought the level of foreign debt to USD 29.9 billion in 1992. To countervail depressed prices in the global market, the raw material exports of the Philippines had to be increased..

Still the financial crisis sharpened in the early 1990s.

The Ramos regime harped on "free market" globalization. It outstripped the Marcos regime in foreign borrowing and the Aquino regime in local borrowing. It brought the level of the country's foreign debt to USD 46.2 billion and total domestic public sector debt to PhP 922 billion in 1998. These borrowings were made in order to cover foreign trade and budgetary deficits, respectively. The deficits grew as the regime promoted the export-oriented low-value added semi-manufacturing and private construction of high-rise office buildings, residential towers, hotels, golf courses and other recreational facilities. The economic and financial collapse came as a major part of the 1997 Southeast Asia crisis.

The bankruptcy of the Philippine economy and state was conspicuous when the Estrada regime took over. Government expenditures went too far ahead of tax revenues. The IMF kept on pressing the regime to reduce government expenditures, adopt new tax measures and give priority to debt service. To pursue its bureaucrat capitalist purposes, the regime engaged in scams by raiding the pension funds of state and private employees and collecting money from the underworld. The Estrada regime raised the level of the country's foreign debt to USD 51.2 billion and local public debt to PhP 1.068 trillion by year end 2000.

The Arroyo regime raised the level of the country's foreign debt to USD 56.3 billion and the local public debt to PhP 1.833 trillion in June 2004. The compounded foreign and local public debt is PhP 6 trillion. In fact, the foreign debt has gone beyond USD 60 billion and the local public debt beyond PhP 2.5 trillion. In terms of the size of the total public debt, the Philippines is in a worse situation than Argentina. The Philippine public debt/GDP ratio has risen from 56 per cent in 1997 to 80 per cent in 2004. Last year, the reactionary government paid 81 per cent of its revenues for both interest and principal amortization. This year it is allocating 94 per cent of revenues for debt service.

Since 2001, the Arroyo regime has overborrowed from the private capital market, mainly US, by floating bonds. It is now given a low credit rating and is being forced by the IMF to raise taxes amid a depressed economy. The value added tax is being raised by 20 percent. Other measures for raising taxes are being implemented. Under conditions of deregulation, the oil companies are allowed to freely raise their prices and so are the power, water and other public utilities, their service rates. The reactionary government is raising the fees for services it provides.

The IMF and WTO require the regime to undertake further denationalization, liberalization, privatization and deregulation. State assets such as those in the National Power Corporation are being bargained away. Debts of state corporations being auctioned off remain as sovereign debt and do not become the liability of the new private owners. The mineral, forest and water resources of the country are further being opened up for unrestricted exploitation by the foreign monopolies. Mimicking the Bush regime, the Arroyo regime is planning to privatize the social security agencies of the state.

Major official statistical data in the Philippines are falsified to conjure the illusion of achievement. The Arroyo regime claims that the GDP grew by 6.1 percent in 2004. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines describes this as jobless and industry-less growth. The regime pretends to surpass by so many times the stagnant growth rates in the most advanced capitalist countries. It absurdly cites the heavy electoral spending last year, the proliferation of international call centers and false estimates of production rises in agriculture and service sectors of the economy as major items in the GDP growth.

The chronic rate of mass unemployment in the Philippines goes beyond 40 per cent. One can arrive at this rate by compounding the officially admitted unemployment and underemployment rates (the latter is actually unemployed). Unemployment has increased conspicuously since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, with the formal sector shrinking fast. The claimed unemployment rate of 11.7 per cent in 2004, which is comparable to that of Germany, is simply unbelievable. Supposedly "employed" by some specious definition are 30.635 million workers out of a total labor force of 34.571 million. But only 18.62 percent (5.067 million) are verifiably employed in the formal sector, while 67.47 per cent (20.670 million) are in the informal sector, which is a realm of random surveys and false estimates.

The real value of nominal wages has drastically gone down due to the rapidly soaring prices of basic commodities and services. Inflation has been pushed by the peso devaluation, the scarcities in import-dependent basic producer and consumer goods and the heavy electoral spending by the regime. The inflation rate of 5.4 per cent for 2004 in IMF and government statistics is simply unbelievable.

The peso has been devalued vis--vis the US dollar and is now less than half its value in 1996 and only a third its value in 1985. Funds for essential producer and consumer imports have become scarce because of superprofit-taking by the monopoly firms, the huge amounts of debt service, spending for foreign-made luxuries and weapons and salting away of dollars by big Filipino businessmen and high bureaucrats.

The broad masses of the people suffer the rising costs of basic commodities and such services as transport, water and electricity. Since the privatization and deregulation of public utilities in the 1990s, the price of oil products has increased on average by 160 percent, of electricity by 175 percent, and of water services by 450 percent. The social infrastructure is breaking down and the allocations for such social services as health, education, unemployment relief and housing are being cut back. The Arroyo regime has drastically slashed real spending on education by 3.2 percent, on health by 24.5 percent and on housing by 61.0 percent from 2001-2004.

Contrary to absurd government claims that poverty has fallen from 40 per cent to just 30.4 percent of the population in 2003, some 90 percent of the population live on the equivalent of around USD 3 a day. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank points out that the Philippine government achieved the reduction of the poverty level not by raising the people's income but by lowering the poverty line. Indeed, while the general price level supposedly rose by some 15 percent between 2000 and 2003, the government raised the poverty line by just 7 percent - to just PhP 33.60 or some USD 0.60 a day.

Millions of children are subjected to forced labor, malnutrition, deprivation of education, military assaults on rural communities and forced evacuation. Women are degraded and forced to leave their families in order to earn a living abroad. Large numbers of women and children are forced into prostitution. The environment is being damaged by logging for export and foreign mining pesticide-dependent plantations and other pollutant enterprises.

Social discontent is acute and widespread among the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata of entrepreneurs, traders and intelligentsia. They are increasingly engaged in strikes, protest rallies and other forms of concerted action. But the regime always tries to intimidate the people and orders the military and police to attack them. Human rights violations are rampant. There is more than enough of socio-economic exploitation and political oppression to drive so many people to wage revolutionary resistance.

The Filipino people demand such bourgeois democratic measures as land reform and national industrialization in order to break the agrarian, pre-industrial and semi-feudal character of the economy. They demand measures to be undertaken to uphold national sovereignty, conserve and use wisely the rich natural resources of the country and make sure that the social wealth created serves the material and spiritual well-being of the current and future generations.

Political Realities

The Philippine ruling system is semi-colonial. It has been so since the US formally ended its colonial rule, granted nominal independence on 4 July 1946 to the Philippines and turned over the reins of national administration to Filipino bureaucrats and politicians from the exploiting classes. At the same time, it has retained strategic control over the Philippines in the economic, financial, security and other fields.

Unequal treaties have ensured the subservience of the Philippine ruling system to the US. The Treaty of General Relations of 1946 guaranteed that US corporations and citizens retained their property rights and that US military forces kept their military bases and their radar and loran stations. A series of bilateral economic and trade agreements gave US corporations and citizens so-called parity rights to exploit natural resources and operate public utilities. The predecessor agencies of the USAID started the practice of planting agents in key agencies of the puppet government.

A series of bilateral military agreements on US military bases, military assistance and mutual defense has bound the Philippines to US military power. Even after the dismantling of the US military bases in 1992, following the nonrenewal of the military bases agreement by the Philippine Senate in 1991, the US continues to exercise military control over the Philippines through control of military logistics, planning, indoctrination and training of military officers.

It continues to encroach on Philippine territory and use Philippine military facilities under the Visiting Forces Agreement ratified by the Philippine Senate in May 1999 and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement signed by US and RP defense officials in November 2002. It uses various general pretexts such as mutual defense, regional security and war on terrorism and more specific pretexts like joint military training exercises, civic action, humanitarian mission and the like.

The key binding factor of the Philippine ruling system is US hegemony. But the politicians and bureaucrats of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords have their relative autonomy from the neocolonial master. They feed on the common trough of bureaucrat capitalism and compete in pretending to be for public service. They are divided into factional parties of the same dominant classes.

From 1946 to 1972, a two party system or a duopoly existed, patterned after that of the US. In this system, the political factions of the exploiting classes engaged in political and electoral struggle in an increasingly violent way. Subsequently, the Marcos ruling clique usurped all powers of government through a fascist dictatorship from 1972 to 1986. Since the fall of the Marcos regime, there has been a proliferation of reactionary political parties and coalitions. There is not a single reactionary party or coalition that can claim a majority of the electoral votes at the national level.

The instability of the ruling system has worsened from the period of 1946 to 1972 through the Marcos fascist dictatorship and further on to the period of the post-Marcos regimes. The political crisis is chronic and it involves the contradictions within the ruling system becoming more violent. It is a reflection of the ever worsening socio-economic crisis. As the pie for bureaucrat capitalist looting decreases, the struggle over it becomes more bitter and more conspicuous.

There is of course a semblance of civility and noblesse oblige among the reactionary political factions in the ruling system when they utter platitudes to the public and try to show good behavior to the US, the chambers of commerce and the dominant church. But they do have their own violent factional strife. To consolidate and expand their power and wealth against their rivals, they cultivate links with groups of military and police officers and they operate armed groups and private security agencies.

The coercive apparatuses of the state, the military and police, are themselves divided into factions. These reflect the major political factions whose patronage is necessary to ensure promotions in rank and assignments to lucrative posts. They also arise from rivalries in operating or taking payoffs from criminal syndicates of various types, including those engaged in the numbers game (jueteng), illegal logging, drugs, kidnapping for ransom, bank heists, smuggling and so on.

At this moment, the Arroyo regime is extremely unstable and isolated. The sentiment is widespread that Arroyo was not really elected as president last year. She is widely perceived to have bought the votes and cheated in the counting. But what is really most damaging about the regime is the crudity and conspicuousness of its puppetry to the US and the colossal multinationals, the corruption of gargantuan proportions, the imposition of a heavier tax burden on the people in a depressed economy, the soaring prices of basic commodities and services and the escalation of human rights violations in the urban and rural areas under the pretext of counterterrorism.

A broad united front of opposition forces is growing against the Arroyo regime. The key forces in this broad united front are the political parties and groups that have demonstrated significant electoral following, military and police officers that dissociate themselves from rampant corruption and other criminality of their colleagues and the patriotic and progressive forces with the organized masses willing to confront the regime and cause its downfall, as in the case of Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001.

The broad united front is reportedly trying to form a revolutionary council of patriotic and progressive forces to succeed the Arroyo regime and to lay the basis for the election of a new government in six months to one year after the ouster of Arroyo. It seeks to unite the military and police officers in upholding the principle of civilian supremacy, withdrawing their support from the regime, letting the masses rise up in protest and causing the regime to resign.

In reaction, the Arroyo regime has become even more servile to the US, more corrupt, more arrogant and more ruthless in the face of the developing broad united front. It believes that it can continue borrowing from abroad by complying with the demands of the IMF for increasing the tax burden and giving priority to debt service and that it can receive huge amounts of US military and financial assistance in exchange for its support for the Bush "war on terrorism", the rise of US military intervention, the reestablishment of US military bases and the inflow of foreign investments.

There is a trend towards an unbridled rule of open terror, without any proclamation of martial law. The minions of the regime are now busy pushing the enactment of an anti-terrorism law and the removal from the 1987 constitution of the provisions that put limitations on the declaration of martial law, that guarantee the basic rights of a criminal suspect under the Miranda doctrine, that assert economic sovereignty and limit foreign investments, that protect the national patrimony and that prohibit foreign military bases and foreign troops.

To say the least, the extremely pro-imperialist and reactionary elements in the Arroyo regime wish to prevent the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the negotiation of social, economic and political reforms and would rather scuttle the peace negotiations than address the roots of the civil war in the Philippines. The terrorist-listing is calculated to extort from the NDFP the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces either under the guise of a "final peace agreement" of empty generalities and a prolonged ceasefire without the substance of a just and lasting peace.

Relatedly, the most vicious kinds of pressure are being exerted on the NDFP. Under the direction of US psywar experts, the military and police have unleashed a campaign vilifying the most respectable institutions, organizations and personages as "terrorists" and then telling them to clear themselves by denouncing the revolutionary forces. This psywar campaign is combined with a campaign of assassinations and abductions directed against patriotic and progressive religious, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, leaders of the party list parties (like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela) and leaders and members of the mass organizations of workers, peasants, urban poor, women, youth and others.

It is reprehensible that the Arroyo regime has collaborated with the US government in demonizing and listing as "terrorists" the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army and the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. In the current wave of assassinations and abductions, the NDFP senior legal adviser Justice Romeo T. Capulong has been clearly targeted for assassination. NDFP consultants residing in Philippines are experiencing increased surveillance and intimidating actions from armed agents of the GRP.

This "terrorist" listing violates the mutually acceptable principle of national sovereignty and the noncapitulation principle in The Hague Joint Declaration, the safety and immunity guarantees for all duly-authorized persons in the peace negotiations under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the basic democratic rights and the Hernandez political offense doctrine as affirmed by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Since August last year, when the US renewed the "terrorist" label and listing of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant, the NDFP has expected the GRP to join it in condemning the unjust act of the US and to comply with all the aforesaid agreements as well as with the related agreements in the Oslo Joint Statements I and II. The GRP must comply with existing agreements or else the NDFP sees no point in negotiating with it.

At whatever rate the GRP complies with mutual agreements or whether the formal talks in the peace negotiations will resume sooner or later or never, the NDFP is committed to upholding, defending and promoting the national sovereignty of the Filipino people. This is the main guiding principle of the NDFP in seeking political and constitutional reforms through the peace negotiations.

The NDFP can consider the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations worthwhile and useful only if these can become the way for asserting the national sovereignty and empowering the workers and peasants who comprise ninety per cent of the Filipino people. The toiling masses should have all the conditions and possibilities for expressing and realizing their national and democratic rights and interests.

Need for Peace Negotiations

The two contending and negotiating parties, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have in their respective ways recognized the need for peace negotiations and have set forth the objectives they wish to achieve.

According to the stalwarts of the national security division of the Arroyo cabinet, the maximum objective of the GRP in pursuing the peace negotiations is to cause the capitulation of the NDFP or facilitate the military victory of GRP and the minimum objective is to conjure false illusions, befuddle the consciousness of the revolutionary forces and people and split the ranks of the revolutionary movement.

The NDFP has been quite open in declaring that the line of struggle for national liberation and democracy is the same line that it pursues in the negotiations for a just and lasting peace. This is the maximum objective of the NDFP in the peace negotiations. The NDFP also has the minimum objective of propagating the national democratic line on issues, arousing the people in their millions to raise the level of revolutionary struggle and seeking allies within the ruling system for the purpose of isolating and defeating the intractable foe.

Since the time of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, I have been privileged to be involved in discreet and public discussions about the question of peace negotiations. I can use the historical method to demonstrate clearly the development of the position and attitude of both the GRP and NDFP about the question of peace negotiations. But such an approach might only ignite a speculative debate about the motivations and calculations of the contending parties. We are on more solid ground if we look at the existing agreements of the two negotiating parties.

Since 1992 the GRP and NDFP have forged twelve agreements. We can use these agreements to determine and measure what the two parties are willing to consider and agree upon as matters in the interest of the Filipino people. The preliminary stage of 1992 to1995 yielded serious agreements that paved the way for the stage of formal talks from 1995 to the present.

The Hague Joint Declaration was mutually approved by the principals of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels in 1992. It proclaims the need for peace negotiations in order to address the roots of the armed conflict and arrive at reforms for laying the stable foundation for a just and lasting peace.

It declares the mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice as the guiding principles for the negotiations. It is against any precondition that negates the inherent character and purpose of peace negotiations. It sets the substantive agenda, to include respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms.

The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) was mutually approved in 1995 by the principals of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. It protects the panelists, consultants and all other persons duly-authorized in the peace negotiations and provides the mechanism for terminating the peace negotiations by any of the two parties and for allowing persons duly-authorized to participate in the peace negotiation to go to their safe positions within 30 days after the date of the notice of termination.

The Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees was mutually approved in 1995 to guide the drafting of the tentative comprehensive agreements one after the other in accordance with the substantive agenda as set forth by The Hague Joint Declaration. A supplementary agreement was mutually approved in 1997 to require mutual approval by the principals of the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms before there can be a negotiation of political and constitutional reforms.

The Comprehensive Agreement of Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was approved by the principals of the NDFP and GRP in 1998. This is the first of the four comprehensive agreements in accordance with the substantive agenda. Since 2004, the GRP and NDFP have agreed on the operating guidelines of the Joint Monitoring Committee and has fully constituted it, together with its Joint Secretariat in Manila, to monitor the joint and separate implementation of the CARHRIHL.

At the opening session of the resumption of formal talks in Oslo in April 2001, the NDFP Negotiating Panel and the GRP Negotiating Panel agreed to cooperate in trying to finish the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms within six months from June 2001. Had the GRP cooperated with NDFP, this comprehensive agreement would have been finished a long time ago. There would have been a chance to finish the comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms in 2002 and that on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces in 2003.

Unfortunately, in June 2001 the GRP suspended indefinitely the formal talks until 2004 avowedly in protest to the killing of Colonel Rodolfo Aguinaldo by the New People's Army. He was one among the most notorious torturers and murderers of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. Even while in civilian office, he continued to participate in military operations against the NPA and the people in Cagayan province. The NPA therefore had long regarded him as an armed combatant with abundant blood debts.

To further complicate matters, the GRP agreed with the US government in November 2001 to put the CPP/NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant in the "terrorist" list in a bid to pressure the NDFP to capitulate by signing the so-called final peace agreement which the GRP had unilaterally drafted. The US made the "terrorist" listing in August 2002, followed by various other governments (Netherlands, Britain, Australia and Canada) and by the European Council.

There are now two major obstacles blocking the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations:

1. The "terrorist" listing. It is a malicious act which seeks to blackmail and pressure the NDFP to capitulate. It violates the principles of national sovereignty and non-capitulation in The Hague Joint Declaration; the protection to persons duly-authorized to participate in the peace negotiations under the JASIG and the basic democratic rights and the Hernandez political offense doctrine in the CARHRIHL.

The GRP has made the resumption of the formal talks impossible by failing to end its complicity with the US in labeling and listing the CPP, NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant as "terrorist." It has also failed to join the NDFP in upholding the Oslo Statements I and II against the "terrorist" listing. Worst of all, it has repeatedly dueted with the US on the line that the NDFP must capitulate in order to have the names of revolutionary forces removed from the list. It must join the NDFP in complying with the existing agreements to pave the way for the resumption of the formal talks.

2. The demand for capitulation. The NDFP rejects the demand for capitulation carried by the so-called final peace agreement drafted by the GRP. This violates the noncapitulation and substantive agenda provisions in The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. The NDFP also rejects any attempt to convert the peace negotiations into ceasefire negotiations that lay aside the principle of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through the negotiations on social, economic and political reforms.

The GRP must comply with the existing agreements. If it does not, how can the NDFP expect that the GRP will ever comply with the comprehensive agreements on the substantive agenda? But it is highly probable that the GRP is already looking for a way to prevent the negotiation of social and economic reforms and to scuttle the peace negotiations. It is trying to make the NDFP capitulate and, if the latter does not capitulate, to subsequently escalate the war against the revolutionary forces and people.

It should be realistic and reasonable for the Arroyo regime to agree to the resumption of the formal talks on social and economic reforms.

The broad masses of the people expect this; they are looking for way out of the current social, economic and political crisis. After resumption of the formal talks, conversations between special representatives of the GRP and NDFP principals on how to accelerate negotiations and agreements are possible, without violating the existing agreements.

But the problem of the Arroyo regime might be the false illusion that the US can provide it with economic and military assistance sufficient for buoying up the ruling system and defeating the revolutionary forces and people. In the meantime, the regime is becoming more and more isolated, weak and vulnerable to the rising resistance of the people and broad united front of opposition forces. This is the worst time for the Arroyo regime to be arrogant and shun the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. ###

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