Statement
November 20, 2023

Seemingly against all odds, the new Marcos Jr administration sent out feelers for peace talks to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) within a few months of inauguration, and the result is the announcement this week that a significant four-paragraph communique was signed at the Oslo City Hall on November 23, 2023, to re-start the on-again, off-again talks which began over 30 years ago. 

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) unreservedly applauds the Oslo Communique which will enable a renewed effort to reach a just and lasting peace by addressing the root causes of the social conflict in the Philippines,” said Peter Murphy, the ICHRP Chairperson.

By choosing November 23 for the signing, the Marcos Jr administration sent a firm rebuff to the predecessor Duterte administration which terminated the peace talks by Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017.

The NDFP has always expressed willingness to proceed with peace talks to address the roots of the armed conflict , but was extremely disappointed when Duterte closed the door. The negotiating panels were ready to sign a substantive portion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and even after that, in 2018, were poised to sign a major ceasefire agreement. Duterte’s decision began the bloody “whole-of-nation” effort to crush the armed rebellion and the civilian national democratic movement.

The Oslo Joint Statement is the outcome of a series of informal discussions held in the Netherlands and Norway starting in 2022, initiated by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista (Ret.) and facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG). The initiative was personally welcomed by then NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison.

“The joint statement is the result of the Filipino people’s struggle for a genuine just and lasting peace that remains strong and undeterred despite political setbacks and ongoing counterinsurgency that cannot crush the people’s united will to fight for change,” said Murphy.

“The Philippine security forces captured, tortured and murdered the senior leadership team of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in August 2022, and then the CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison died on December 16, 2022, but the armed struggle and the broader national democratic movement did not collapse. Rather it appears stronger than ever,” said Murphy. 

“But for the talks to resume in good faith, the Marcos Jr administration needs to meet a bare minimum of requirements, starting with honoring past agreements from the peace negotiations such as the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),  Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and a repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of the GRP that designates the NDFP as a terrorist organization.”

At a media conference on November 28, the NDFP leaders said that they would propose the release of imprisoned NDFP Peace Consultants as they are needed in the talks, assurance of security and immunity guarantees for all involved in the negotiations, the release of all political prisoners – now 791, and the removal of the terrorist designation of the CPP, NPA and NDFP by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

They explained that the talks will start in 2024, no date has been set, and everything is on the table. A very high priority for the NDFP is that all previous agreements in the peace talks are reaffirmed.

Here is the full text of the Joint Statement:

“Cognizant of the serious socioeconomic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country, the parties recognize the need to unite as a nation in order to urgently address these challenges and resolve the reasons for the armed conflict.

The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict. Resolving the roots of the armed conflict and ending the armed struggle shall pave the way for the transformation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

The parties acknowledge the deep-rooted socio-economic and political grievances and agree to come up with a framework that sets the priorities for the peace negotiation with the aim of achieving the relevant socioeconomic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace. Such framework, that will set the parameters for the final peace agreement, shall be agreed upon by both parties.

Consequently, we envision and look forward to a country where a united people can live in peace and prosperity.”

It was signed by the GRP represented by the Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo Jr.; Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr.; and Gen Emmanuel T. Bautista (Ret.) and by the NDFP represented by National Executive Council Member Luis G. Jalandoni; Negotiating Panel Interim Chairperson Julieta de Lima; and Panel Member Coni K. Ledesma. The signing was witnessed by the RNG Special Envoy Kristina Lie Revheim. The RNG Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide also attended the signing ceremony.

Further comment: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301