“The militarist approach of the Aquino regime in dealing with the revolutionary movement and in the peace talks is the same as and as bad as Arroyo’s.” – Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – At the start of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, hopes for the peace talks were high.
In February 2011, representatives of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) met in Oslo and announced the resumption of formal peace talks.
It did not take long, however, before the initial euphoria fizzled out.
On the eve of the resumption of the formal talks, NDFP consultant Alan Jazmines was arrested. In the months that followed, scores of other NDFP consultants were also arrested. As of this writing, 18 NDFP consultants are holed up in jails.
NDFP consultants Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon said the Aquino administration only “pretends it is for peace when in fact it blocks and sabotages the GPH-NDFP talks.”
Undermining past agreements
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, the Tiamzons said “the Aquino administration does not want peace and repeatedly attempted to rescind past agreements as well as the agreed agenda, framework and mechanisms for peace talks.”
The couple is referring to the Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) signed by both parties in 1992 which lays down the four substantive agenda for the peace talks: human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles branded the agreement a “document of perpetual division.”
The Tiamzons pointed out that the existing framework and agenda address the roots of the armed conflict.
A former chairperson of the government peace panel, Silvestre Bello III, recognized the importance of the THJD. In a forum organized by peace advocates in September 2014, Bello called on both parties to respect the THJD and go back to the negotiating table.
“If you signed an agreement, you are obliged to respect it even if you realized later that you erred in signing it. Otherwise you lose credibility and no one would believe and negotiate with you” Bello said at the forum.
Despite calls from peace advocates, the Tiamzons said the Aquino administration continuously blocked the formal and high-level panel-to-panel negotiations.
The peace consultants said the Aquino administration is insisting on peace talks with local revolutionary groups and is interested only in immediate ceasefire and the surrender of revolutionary forces.
Moreover, the NDFP argued that the arrests of its consultants violated the Hernandez political doctrine, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
Not one among the detained NDFP consultants, most of whom were detained during the Aquino administration, was freed. One of them, Eduardo Serrano, recently died in prison.
The NDFP called Aquino as the worst violator of Jasig with the filing of common crime cases against NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni. Jalandoni was criminalized for facilitating the release of prisoners of war captured by the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Tiamzon couple said the “Aquino regime resorts to a militarist solution in dealing with the revolutionary movement.”
“The militarist approach of the Aquino regime in dealing with the revolutionary movement and in the peace talks is the same as and as bad as Arroyo’s,” the NDFP consultants said.
The couple said Aquino’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is “camouflaged as ‘peace and development’ operations but in reality is characterized by military offensives against the New People’s Army guerrillas and civilians in the countryside.”
The Tiamzons said that as a result, state security forces committed gross human rights violations.
The peace consultants also scored Deles and GPH chairperson Alexander Padilla for “acting as psywar agents of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
The Tiamzons said Deles’s Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) led the psywar offensives against the Lumad who have been targets of military operations.
“Militarization and counterrevolutionary war only fueled the armed resistance of the Filipino people and the strengthening of the NPA and other revolutionary forces,” the Tiamzons said.