forum with NDFP negotiating panel chair Luis Jalandoni
and panel member Coni Ledesma
sponsored by PinoyMedia Center, Inc.
Video Clips of Q&A
April 18, 2015
The civil war in the Philippines and the status of peace
talks between the GPH and NDFP
Dear Friends in the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance,
Thank you very much for inviting me to speak in this people’s forum to launch the campaign “Justice for Lacub” as a response to the grave war crimes and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Aquino government in Lacub, Abra last month.
The topic you have assigned to me is “The civil war in the Philippines and the status of peace talks”.
In the current civil war in the Philippines, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) represents in the peace negotiations, the people’s democratic government which is a co-belligerent of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP/GPH).
Two states exist in the Philippines: one is the revolutionary, representing the people’s democratic power, and the other is counterrevolutionary, representing the foreign and domestic oppressors and exploiters.
The people’s democratic government has effective power over an extensive population and territory with organs of political power in 71 out of 81 provinces in the country. It is led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It has the New People’s Army (NPA) as the main component of state power. The NDFP encompasses a wide array of political forces with 18 allied revolutionary organizations and mass organizations of workers, peasants, women, youth, children and cultural activists.
On the other hand, the reactionary government, currently headed by the Aquino clique, is subservient to US imperialism and utilizes the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the CAFGU and private armies to suppress the people. They carry out the Oplan Bayanihan, patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency Guide. They perpetrate atrocious and numerous violations of human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL).
In carrying out their national liberation struggle through a protracted people’s war, the revolutionary forces are guided by the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution, the Guide for Establishing the People’s Democratic Government, and the Rules of the New People’s Army.
In 1991, the NDFP declared its adherence to international humanitarian law, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Protocol II. Furthermore, in July 1996 it issued the NDFP Declaration of Adherence to the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I and deposited it with the Swiss Federal Council, the official depositary of IHL and also provided a copy to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the official guardian of IHL.
AFP Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Operations in Lacub last month
Taking the data provided by the Fact Finding Mission to Lacub and other reports, it is clear that the 41st Infantry Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Rogelio Noora and 2LT Joe Mari Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez as officers on the ground, committed atrocious war crimes and crimes against humanity and other grave violations of IHL
Grave violations of IHL and constituting war crimes are the brutal killing, torture, mutilation and desecration of Ka Rekka Monte, NPA member, and similar killing and desecration of 6 of her NPA comrades, and the extrajudicial killing of civilians Engineer Fidela Salvador and Noel Viste. The six NPA comrades of Ka Rekka, honored as people’s martyrs like her, are Arnold Jaramillo, Pedring Banggao, Robert Beyao, Brandon Magranga, Robert Perez, and Ricardo Reyes.
The fact that Ka Recca suffered no bullet wound, as the autopsy of the NBI showed, indicates that she was captured alive. She should have been respected as an “hors de combat”. Instead she was subjected to willful killing, torture and inhuman treatment which are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and declared war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
2Lt. Landicho, Capt. Martinez, and Lt. Col. Noora should be held accountable for these war crimes. The responsibility of the Commanding Officer of the 5th Infantry Division under which the 41st IB operates, should also be investigated.
The AFP use of civilians as human shields in coercing 24 civilians to be human shields on September 5, 2014 is likewise a war crime. Using human shields is prohibited under customary international law and declared a war crime by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) either as inhuman and cruel treatment or as an outrage upon personal dignity. It is likewise declared a war crime by the ICC.
Indiscriminate firing directed towards the houses of civilians in Talampac Proper and Pacoc, Talampac by the soldiers of the 41st IB stationed at So. Bantugo, Poblacion, Lacub on September 5, between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m is also a war crime. IHL strictly forbids attacks against the civilian population and civilians.
CARHRIHL Provisions Strictly Prohibiting IHL Violations
These war crimes are also strictly prohibited by provisions in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed in 1998 and approved by the Principals of both Parties, NDFP Chairperson Mariano Orosa and then GRP President Joseph Estrada.
CARHRIHL, Part IV Respect for IHL, Art. 3 prohibits “at any time and in any place: violence to life and person, particularly killing or causing injury, physical or mental torture, mutilation, cruel or degrading treatment, desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of armed conflict …” Art. 4 states: “Civilian population and civilians shall not be the object of attack, they shall be protected from indiscriminate aerial bombardment, strafing, artillery and mortar fire…”
It is worth noting that the CARHRIHL authorizes the investigation and trial by the NDFP and the GRP of those accused of violations of HR and IHL. Cf. CARHRIHL, Part III Respect for Human Rights, Art. 4 and Part IV Respect for International Humanitarian Law, Art. 6. These also state: “The victims or their survivors shall be indemnified.”
This means that the revolutionary justice system of the people’s democratic government can institute investigation, prosecution and trial of those accused of IHL violations. Therefore, the victims and their families may approach the people’s democratic government through its public prosecutors to file relevant complaints.
The CARHRIHL also provides for the filing of such complaints with the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) which is mandated by the CARHRIHL to monitor the implementation of CARHRIHL. Such filing may be done through the Joint Secretariat (JS) of the JMC which holds office in Cubao, Quezon City. The JS is composed of the NDFP Nominated Section of the JS and the GPH Section.
Moreover, such complaints may also be raised in the forthcoming International People’s Tribunal against the US-Aquino regime to be held in Washington, USA next year.
The Current Status of the Peace Talks
A series of consultations between the NDFP Negotiating Panel and a high level delegation of the GPH has resulted in a meeting between the two sides scheduled in Utrecht within the next few days. The two sides are discussing the possible resumption of peace negotiations after the collapse of talks on truce and cooperation last February 2013.
There is a new Special Envoy appointed by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), the official Third Party Facilitator. She is Elisabeth Slattum who has experience in peace talks in Columbia, Nepal and Haiti. She and Mr. Espen Lindbaeck, the Deputy Director of the Peace and Reconciliation Section of the RNG Foreign Ministry came for talks with the NDFP Negotiating Panel in Utrecht on October 18. This new team of the RNG expressed its willingness to help in the resumption of formal talks and to hold the next meeting of the negotiating panels in Oslo, Norway. We reiterated our readiness to resume formal talks on the basis of past bilateral peace agreements in order to address the roots of the armed conflict.
As a goodwill measure to promote peace talks, the revolutionary forces in Mindanao released four Prisoners of War (POWs) on July 29, 2014. They are again offering to release two more POWs, but the AFP is not willing to issue the suspension of offensive military and police operations (SOMO & SOPO) that is needed for the safe and orderly release of the POWs. Peace advocate organizations helped in the release of the POWs last July and they are again trying to facilitate the release of the two POWs. An NPA ceasefire always goes with the SOMO and SOPO.
In contrast to these goodwill gestures of the NPA, CPP and NDFP and the call of peace advocates to resume peace talks, the AFP and PNP commit gross violations of HR and IHL, as seen in the AFP operations in Lacub in September, and in so many other areas in the country.
The NDFP deeply appreciates the call of the family of Ka Recca and other peace advocates for the resumption of peace talks between the NDFP and the Aquino regime. Together let us affirm again our commitment to fight for justice, sovereignty, genuine democracy and a just and lasting peace.
|Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center|
NPA seizes 74 firearms
in anti-mining, anti-warlord raid in Compostela Valley
Red fighters belonging to the New People's Army Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Subregional Command raided the mining company owned by warlord Monkayo Mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr. and a military detachment on 14 April 2015 at 10:30pm in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, confiscating 74 high powered and short firearms.
Seized from the mayor’s goons and paramilitary forces were three M60 machine gun, seven M14 rifles, 13 M16 rifles, nine M1 Garand caliber .30 rifles, three baby M16 rifles, one Carbine rifle, two Bushmaster rifles, one Ultimax light macinegun, one M203 rifle, one RPG launcher, one Galil rifle, one AK 200, 11 shotgun rifles, two 9mm pistols, eight .45 caliber pistols, one .38 caliber pistol, and nine KG rifles. Also confiscated during the successful tactical offensive were 14,000 rounds of assorted ammunition, military vests and radios.
The NPA punished Mayor Brillantes for his overt participation in the commission of various crimes against the people in the furtherance of his economic and political interests in Monkayo. Mayor Brillantes has committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law for building and maintaining a private armed group in pursuit of mining interests, and in conjunction with the larger armed counterrevolutionary program of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. His private armed group was organized in collaboration with the regular, intelligence and paramilitary forces of the 25th Infantry Battalion under the 10th Infantry Division - Eastern Mindanao Command (Armed Forces of the Philippines).
Brillantes’ private armed group functions as a security unit for his mining business and is responsible for harassing and perpetuating a reign of terror in the area. Several persons, including ordinary farmers and residents who enter his mining compound, went missing as they were suspected of being victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Mayor Brillantes’ goons. His workers have not received wages for several months now, and have not been receiving social benefits, medical assistance, and other forms of remuneration.
Tuesday’s attack against Mayor Brillantes should serve as a stern warning against other warlord-politicians who deviate from civilian functions and use militarism to advance mining interest and economic gain. This should also serve as a lesson against GRP officials who continue to participate, support and finance the US-Aquino regime’s counter-revolutionary program and anti-people Oplan Bayanihan (fascist counter-revolutionary program).
APRIL 20, 2015
In Mamasapano and in the peace talks with the NDFP, Jalandoni said Aquino did not appoint the right persons to take charge.
The special GPH delegation first met with the NDFP panel in October 2014 to discuss the possibilities of resuming the formal talks. The same GPH team came back in December 2014 and again in February this year. At that time, the NDFP was told the Aquino administration is “preoccupied with the Mamasapano incident and its impacts on the GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) talks.”
How do you explain the presence of communist rebels in the country’s forest frontiers? Interestingly, the last remaining green spaces in the boondocks are strongholds of the New People’s Army. So who really should rejoice every time a province is declared NPA-free? The masses or the extractive industry? To preserve the richness of the country’s biodiversity, it seems we need to deploy more green warriors like the NPA. The reds are probably the greens’ most reliable, albeit unmentionable ally. It is the people and their resistance which keep the hills alive, and their collaborator is the NPA.
But the narrative of the struggle is incomplete without mentioning the reason why the NPA troops are basing in the countryside. Aren’t they supposed to be grabbing power in the city center? Perhaps they will in the future, but in the meantime they are building organs of political power in the countryside. This is the Maoist legacy in the Philippines.
Since the 1960s, Maoism has become a ‘material force’ in Philippine society. Politics became more fun after a Maoist-inspired Communist Party was re-established in 1968, a Maoist guerrilla army was founded in 1969, and Maoist student activists celebrated the coming revolution in 1970. Soon after, Maoist categories became popular such as semi-feudalism, mass line, serve the people, and protracted people’s war. These terms gained nationwide relevance during the anti-dictatorship struggle in the 1970s.
However, Mao and Maoism are often lampooned in the mainstream press today. There are Marxist academics, but Maoists? There are Leftists who will proudly identify themselves as anti-Stalin and anti-Mao. It doesn’t help that the Chinese government today is behaving like a superbad of the globe. Will it help if we clarify that China’s politburo has already renounced the core teachings of Mao when Deng Xiaoping gained power in 1978?
Succeeding generations grew up without properly understanding Mao’s colossal impact on the modern history of the world when he led the Chinese people in the struggle against foreign domination during the Second World War; and subsequently, during the national liberation in 1949. One fourth of humanity “have stood up” to end feudal oppression and imperialist plunder. Even if we use today’s cynical standards, Mao deserves to be called a true patriot and hero for leading the Chinese revolution.
But alas, thanks to Cold War propaganda, Mao is quickly dismissed by many as a fat dictator obsessed only with power, ideology, and opium.
This is really unfortunate since Mao had many useful teachings that can benefit the global 99 percent. Let the well-funded researchers bombard the cyberspace with real or manufactured proofs of Mao’s personal demons; but for students of history like us and those who wanted to learn from the victorious Chinese revolution, our task is to read beyond the anti-communist rhetoric and systematically study the meaning of Mao and Maoism even if it will neither lead to academic promotion nor profitable writing career.
So what can Mao and Maoism offer us? What endeared him to young activists and revolutionaries in the 1950s and 1960s? How did he inspire the anti-colonial struggle during the early years of the Cold War era? Did Maoism distort or enrich Marxism?
Maoism, according to its detractors, entails a defense of Stalinism. Indeed, Mao upheld the legacy of Stalin; but he was also critical of Stalin’s viewpoints. For example, he rejected Stalin’s statement that there were no more classes and class struggle in the Soviet Union. Mao warned that the remnants of the old elite and the poisonous ideology of the old order are still influential even if a proletarian party is in power. Mao added that the contradictions between the old and new ideas exist within the leadership of the Communist Party.
Studying the experience of the Soviet Union, Mao concluded in the 1950s that it isn’t enough to confiscate and develop the mode of production, there must be a corresponding change too in the superstructure. In other words, the revolution is only half-complete if ownership of the economy is socialized. This must be sustained by radicalizing the beliefs, institutions, and attitudes of the people. Stalin, according to Mao, focused too much on the economic base and ignored the other equally-important aspect of the revolution, which meant struggle in the realm of ideas and culture. Hence, the need for a ‘cultural revolution.’
Mao acknowledged Stalin’s errors but he castigated the new leaders of the Soviet Union for dismissing the positive legacies of Stalin. This sparked a schism in the Communist bloc which we came to know as the ‘great debate’. The ideological struggle became more serious when Mao warned that modern revisionists have grabbed the leadership of the Soviet Union. He said that capitalist restoration is a real possibility if the initial victory of the revolution is not consolidated. He proved he was serious when he mobilized the Chinese masses to support the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ in 1966.
Here was a leader who wanted his constituents to seize control of the bureaucracy. Naturally, Mao would be seen by the Western world as a madman attempting a self-coup.
But Mao proved to be correct when capitalism was eventually restored in Russia and China courtesy of the ‘modern revisionists’ in the politburo of the two countries.
Mao provided us with the essential Marxist lesson of the last half of the 20th century: The dictatorship of the proletariat can always relapse into the former rule of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, in order to decisively defeat modern revisionism, the masses must continuously mobilize and defend the revolution.
But Mao’s strategy to win the revolution is more interesting and applicable for the Philippines. His analysis that Russia’s Bolshevik model is unsuited to the prevailing conditions of semi-feudal and semi-colonial China was adopted too by Filipino revolutionaries in the 1960s. Instead of an urban insurrection led by workers, Mao theorized that the Chinese revolution can first succeed via a people’s war. The forces of reaction are strong and seemingly invincible in the cities but they are weak in the countryside. Mao argued that a people’s army can build strength in these remote regions, establish and consolidate the political rural base of the Party, and capture the cities when the mass movement is able to accumulate enough strength. Mao emphasized that the people’s army will enjoy mass support if it fights feudalism in the provinces. To win over the peasant masses, the people’s army must therefore make land reform its principal agenda. This revolution will fight for genuine independence and democracy but it will be sustained by the socialist construction of society. This is the essence of the national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.
If this is familiar, it is because the NPA subscribes to this model. The NPA was patterned after China’s liberation army. The major difference is that the NPA is waging war in an archipelago. But the end goal is the same: Surround the cities from the countryside where red political power can exist.
Mao’s legacy in the Philippines is not limited to the NPA. Activists translated several articles of Mao which enriched the country’s political discourse. When we say ‘learn from the masses’, it reflects the enduring power of Maoist quotations. China’s Red Book summarized Mao’s teachings but its essential contents were amplified through the Struggle for National Democracy and Philippine Society and Revolution, the country’s most popular textbooks on Communism.
Mao’s ‘Talks at the Yenan Forum’ which discussed proletarian art and literature, proved highly significant in radicalizing numerous artists and writers in the 1970s. It also set the framework on how to merge aesthetics and politics which challenged the dominant conservative perspectives in the academe.
Philosophy students can enhance their knowledge on Hegelian dialectics by reading Mao’s ‘On Practice, On Contradiction.’ Another essay by Mao, ‘On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People’, is an impressive example of using his philosophy to study the political situation.
Mao had consistently fought to bridge the gap between the rural and urban. He sought to erase the division between manual and mental labor. He ridiculed abstract knowledge divorced from practice. He discouraged excessive theorizing. He called on young people and the intellectuals to live with peasants and workers.
China’s spectacular economic growth is often credited to the market reforms initiated by Deng after 1978. But the fundamentals of the strong Chinese economy were established during the phase of socialist construction under the leadership of Mao.
|Interview/photo-ops with Coni Ledesma ▼|
|Coni Ledesma with reporters of www.bulatlat.com and www.bicoltoday.com|
Mao is dead but Maoism has survived in the 21st century. What kept it alive all these years despite the betrayal at the China front? A new generation of activists is rediscovering the original and daring ideas of Mao. Revolutionaries all over the world are embracing and affirming the validity of Maoism. The remote corners of the so-called Third World are alive with the people’s struggles. And here in the Philippines, Mao’s teachings on the united front, his leadership during the long march, his theories on guerrilla warfare, his polemics against pseudo-revolutionaries, and even his foreign policies are enthusiastically being discussed in various study sessions from the countryside to the cities.