Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that Filipinos did not need the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER), a joint agreement being formed between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) regarding social and economic reforms.
Contrary to Galvez’s claim that CASER is “product of a secret backchannel maneuver by communist insurgents,” it was in fact the subject of four rounds of peace talks from 2016 until President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to end talks in 2017, according to the NDFP.
The fifth round of talks were also convened, but cancelled.
“The NDFP and GRP each brought their own draft versions of the CASER to the negotiating table. Both are presumed to be negotiating in good faith with their respective proposals for addressing long-standing Philippine poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. The point of the CASER is to reconcile these distinct versions to produce a mutually agreed program of social and economic reforms,” said the NDFP in a statement.
Further, the NDFP shared that the peace talks in 2016 and 2017 have progressed beyond the two parties just having their respective drafts of the CASER. Four formal rounds of talks and seven meetings in the Philippines produced a common outline for the CASER and common drafts on the sections of agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) and national industrialization and economic development (NIED).
“These mutually agreed common drafts were prepared by the bilateral teams for CASER of the NDFP and GRP, received by their respective Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) in November 2017, and are up for approval by the NDFP and GRP panels upon a resumption of talks,” said the NDFP.
CASER is the second of four substantive agenda in the 30-year old peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. CASER is to be tackled after the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) became binding and effective on the two Parties when it was signed by NDFP chairperson Mariano Orosa on April 10, 1998, and then-President Joseph Estrada on Aug. 7, 1998.
“There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people who have suffered the most during this decades-long armed conflict,” said Galvez.
Again refuting Galvez, the NDFP said the CASER draft and updates was widely disseminated and discussed in guerilla zones and public forums with subsequent updates in 2004, 2011 and 2016-17.
“The substantive content of these common drafts were widely taken up by the NDFP not just in guerilla zones but in sectoral consultations nationwide. The content of the NDFP’s CASER is possibly even more widely known than the GRP’s own Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022,” said the NDFP.
Local governments like Marikina and Pasay also issued resolutions supporting the peace talks and various forums, gatherings and rallies on the contents of the peace talks were held following such support, according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila who sought support for these city resolutions to be passed.
The NDFP also said that the GRP panel can also confirm its numerous multi-agency meetings on the CASER and the wide participation of various line agencies, Congress, local government officials, Congress and the academe in the formal rounds abroad as well in the bilateral team meetings in the Philippines.
“In particular, the common drafts were produced with officials from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and others. The GRP also brought in academics from the University of the Philippines (UP), De La Salle University (DLSU), and Ateneo as well as representatives of civil society,” said the NDFP.
CASER is treasonous
Galvez said allowing the implementation of CASER was tantamount to committing treason because the government would yield the country’s laws, norms, and other institutional democratic foundations.
The NDFP said the claim that CASER is treasonous is perplexing.
“They criticize the CASER as treasonous, surrendering the national government’s integrity and the State’s sovereignty, and yielding “the country’s laws, norms and other institutional democratic foundations”. It is gross perversity for them to slander national industrialization and genuine land reform in such terms. They glorify the traditional servility to foreign investors and banks as the only path to development,” said the NDFP.
“However way we look at it, CASER is a flawed document. And even if the government signs the agreement, it cannot be implemented due to legal issues. We can, therefore, expect the Red to use the government’s non-compliance of the CASER as a justification for committing acts of violence in the future,” Galvez insisted.
CASER not needed
Galvez insisted that what the government is doing now is way beyond what CASER can achieve and the gross domestic product of the country could have been double-digits if not for the insurgency problem.
NDFP criticized Galvez’s (and also National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon) “poor grasp of economics, global policy trends, and the country’s economic realities makes them believe that so-called neoliberal globalization policies are desirable.”
“They still mistakenly think that economies have overcome underdevelopment because of free market policies. This is belied by the historical experience of the old industrial capitalist powers, the newly-industrialized countries, and especially the former Socialist economies. But they are also oblivious of the globalization-induced stagnation in the world economy, growing protectionism and trade wars today,” said the NDFP.
The NDFP points to unprecedented levels of joblessness, landlessness, homelessness, low productivity and poverty, oligarch wealth and a narrow upper middle class and overwhelming majority of Filipinos struggling with low incomes, irregular work, and decrepit social services as issues the CASER that the NDFP and GRP are negotiating will hope to resolve and more.
The most-publicized highlights of the ARRD common draft is the proposed immediate free distribution of land including writing-off remaining balances on land already distributed. Other parts of the ARRD common draft include:
- reforms in fisheries and aquatic resources
- Farmers and fisherfolk will be provided a wide range of support services and benefit from the elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices
- clear commitments to build rural infrastructure, develop rural industries, and improve domestic science and technology.
The NIED common draft critically affirms the importance of national industrialization for long-term development, shared the NDFP. The NIED common draft includes:
- recognition for the need for sound planning and regulation of foreign investment to develop specific industries
- recognition for the benefits of nationalized public utilities and mining, of Filipino processing of minerals and trading, and of breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies
- development of Filipino industrial science and technology
- acknowledgment of important role of workers and giving them a greater role in the running of enterprises
- financing for industrialization will be raised from progressive taxes, luxury and sin taxes, official aid, foreign investment and other sources
Peace talks to resume
Duterte walked back on his word to pursue peace talks and the developments in almost five rounds of peace talks since he came to the presidency as he shelved the peace negotiations through Proclamation 360 on Nov. 23, 2017. Accusations of ceasefire violations was used by the president as premise for the termination of the talks, while the CPP also accused Duterte’s military of ceasefire violations.
Before the cancellation, a Pulse Asia survey conducted in March and released in May 2017 showed 8 of 10 Filipinos support the GRP-NDFP peace talks.
In December 2018, Duterte ordered the creation of the national task force to “end local communist armed conflict,” what is now being criticized by activists as a blanket for nationwide martial law that uses or subsumes the bureaucracy to participate in military surveillance and anti-insurgency campaign against the people.
A resumption of the peace talks was scheduled in late June last year but it was cancelled as the government sought to review all agreements the communists signed with past administrations.
Before 2019 ended, Duterte said he will try his “last card” to do peace talks with the NDFP. Former GRP panel chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said that the NDFP leaders agreed to 90% of what Duterte asked in connection with the peace negotiations. Bello spoke with CPP founder Joma Sison, NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni and NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in The Netherlands on December 6. A representative of the Royal Norweigan Government, the third party facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, was also present.
Bello added the peace talks may resume in January 2020.