Negotiating panels of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front are expected to exchange drafts on the proposed bilateral ceasefire and craft an amnesty proclamation as peace talks are set to resume in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, Oct. 6.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said that they hope to come up with a ceasefire agreement that will include joint monitoring, possibly with a third-party overseer.
“The previous ceasefires were unilateral. We need to craft mechanisms to monitor violations and resolve conflicts and issues arising from them,” Dureza explained.
While the unilateral ceasefires declared by both the GRP and the NDF were indefinite in nature, the presidential peace adviser said the government is eyeing a more permanent cessation of hostilities.
“These can only be done if we are able to agree on the more substantial issues of social and economic reforms. These are the more contentious issues and we expect humps and bumps during the peace negotiations,” Dureza added.
Both panels have already crafted drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), which is described as the “meat” of the peace talks.
The end of hostilities and disposition of forces—the other substantive agenda of the peace talks—hinge on the success of CASER, along with political and constitutional reforms.
Dureza, however, is confident that the inspiration provided by President Rodrigo Duterte will enable both parties to pull the peace process through.
“He may not be capable of elegant language, as you have noticed, but he has pure spirit and heart in wanting to have peace in the land,” Dureza said on Friday, Sept. 30, at the closing ceremony of the 2016 National Peace Consciousness Month.
Draft amnesty proclamation ready
Government peace panel head and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III meanwhile said that a draft amnesty proclamation is already ready for submission during the second round of peace talks.
“The list has been narrowed down to just over 400 from a high of more than 500. As per agreement during the formal resumption of the peace talks in August, the proclamation will only cover NDF members currently detained,” Bello elaborated.
He said the president, with the concurrence of Congress, could declare a general amnesty once the peace talks are brought to a successful conclusion.
Bello, however, said both negotiating panels will also have to hurdle issues on political and constitutional reforms in addition to the social and economic reform agenda for the peace talks to succeed.
The Philippine government is confident that it will be able to strike a deal with the communist rebels by August next year.
Peace talks between Philippine government and the NDF have been going on and off over the last 30 years with over 40 rounds of formal and informal talks.
Every time, however, the negotiations are scuttled due to hard line demands from both sides.
In July, President Duterte ordered the release of 22 detained NDF consultants, 16 of them later joined the first round of Oslo talks in August, to fulfill a campaign promise and to jumpstart the peace negotiations.
He also declared a unilateral ceasefire during his State of the Nation Address only to lift it later after the communist rebels ambushed a combined Army-CAFGU patrol.
The president nevertheless re-imposed the unilateral ceasefire on the eve of the August Oslo talks, which the NDF reciprocated with an indefinite and unilateral ceasefire of their own.