How did the RPMP-GPH peace pact come about?
(Part one of two)
By Julius D. Mariveles
BACOLOD CITY – It was in 1992 when cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines and guerrilla units of its armed wing, the New People’s Army, broke off from the mainstream revolutionary movement citing “differences in ideology” to form what is now the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas (RPMP-P or Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines) and its military arm, the Revoutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB).
Ranking cadres of the RPM-P led by Arturo Tabara announced the split in a news conference in Negros island. They became known as the “rejectionists” or “RJs” as opposed to the “reaffirmists” or “RAs.” This is in relation to the document issued by CPP chairman Armando Liwanag called “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward.”
This is the basis for what the CPP called as the “Second Great Rectification Movement” that aimed to arrest the setbacks in the revolutionary movement caused by what was described as “grave errors and disorientations.”
The “ideological difference” was rooted in the analysis of Philippine society. The RAs believe that the country remains “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” or largely backward and agricultural with an import-oriented and export-dependent economy. The RJs, however, believe that the country is semi-capitalist.
This would impact on the way each group would carry out the revolution. While the RAs believe that the strategy would still be based on the Maoist model of protracted people’s war or building power in the countryside and encircling the cities through guerrilla war, the RJs believe differently.
RPA-ABB national commander Stephen Paduano summed it up clearly during Wednesday’s news conference here when he said that from the onset, they believe that armed struggle was “no longer the principal and primary form of struggle.”
RPA-ABB spokesman Victorino Sumulong said this was so in a country that already has a “façade (sic) of democracy.”
(For more details on their news conference, click here)
The CPP leadership in Negros island later admitted that their armed strength was nearly destroyed by the split. From a force of several battalions, they were left with only a platoon operating in several sitios in the central part. Now, the CPP reported that it has already expanded to several districts in the Oriental and Occidental parts with an armed strength that has grown several folds from the post-breakaway period.
THE PEACE RPM-P-RPA-GPH PEACE PROCESS
From the mid to the late 1990s, the RPM-P-RPA-ABB continued to maintain its armed force of hundreds in the island. For its profiling this month, the RPA announced that it has close to 400 fighters, roughly the same size when it announced its breakaway from the CPP-NPA.
Charges of collaborating with the Armed Forces rained against the RPA during that period as the propaganda war also raged between ranking officials of the RPM-P and the CPP. Among the allegations is that RPA units were already actively taking in Philippine Army counter-insurgency operations against the NPA, claims that the RPA repeatedly denied.
It was in December 6, 2000 when the initial peace agreement was signed between the RPM-P-RPA-ABB and the GPH. Signing the pact for the rebel group was RPM-P-RPA-ABB chairman Nilo Dela Cruz while initialing for the GPH was its chief negotiator and then executive secretary Edgardo Angara.
Negros-based businessman and former ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. signed as an “intervenor.”
Also signing the agreement were GPH peace panel members Anthony Dequiña, Julio Ledesma IV, now congressman of the province’s first district; and Anselmo Avenido, Jr. Then Bacolod Bishop Camilo Gregorio was listed as a member of the GPH panel but he did not sign the agreement.
Also signing for the rebel panel were Veronica Tabara and Ariel Sabandar while Manuel Calizo, Jr. signed as a consultant and Eddie Quitoriano initialed as a witness.
The four-page agreement was prefaced: “On the basis of our mutual interest to pursue the peaceful settlement of the present armed conflict between our respective forces. Under the principle of peace with honor, dignity and justice for all and in order to hasten the progress and development of the country and equal enjoyment of the fruits thereof by all citizens of the Republic…”
The agreement had nine provisions: the common statements, cessation of hostilities, confidence-building measures, release of political prisoners, development projects, policy reforms, the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee, other provisions and effectivity.
The provision on the cessation of hostilities sparked a controversy in the province. Civil society and activists objected to the provision that up to 100 members of the RPA shall be given special gun licenses and permits to carry firearms “in accordance with existing laws and regulations and under such procedures as may be established by the Philippine National Police and other concerned agencies of the GRP.”
The objections were merely dismissed by the RPA as part of the gripes of organizations that are fronting for the CPP-NPA.
Activist organizations especially the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros also pointed out then that the RPA has been acting as goons for Cojuangco who was then expanding his agricultural lands planted to high-yield cassava and corn as part of integrating his operations for San Miguel Corporation. (The writer was secretary general of Bayan-Negros from 1997 to 2001)
It is also under this provision that the RPA committed itself to the “disposition of forces and arms to the GRP within a reasonable time.”
The agreement also stipulated that 35 political prisoners in the priority list drawn up by the RPA shall be processed for release while charges shall be dropped against the panelists and consultants of the RPA-ABB. An additional 200 political prisoners shall also be released by the GPH after the release of the first batch.
The government also undertook to release P10 million as a “reintegration fund,” which according to the pact shall be “disbursed and utilized in accordance with a work and financial plan to be adopted by the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee” that shall enable the political prisoners to “reintegrate themselves and join civil society and live normal lives.”
One of the more important part of the agreement is on the development projects that will be implemented by the government amounting to P500 million. These “development projects” were identified as three agricultural projects each in Mindanao and Visayas and two urban development projects in Luzon.