Serious Doubts about the Present Aquino Regime’s Respect for Ceasefires and Peace Agreements

Right after the world’s mightiest typhoon in recorded history, Yolanda (or Haiyan, by its international name), hit the country in November 8, the revolutionary movement declared and set into practice a unilateral ceasefire in the hardest hit areas of Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and Panay regions, and in the islands of Negros, Masbate, Mindoro and Palawan, the revolutionary movement declared and strictly implemented a unilateral ceasefire up to November 24, and then extended this for another month up to December 24. This declaration and implementation of a unilateral ceasefire, together with an invitation for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and its armed forces to do the same, was made in connection with the revolutionary forces’ shift to and concentration of efforts at organizing and helping the masses in the affected areas with relief, recovery, reconstruction and production work.

The revolutionary movement has been most concerned about the situation of the masses there, especially as those areas which had been hardest hit by Supertyphoon Yolanda are among those where the revolutionary forces principally hold sway and the great majority of the masses are directly involved and organized in the revolutionary movement.

Under the leadership of the revolutionary forces, other masses from surrounding revolutionary areas and even a great number from more distant revolutionary areas not as gravely affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda, have also very actively been helping directly and indirectly in the relief, recovery, rehabilitation and production work of the revolutionary forces and masses in the most affected areas.

In contrast, the GPH’s armed forces showed sheer hostility in words and actions to the revolutionary forces’ declaration and implementation of a unilateral ceasefire and efforts at organizing and helping the masses in their relief, recovery, rehabilitation and production efforts

Not only did the present Aquino government ignore the revolutionary movement’s declaration and implementation of ceasefire right after Supertyphoon Yolanda struck, the GPH’s regional military commander, Major General Jet Velarmino, even scoffed at the revolutionary movement’s ceasefire, saying “We did not make a declaration of ceasefire even after the typhoon. They are enemies of the state.”

The GPH armed forces, in fact, did not cease at all their hostile operations even in the most affected areas. While some GPH armed forces were sent to the affected urban areas, like Tacloban, to police the devastated population and stop the looting of groceries and supermarts (even if they themselves wantonly looted the foreign and other more sought after donations, including packed GI rations), bulk of their forces were maintained and made to continue their armed intrusions into revolutionary areas. In fact, more than 10,000 elements of the 8th and 3rd Infantry Division of the GPH armed forces continued without let up to launch armed assaults against the revolutionary forces and masses in the rural areas most affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda in Samar, Leyte, Panay and Negros.

In the face of all this, the earlier call of the GPH through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) and the entire revolutionary movement to drop the armed struggle and openly join in the concentration of efforts toward relief and recovery from the vast damages wrought by Supertyphoon Yolanda is totally detached from sincerity and reality and contains nothing but sheer empty bluster. Actually it is nothing but another form of the GPH’s unrealistic and totally unacceptable position asking for an indefinite ceasefire with the revolutionary forces, even if the GPH has all along been evasive and, in fact, indifferent to the NDF’s position that substantive socio-economic and political agenda be thoroughly discussed and comprehensively settled first before serious military matters, like truce or even long-term ceasefire, be taken up at all.

As the traditional Yuletide season arrived, the GPH, through the OPAPP, officially declared a Yuletide ceasefire that on paper spanned from December 21 to January 15 as supposedly "important for the healing and rebuilding process" in the wake of the series of major tragedies that hit the country in the last three months, including the earthquake that shook Bohol, the 15-day siege of Zamboanga City and the Supertyphoon Yolanda that devastated vast areas in the Visayas and other nearby islands.

But, as had always been proven in the past and continues to be proven to date, the GPH declarations of ceasefire have just remained on paper and in media releases and have most often been blatantly and callously violated by its own armed forces.

For one, even after the GPH’s unilateral ceasefire was already declared starting December 21, its armed forces have continued with their hostile operations to try to hunt down New Peoples Army (NPA) regular forces and local elements among the masses whom they could still attack in Brgys. Antolan, Patag and Poloan in the town of Caramoan, in the province of Camarines Sur; in Brgys.Villapaz and Sinagaran in the town of Jovellar, in Brgys.Mamlad in the town of Pio Duran and Brgy.Lumacao in the town of Guinobatan, all in the province of Albay; and in Brgys.Marinas and Cabiguhan in the town of Gubat, and Brgys.Manhumlad and Bolacawe in the town of Matnog, both in the province of Sorsogon.

As the NDF said in a Christmas Day statement about these hostile incursions of GPH armed forces into known NPA enclaves in the Bicol region, “The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ breach of its own ceasefire declaration reveals its hypocrisy characteristic of OplanBayanihan’spsywar policy.”

At the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) Jail in Camp BagongDiwa, where four of us NDF peace consultants and more than a score of other NDF-affiliated political prisoners are detained, there are three political prisoners here who were arrested on December 21, 2012 -- the day after the start of a mutually declared ceasefire by both the GPH and NDF. The three (Grego Guevarra, Eliseo Lopez, and Dennis Ortis) were accosted at about 10 p.m. as they were passing by a military checkpoint along a portion of the national highway passing through Brgy. Tayuman in Aurora (San Francisco), Quezon. Grego and Eliseo (both from San Andres, Quezon, one town south) were on their way to join a charcoal processing activity in Agdangan, Quezon (some seven towns northwest), while Dennis was on his way home to Macalelon, Quezon (some three towns north) after three months of work producing copra in San Andres, Quezon.

The drunken 74th Infantry Batallion, Philippine Army (74th IB PA) forces manning the checkpoint suspected that the three and all others then passing the checkpoint were all NPA  forces and arrested them -- despite the existence then of a mutually declared ceasefire. All those who were able to produce identification cards (IDs) were later released. But because the three had no IDs, they continued to be arrested and detained, tortured, later transferred here at the SICA jail, and belatedly swamped with trumped-up charges in various courts, including as far away as the Bicol region, where the three have never been to at all.

Aside from the unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest and detention of the three having been in violation of the NDF-GPH mutual ceasefire agreement, their arrestors, torturers, jailors and prosecutors have also been committing numerous other grave violations of justice, human rights and even a number of the ruling state’s own laws. GregoGuevarra, for one, was only a minor (17 years old) when he was arrested.

With the GPH under the present Aquino regime recalcitrantly violating ceasefires (including those it itself had declared, as well as those mutually declared with the NDF in  peace negotiations) and other important peace agreements, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which is supposed to guarantee protection of the people and of forces on both sides from human rights violations, and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which is supposed to guarantee the protection of peace negotiators, consultants, security and staffers from surveillance, arrest, detention, torture, prosecution and other antagonistic acts that would deter their effective participation and work in the peace process … all these have only shown that the present Aquino regime cannot be trusted enough to respect ceasefires, peace agreements and, for that matter, to seriously go through with the peace talks at all.

It has become more and more obvious that all that the present Aquino regime is interested in is to keep trying to make its “daangmatuwid” (“straight road”) slogan stick, when even that has long been and many times been exposed as being only a pretentious gimmick and not at all backed up by real character and deeds.

In the meantime, while the NDF peace panel and respective NDF committees for socio-economic reforms and for political-and-constitutional reforms have submitted and even several times updated voluminous documents containing extensive and intensive proposals and studies on comprehensive socio-economic and political-and-constitutional reforms, all these have been ignored by the GPH and its negotiating panel, which has not reciprocated with anything much. The GPH negotiating panel has even refused to proceed with serious discussions on the substantive agenda for comprehensive socio-economic and political-and-constitutional reforms, and has only wanted to simply clinch a baseless indefinite ceasefire and thus effect the capitulation of the revolutionary movement instead of being serious about the peace process.

Doubt has thus qualitatively been heightened all the more if there still remains even an iota of positive prospect in still seeking to continue the NDF’s peace negotiations with the GPH under the present Aquino regime.



ALAN JAZMINES 

NDF peace consultant and member of the NDF’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms,presently detained at the SICA, Camp BagongDiwa, Taguig City