After several months of hard work in unilateral and bilateral meetings, the Philippines government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panels were ready to do a little polishing of common drafts November 22 and 23 in Utrecht, The Netherlands, for finalization in the slated fifth round of formal talks in Oslo November 25 to 27.
The common drafts were those pertaining to:
1. The general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)
2. The coordinated unilateral ceasefires (CUC) as the advance from a stand-down type of ceasefire from the fifth to the sixth round of formal talks in January 2018
3. Part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)
The government and NDFP negotiating panels were confident that they would be able to initial the CASER; the agreements on the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners, and the coordinated unilateral ceasefires at the closing session of the fifth round of formal talks, then formally sign all of these at the closing ceremony of the sixth round in January 2018.
It was also expected that the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) would begin in the sixth round and be completed any time between March and May of 2018 in time for possible revisions of the 1987 Constitution of GRP.
Unfortunately, Duterte – the principal of the government’s negotiating panel – started on November 18 to rant every day against the CPP, NPA and the NDFP in connection with recent incidents in the armed conflict. He also ranted against the entire peace process until Nov. 23, when he made his Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace negotiations.
He violated the mutual agreement that talks would be discreet until there was good news to announce at the end of the fifth or sixth round of formal talks. In the course of his rants, Duterte unwittingly exposed his scarce, shallow and defective knowledge of the peace process:
1. He cited alleged recent incidents in the armed conflict which he used as false basis for slandering the revolutionary forces and threatening termination of the peace negotiations, along with the outlawing of the revolutionary forces and legal democratic forces as terrorists. In the absence of a ceasefire between the GRP and NDFP, he through his Negotiating Panel should have submitted his complaints to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under CARHRIHL.
The NDFP has always submitted to the JMC its complaints of human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed by the AFP and PNP under the ceaseless all-out war policy, Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao. These violations are far worse in scale and severity than those alleged by Duterte against the NPA, yet the NDFP never threatened to terminate the peace negotiations.
2. Duterte spouted lies such as the NDFP ignored the government proposal for a stand-down agreement prior to the adoption and implementation of the coordinated unilateral ceasefire. Showing gross ignorance of the peace process, he even referred to The Netherlands as the facilitator rather than the Royal Norwegian Government.
There are signs Duterte is mentally unfit to handle the complexities of the affairs of his state and the peace process between the government and NDFP. Officials in his Cabinet and the reactionary armed forces should consider whether he is mentally fit for office or needs to be replaced in accordance with their 1987 Constitution.
Among his lucid statements in the course of his rants are those pertaining to his voluntary admission as a fascist in the service of the United States (Amboy), his overwhelming desire for killing and war, and his advice to the NDFP to negotiate with his successor in due time.
Professor Jose Maria Sison is chief political consultant with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.