Philippines: agreement with rebels to reset peace talks

In a joint statement released Nov. 28, the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) announced an agreement to reset peace negotiations in an attempt to end a 54-year-long conflict. The agreement was facilitated by Norway and signed in Oslo by representatives of both President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and the NDFP. The statement cited "socioeconomic and environmental issues," as well as "foreign security threats facing the country" as reasons for the re-opening of negotiations. Talks most recently stalled in 2017 when then-president Rodrigo Duterte broke off a peace process and declared the NDFP-affiliated New People's Army (NPA) a "terrorist organization." 

The agreement brings hope that one of the longest armed conflicts in Asia will finally come to an end. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), with the NPA as its armed wing, was founded by Jose Maria Sison in 1969 as a reaction to the widespread corruption, inequality, and brutality under the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The father of the incumbent president, Marcos Sr. ruled under martial law for nine of the 21 years he was in power, and committed numerous human rights abuses. The NPA, inspired by Maoist ideology, engaged in a guerilla war with the Marcos regime, and continued its insurgency after the dictator's 1986 ouster in a popular uprising. The NDFP was founded in 1973 a broad front of popular organizations in the CCP's orbit.

At one point the movement was said to have swelled to some 26,000 fighters before weakening in the 1990s amid infighting and government gains. Today, the NPA is said to have less than 2,000 fighters while more than 40,000 lives have been lost amidst the conflict.

The joint statement comes nearly a year after the death of Sison. His widow Julieta de Lima, among the signatories, also issued a personal statement of her own, warning of a difficult process ahead. "The quest for genuine peace has no shortcuts," she said.

From Jurist, Nov. 28. Used with permission.

See our last report on the communist insurgency in the Philippines.