STATEMENT of Gov’t Panel Chair Alexander Padilla Re GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF Peace Talks

22 February 2011

Last night, the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front concluded the first round of the resumed formal peace negotiations. It was the first formal meeting of the Panels since the talks were discontinued in 2004. We met to try and find a common political solution to the armed conflict and put an end to four decades of senseless killings in our country.

Our meetings were difficult and at times faced what would seem to be insurmountable challenges. The talks, however, were frank, candid and held in the spirit of goodwill characterized by respect for one another’s position. After six full days of discussion, and following an impasse of more than six years, it is my privilege to report to our people that prospects for peace have become better with the following developments:

1. We proposed a timeframe of 18 months to complete the three other remaining comprehensive agreements after the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Thus, we can expect the comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms by September 2011, the comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms by February 2012 and the comprehensive agreement on end of hostilities and disposition of forces between June and August 2012. With a final negotiated political agreement in hand, we hope to have laid the groundwork for a just and lasting peace within the first three years of the Aquino administration.

2. The Reciprocal Working Committees on social and economic reforms have begun their work and have scheduled three bilateral meetings in June and August to complete their work. Our RWC shall soon be undertaking consultations with stakeholders on the desired socio-economic reforms.

3. The Working Groups on political and constitutional reforms have met and decided to meet every two months until the eventual formation of the Reciprocal Working Committee sometime in September 2011.

4. The Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL has reconvened and tackled the supplemental guidelines for the full operation of the JMC.  The JMC will meet again in March and April.

5. The GPH Panel, while reaffirming the Hague Declaration and other bilateral agreements signed in the past, submitted a separate affirmation with qualifications, noting that the Hague Declaration, which was originally crafted as an expression of shared beliefs and aspirations,  has become a “document of perpetual division” between the parties. We cited areas of disagreement, differences in interpretation and ambiguities in language that have gotten in the way of progress in the talks, and affirmed our non-negotiable position on sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic. “The Government of the Philippines,” we asserted, “is the only lawful sovereign and taxing authority in the country”.

6. Our confidence-building measures have been well received. We were able to facilitate the participation of NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis, Elizabeth Principe and Randall Echanis in the Oslo talks. And while we were meeting, we received word that another NDFP consultant Angelina Ipong, was released from detention in Pagadian City. For its part, the New People’s Army released a retired soldier and two policemen they were holding: retired Army Sgt. Mario Veluz, PO3 George Sabatin and PO2 Jervel Tugade.

7. As we met, back home, the guns were silent, thanks to the unilateral ceasefires we both agreed to observe during the formal talks. This ceasefire followed the Christmas ceasefire from December 16 to January 3 – the longest we have had since 1986 when the NDF agreed to a 60-day ceasefire to accompany our first attempt to talk peace.

We have asked the NDFP to consider other mutual but unilateral ceasefires to accompany future meetings of the JMC, the RWCs and the Panels. They have not warmed to the idea, citing alleged violations during the last two ceasefires. But the fact is, there were no armed encounters, no unnecessary deaths, no recorded violence in our country between the communist rebels and government troops for seven whole days.  We asks, is that not better than war, in any language?

We have kept our eye on the ball, but there are many contentious issues we must still tackle. However, the return to the formal peace table and our accomplishments during this first round of talks are indications of the desire of both Parties to work together in resolving our differences and finally bring about peace, development, an end to poverty, and the restoration of justice, decency and civility in our land.

We held the formal negotiations on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the EDSA people power revolt where we showed the world how we could bring about change by ways of peace. This is the challenge of our current process.

The peace process could not have reached this stage without the Royal Norwegian Government’s abiding faith in our capacity as Filipinos to rise above our differences and build a sustained peace for our people. The RNG has been a steadfast partner in our journey to peace since 2001. This has made it possible  for us to communicate in a manner that is constructive and civil.  We thank the RNG for keeping faith with our process.#

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