There exist the internal conflicts in the Philippines–between the Government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on the one hand, and between the GRP and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), on the other hand. The protagonists against the government are the current embodiment of decades-old Moro and class rebellions in the country.
These are both political rebellions requiring political solutions. However, the government has been treating them historically as armed situations requiring military solutions, influenced, no doubt, by the US counter-insurgency strategies. The record speaks for itself: the government may defeat a particular group, may neutralize its leadership, or may scatter its followers. However–like a many-headed hydra or a resurrecting phoenix–the rebellions continue.
The democratic approach to these conflicts is logically a political accommodation of rebel groups, their grievances, and their agenda. A democratic system works by having all components of the political body compete for and win the support of the majority of the people in fair and free political processes, including elections. Once there is an exclusion of a particular group, then the seeds of conflict are sown.
A democratic approach to political settlement addresses the essential nature of the rebellion, which is political. However, only a democratic regime can implement it successfully. The Nepal political experiment bears watching.
I am publishing the following outline presentation I made to a forum of third party peace advocates in 2005 to illustrate this democratic approach to a political solution in the GRP-CPP conflict:
UNDERTAKING POLITICAL REFORMS
TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE PEACE REGIME
An Outline Presentation
What are the basic positions on the political system of the two sides in the Philippine internal conflict?
The Government of the Philippines has the basic position of adherence to the Philippine constitution which states in Article II, Section 1: The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, as the political leadership and dominant member of the National Democratic Front, has the basic position of establishing a “people’s democratic state.” This is stated in its Program for A People’s Democratic Revolution which states in its second section: The ultimate goal of the people’s democratic revolution is the establishment of a people’s democratic state and a coalition or united front government. The same section also speaks of the creation of an “armed independent regime” before the establishment of a nationwide coalition government.
What are common elements? What are the differing elements?
The common elements in these two positions are the following:
1. Common acceptance and adherence to democracy and democratic principles.
2. Common acceptance of the concept of the republican state.
3. Common acceptance of the principle and concept of the people’s sovereignty.
The differing elements in these two positions are the following:
1. The GRP concept of democracy does not make distinction between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, differences in religious and other beliefs-it is based fundamentally on recognition of human rights, including the right of suffrage. The CPP concept recognizes class divides in society and specifies graduated recognition of political rights based on these class divides.
2. The GRP concept of people’s sovereignty, likewise, does not make distinction but asserts the principle of “one person, one vote.” The CPP concept favors a preferential treatment in favor of the “masses” of workers, peasants and other allied classes.
3. The GRP concept supports an open, pluralist political system where opportunity is open to all political parties, except those espousing violence or are not church or religious groups. The CPP concept automatically assigns leadership to the “proletariat” represented by the communist party within the framework of a united front or coalition.
4. The GRP insists on the constitutional framework while the CPP does not recognize the present constitution.
Can democracy or the democratic system be the framework for permanent peace?
Yes. There is a common understanding of the basic elements of democracy, to wit:
1. Recognition of people’s sovereignty, expressed through regular elections;
2. Recognition of a multiparty, pluralist political system;
3. Recognition of all human rights inherent to a democratic political system particularly the civil and political rights;
4. Toleration of minorities, diverging views and opposition political forces; and
5. Rejection of anti-democratic practices.
Constitutional reform is also a meeting point by the two sides, participated in by genuine representatives of the people. Political and electoral reforms aimed at broadening participation by marginalized and unrepresented or underrepresented sectors and ensuring the real will of the people are also a meeting point.
To this end, however, both sides will have to be prepared to adjust their present positions, to wit:
1. The GRP will have to step back from its demand for the CPP-NDF to first adhere to the present constitution and take up the more flexible framework of constitutional and political reform.
2. The CPP will have to step back from its insistence for a belligerency status and its position of an “independent regime” and espouse an openness to participate in the constitutional and political reform process.
3. Both will have to recognize that the whole reform process needs a peaceful and non-conflict environment to prosper-that is, at the very least, there should be a cessation of hostilities or a permanent ceasefire. At the maximum, there may be even a political settlement already in place while the reform process is incorporated into the political and governance processes of the state. The crucial factor here is the level of trust and sincerity and political will to pursue reforms on both sides.
Is the post-Marcos Philippine democracy capable of accommodating the political agenda of the rebel movement?
Yes. As long as the basic reforms envisioned in the 1987 constitution and by subsequent practice are pursued and instituted.
The major elements are the following:
1. The shift to a parliamentary system, with an effective party-list system;
2. Decentralization, even the creation of a federal state;
3. A strong multiparty system;
4. Exercise of the right of suffrage by a politically mature and critical electorate;
5. Elimination of the undue advantage of political dynasties;
6. Credible and effective electoral system and electoral management;
7. Guarantee of civil and political rights;
8. People’s participation in governance;
9. Effective judiciary and rule of law; and
10. An effective policy on campaign finance and against corruption.
If so, what political and electoral reforms are needed to put in place the political foundations for permanent peace?
The political and electoral reforms should strive towards the common goal of a broadened democracy, particularly from the point of view of the rebel groups and other forces on the political margins:
1. Open up the democratic processes to permit opportunities for substantive and credible participation (and contention for power) by marginalized, unrepresented and underrepresented sectors.
2. Realize equality, fairness, and honesty in electoral contests.
3. Banning and vigorous crackdown on undemocratic, violent and illegal means in undertaking electoral contests.
4. Restrictions on campaign financing.
5. Effective prevention of use of government and its resources in partisan activities during elections.
6. Depoliticization of the military and the police forces.
7. Regulating media access and use for partisan political campaigns.
8. Developing the political maturity of citizen-voters.
9. Promoting the effective role of political parties, programs and platforms.
10. Effective ban on political dynasties.
This assumes both sides recognize the basic democratic nature of the post-Marcos political system and agree on further reforms to enhance the system. Non-recognition of these two points will effectively scuttle progress on the peace table.
How should these reforms be implemented?
Given the fundamental and comprehensive nature of political reforms needed, the basic instrument is to convene the Constitutional Convention to undertake a comprehensive review of the 1987 constitution, make the necessary amendments to reflect the people’s will and the current realities, and stand as a fundamental bedrock for the unification of the whole nation and people.
Measures should be taken by the GRP to ensure the most democratic participation in the Concon, even including representatives of political forces in the margins.
Additionally, specific political and electoral reforms that can already be implemented within the framework of the 1987 constitution should be implemented by the GRP.
Measures should also be undertaken by the CPP-NDF to support these reforms and to participate in the reform process.
Third-party initiatives, particularly by civil society, should also be undertaken to monitor, support and advocate for reforms within the reform process.
August 14, 2008
An interesting sidelight in the current intense positioning vis-av-vis the MOA-AD between GRP and MILf is the role of peace advocates. There were discernible differences among their initial (I think even now) on the MOA-AD. Some supported it while some criticized it, while others confined themselves to reacting on the process itself.
In so doing, the question of how third-party peace advocates behave or position themselves has come out. My thoughts on this are the following:
1. There are generally three types of peace advocates, depending from where they are situated in the peace process: First, those who generally framed themselves within the GRP position; second, those who generally framed themselves in recognition of the MILF position; and third, those who are neutral or do not want to be embroiled in the substantive aspect of the peace negotiations but stress on the peace process.
2. The third type or whom we call the third-party peace advocates is the interesting group precisely because of their diversity. However, the one common thing among them is their positioning apart from the two main sides negotiating the peace.
3. However, in relation to the MOA-AD, some of them broke the rules of the third-party peace advocacy. The first rule they broke is in taking a side for (or against) the MOA-AD. It immediately embroiled them to defend it before the considerable opposition against it and trapped them in the logic of the MOA-AD. In a situation where stakeholders, including major ones, are not yet unified on it, this taking side is premature and brands them as partisan. I think the correct positioning is only for a national discussion and for transparency on the part of the protagonists. If anybody wants to air his or her position on the MOA-AD, this should not be under the flag of peace advocacy.
4. The second rule they broke is to argue the case legally or theoretically. The peace process is essentially a political process and legal instruments–including the constitution–can and indeed are changed to reflect the political agreements. However, if there is as yet no universal agreement, particularly among major stakeholders and principals, legal arguments usually became part of the debate. The problem of the MOA-AD is that there is no unanimity even among these major stakeholders and principals on both sides.
The weak political standing of the GMA administration lends itself to a lack of persuasion capital on its side–in Congress, affected local LGUs, media, and civil society. On the side of the MILF, the MNLF, ARMM officials and tribal leaders were not one behind its position. This can only affect and divide the third-party peace advocates.
A theoretical approach is only good as a supportive device to the political argument–it cannot substitute for the latter nor become the main argument. Likewise, a historical approach is secondary to arguments based on present realities.
5. The third rule they broke is to argue at all. Third-party peace advocates are supposed to be a unifying influence in the peace process and peace negotiations. They are not supposed to divide stakeholders. This is a specific danger when you take sides. Of course, taking sides cannot be avoided on certain issues but this should be handled very delicately to avoid antagonizing either side and weakening their third-party character.
I advise third-party peace advocates to also deepen their own discussion on their role in order to effectively conduct themselves in peace advocacy.
February 12, 2010
I have been getting my share of virulent comments that can only be characterized as coming from the extreme Left and extreme Right of the political spectrum on the issue of peace and the peace process. Ironically, all of them concern the peace process between the GRP and the CPP/NPA/NDF.
Let me give an unsolicited advice to these friends. You are all arguing for war and not for peace or, in another sense, for “peace” on your terms, i.e., surrender of the other side to your position. The meaning of all your diatribes is: You are all against the current peace negotiations and would opt for a war of annihilation. Matira ang matibay, ika nga.
However, it is obvious that you do not represent the prevailing position of your side, i.e., either that of the GRP or the CPP, much less of the ordinary Filipinos who, in survey after survey, showed that they cannot anymore understand the mutual fratricide among fellow Filipinos. My unsolicited advice to you is to argue your position with your principals–it is futile to argue with the other side or to third-party peace advocates who do not have stakes in extreme positions.
At the same time, it is also timely to advice all of us (including those with extreme Right or extreme Left positions) to reflect on the sufferings the internal conflicts have so far have inflicted on our families, our friends, our communities, and our people for last four decades, without any discernible clear victory for either side. I also would advice all to reflect on the political solution to the conflict (not on the solutions to all the problems of the nation and our people) within the context of the building of a genuine democracy based on credible political processes that reflect the real will of the people.
This is what I pointed out, if we are to assess the possibility of the present Aquino government: that, more than at any time in the past since EDSA 1, there is a real chance to end the conflict with honor intact on both sides, to undertake democratic reforms that would enable the genuine participation of estranged fellow Filipinos in democratic elections and in democratic governance, and unite the whole people to face the many crises facing our nation and people at present. I consider the taking of this opportunity to end the conflict honorably as everyone’s patriotic duty at present.
It is also in this vein that I apologize to those commenters who have taken the extreme positions from the Left and the Right with regards to my decision not to publish their comments. I know they have their own blogs and venue for their views. It is enough. I refuse to add my own blog as a window for shallow tirades and arguments. The only exception I make–if you notice–is if, I think, you have a substantive argument that needs to be answered intelligently. Peace.