The sequence of events and flurry of evasive statements issued by Aquino’s spokespersons and peace negotiators over the past several days on the matter of the temporary synchronized ceasefire point to one glaring fact: that up to late afternoon of January 2, fifteen days after special representatives from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) agreed on a ceasefire from December 20 to January 15, the GPH had not formally declared an extension of its Yuletide ceasefire that was to end on January 2.
When pressed by a Manila Standard reporter on whether the GPH had indeed issued a formal order extending the military and police suspension of offensive operations, Aquino spokesperson Edwin Lacierda failed to provide a direct answer and instead quibbled: “The joint statement where Sec. Ronald Llamas represented our country clearly showed we intend to respect the ceasefire. The AFP was informed of the ceasefire, and so there is no reason for them to allege that in the absence of a presidential directive, that we did not honor the ceasefire”.
This came on top of the equally evasive statements issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process: "The press communiqué issued in the wake of a December 17 and 18 meeting in The Hague between representatives of both parties and the Norwegian government, as well as a subsequent statement issued on December 20 from Secretary Teresita Deles would prove that the government affirmed the extended ceasefire from December 20 to January 15".
It is clear that at the time both these statements were issued, the GPH had not actually issued any formal order extending its ceasefire to January 15 in a clear failure to comply with the December 17-18 agreement. Neither do these statements imply that the GPH had any intention of issuing such a formal order. It is pure hogwash to claim that the December 18 Press Communique, which Llamas and GPH chief negotiator Alex Padilla did not even sign, is sufficient to show the GPH’s commitment to the temporary ceasefire.
It is plain to see that the process of ordering a formal extension of the ceasefire by the GPH began only around noontime of January 2. The timestamp on the letter of recommendation of the Department of National Defense (DND) shows it was sent to Malacañang only at 11:30 am, an hour or so after the order of the CPP Central Committee abbreviating the temporary ceasefire was made public and posted on the internet. The GPH negotiating panel forwarded a copy of the order just before 5pm to Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), who promptly forwarded such to the NDFP International Office.
Upon receipt of the formal order signed by Aquino, NDFP Negotiating Panel Chair Luis Jalandoni immediately communicated with the CPP Central Committee and recommended that a notice for the extension of the ceasefire to January 15 be issued. A declaration for such a reextension was promptly made by the CPP Central Committee on January 3.
The CPP stresses that the momentary abbreviation of its ceasefire could have been avoided if the GPH had promptly complied with the December 17-18 agreement made at The Hague in the presence of the RNG ambassador. The CPP issued two statements (on December 25 and 27 order) urging Aquino to immediately reciprocate the December 20 of the CPP-CC with the aim of ensuring the effectivity of the temporary synchronized ceasefire agreement. Letters were likewise sent by the NDFP representatives to Secretary Llamas and Attorney Padilla directly and through the RNG third-party facilitator.
Is the CPP only making excuses in insisting that the GPH issue a formal order of extension? Aquino’s spokesperson, indeed, expressed such a myopic idea, in a vain attempt to cover up Aquino’s overly belated compliance with the December 18 agreement. Such an allegation reflects the narrow-minded view that serious negotiations can be conducted without formal compliance and notices by either side.
Mr. Aquino and his representatives should understand that for the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations to prosper, both parties should manifest mutual respect and reciprocity in exercising their respective political authorities and in complying with formal agreements.
The GPH cannot expect the revolutionary forces of the NDFP to do what the MILF did in having forged a prolonged and indefinite ceasefire agreement which eventually restrained the MILF while allowing the AFP to build-up its forces in the Bangsamoro areas to encircle, overwhelm and push the MILF to submit to the GPH.
The GPH cannot expect the NDFP to do what the MILF did in signing the Framework Agreement which saw the MILF subsume its political authority and independence to that of the Manila government. In the case of the MILF, the Aquino government has even attempted to further subject it to the GPH’s authority by trying to renege on one of the key points in the Framework Agreement in insisting on appointing the chair of the yet-to-be-formed Transition Commission.
The revolutionary forces are determined to achieve a just and lasting peace. Complementary to waging people’s war and democratic mass struggles, the revolutionary forces engage in peace negotiations with the GPH in order to seek an alliance that would address and resolve the fundamental socio-economic and political issues that lie at the root of the raging armed conflict.
The CPP and other revolutionary organizations allied with the NDFP are profoundly interested in peace negotiations in order to put to the fore the basic issues of land reform, national industrialization, national liberation and social justice, tackle such outstanding issues as human rights and international humanitarian law and ventilate the pressing demands of the Filipino people for employment, wage increases and expansion of public services and against price increases, incursion of mining companies and the like.
The revolutionary forces, however, will negotiate only with a government that truly understands and practices, the principles of mutual respect and reciprocity. It is quite unfortunate that the GPH has only belatedly realized that it could not get away with the non-issuance of a formal reciprocal order for a temporary synchronized ceasefire and acted only after the NDFP showed that it was determined to conduct peace negotiations on an equal footing.