2 Duterte advisers try to discredit, reject CASER
AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2020 - 12:00am

The most reasonable expectation for those avidly awaiting the resumption of the GRP-NDFP formal peace negotiations – which President Duterte had unilaterally “terminated” in November 2017 but which, in late November 2019, he publicly stated he wanted to continue – is that the  negotiators shall take up what was on the agenda when he stopped the talks.

That agenda focuses on the discussion, adoption and signing by the negotiating panels of an Interim Peace Agreement (IPA) that will contain three accords:  the common drafts on agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and national industrialization and economic development (NIED); a proposed general amnesty for all political prisoners; and a coordinated unilateral ceasefire.

The ARRD and NIED common drafts are two of the most important sections of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), on which a common outline was arrived at after four formal rounds of negotiations held in Europe plus seven meetings of reciprocal working committees (RWCs-SER) and working groups (RWGs-SER) held in the Philippines.

The signing of the IPA is expected to facilitate the negotiations on other sections of the CASER and the two remaining agenda: political and constitutional reforms and cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.

That the initial four formal-negotiation rounds under his watch “accomplished much in a short period of time,” which the NDFP panel recently acknowledged, is something President Duterte should take pride in. With political will the resumed peace talks can accomplish much more.

In a statement on Jan. 14, the NDFP RWC-SER noted that “talks on specific, substantive proposals started only in August 2016 and, after just one year and three months, basic agreements were reached on ARRD and NIED.”  It recalled that after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1998, the CASER was put on the agenda. “Yet, over 18 years [no talks on it under the Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino administrations] only its preamble and declaration of principles were discussed.”

.The community of peace advocates – five groups of which convened an “Assembly for Peace” yesterday in Quezon City to push for the talks’ resumption soonest – has recognized the CASER’s importance to the Filipino people: that it addresses the social and economic roots of armed conflict and, thus, constitutes “the meat of the peace talks.” 

However, early this month two former AFP chiefs, now members of the Duterte Cabinet national security cluster, egregiously tried to discredit and reject the CASER and to oppose further formal talks. It was in response to their separate but parallel commentaries that the NDFP RWC-SER issued its Jan. 14 statement quoted above. The two are national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

 “At the very least [they are] grossly misinformed,” the NDFP RWC-SER said, “they maliciously distort the considerable progress the GRP and NDFP made on the CASER between August 2016 and November 2017.” What they wrote “expose their total ignorance about the technical negotiations already undertaken by the respective RWCs of the GRP and NDFP,” it adds, “showing themselves as chronic saboteurs of the peace process and proving to be among the biggest obstacles to peace in the country.” 

What did the two “militarist hawks” write about CASER, and what did the NDFP RWC-SER write in turn?

Esperon alleged that the NDFP crafted the CASER “with the goal of turning the Philippine economic model to nationalist and socialist… dismantling the effects of globalization which [the NDFP] views as the source of the country’s continued underdevelopment.” To do so, he argued, might make the Philippines “worse off economically if it lets go of the advantages of the current system” and “face ostracism and isolation in the community of nations after such a radical shift.”

NDFP: “Poor grasp of economics, global policy trends, and Philippine economic realities; they mistakenly think economies have overcome underdevelopment through free-market policies, whereas this is belied by the historical experiences of the old industrial capitalist powers, newly industrialized countries, and former socialist states.”

“Their CASER” binds not only the current administration and the [NDFP] but also ALL THEIR SUCCESSORS,” Esperon said, adding it would be unreasonable for the Duterte administration to commit to something that is “irrevocable and might present challenges for the next administrations.”

NDFP: “It’s bizarre that they expect an agreement to be meaningful only if its validity or effectivity holds for the current administration and not for the institutions and organizations they [current and succeeding administrations] represent.”  

 Esperon further claimed (as Galvez did too) that “their CASER” wanted to demobilize the AFP personnel by reducing their functions to “civil works and infrastructure construction,” whereas the NPA is “designated to play a key role in implementing agrarian reform.”

NDFP: “No such provision [to demobilize the AFP] in any of the common drafts.”

Galvez alleged the CASER is a “formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty.” Adopting it and the IPA, he grumbled, is like “committing treason once the program of the CPP-NPA-NDFP based on its own constitution will be implemented across the nation, while the government bends its laws, norms, and other institutional democratic foundations.”

NDFP: “It’s gross perversity to slander national industrialization and genuine land reform in such terms and glorify the traditional servility to foreign investors and banks as the only path to development.”

Alleging that CASER is a product of a “secret back-channel maneuver [by the Left],” Galvez said “there was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units” and with the Filipino people who have suffered the most during the decades-long armed conflict. Further, he claims CASER will send the country backward “because it contradicts existing laws, such as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997,” alleging that CASER takes away the IP’s direct participation in issues such as agrarian reform.

NDFP: The common drafts were widely taken up in the guerrilla zones and sectoral consultations nationwide. The GRP panel can confirm its multi-agency meetings on the CASER with officials of the NEDA, DAR, DA, DENR,NCIP, LBP, DoF, DDTI, DOST. It also brought in academics from UP, Ateneo and civil society groups. As for the IPs being left out, there’s no such provision in the common drafts.

For coda, the NDFP RWC-SER wrote: “The misguided, ill-informed and malicious commentaries on the CASER are, most of all, intended to sabotage the possible resumption of the peace talks. Their narrow-mindedness also blocks the most important mechanism in the country for challenging the inequitable status quo and greatly accelerating development for the overwhelming majority of the people.”

What does President Duterte say about this?

*      *      *

Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com

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