GRP, RPM-M sign
agreement on ceasefire ground rules
By Froilan Gallardo /
Posted 20 December 2006
government negotiator Franklin Quijano (left) shakes hands
with RPM-M representative Armando Orbis after signing
the document detailing the ground rules of the cessation of
hostilities. Looking on is Balay Mindanaw's Kaloy Manlupig. More
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY
(MindaNews/19 Dec) -- As their Christmas gift to residents to
Mindanaoans, representatives of the Government of the Republic of
the Philippines (GRP) and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa
ng Mindanao (RPM-M) signed Dec. 19 an agreement detailing the ground
rules of the ceasefire agreed upon over a year ago.
Government chief peace
negotiator Franklin Quijano said the agreement means that guns will
be silent in villages under the influence of the RPM-M, which
include at least six provinces.
The main forces of the RPM-M
are reportedly in Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur,
Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and the newly created Shariff
"We can say the people
in these villages can peacefully celebrate Christmas. This is
historic. Peace is still possible in Mindanao," Quijano said
during ceremonies held at the Pryce Plaza Hotel.
Quijano signed the seven-page
document detailing "The Guidelines and Ground Rules For the
Implementation and Monitoring of the Agreement on the Cessation of
Hostilities" in behalf of the Philippine government.
of the GRP-RPM-M panels sign the agreement. More
Four rebel representatives
– chief negotiator Moniva Pascual, Frederick Montes, Armando
Orbis, and political consultant Ike de los Reyes – signed for the
"We do not need a minute
but a lifetime of peace. We know its difficulties but we are willing
to make the sacrifice," De los Reyes said.
The agreement came after a
series of negotiations that started since 2003. The rebels have
insisted that the government conduct consultations in a few hundred
villages in the six provinces. Government negotiators said they have
finished consultations in 93 villages and will conduct another 100
"We want the government
to validate what we have earlier found that these villages are
living in extreme poverty. The reason we seek peace is because it
will be immoral to wage war if our people are suffering from extreme
poverty," Orbis said.
Kaloy Manlupig, head of the
Balay Mindanao group of NGOs that is serving as the independent
secretariat to the talks, said that the unique feature of the
GRP-RPM-M peace talks is the inclusion of local consultations as
integral part of the process.
The agreement on the ground
rules of the ceasefire calls for the Armed Forces of the Philippines
and the rebels to stop hostile actions, attacks, raids, landmine
use, spying, and deployment of forces against each other.
extortion, arrest without warrants, blatant display of firearms,
illegal detention and providing sanctuary to criminal elements are
also not permitted.
The agreement also calls for
the establishment of local coordinating and monitoring teams in
areas identified by the Philippine government and the rebels. Each
team shall be composed of representatives from the government,
military, rebels and non-government organizations.
The RPM-M broke away from the
mainstream Communist Party of the Philippines in the 1990s over
ideological differences. De los Reyes said that in 1991, a
revolutionary court of the New People's Army sentenced him and
several other key communist cadres to death.
NPA hit squads have
successfully carried out the death sentence against Rolly Kintanar,
Popoy Lagman and other prominent former communist cadres.
De los Reyes said this is the
reason why they are not free to divulge their real strength and
scope of their influence. He said the threat from their former
comrades is still real.
Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer,
commanding general of the Army’s 1st “Tabak” Division, said he
understands the need of secrecy by the rebels.
"The communist party led
by Jose Maria Sison has a violent history against its former
comrades who want to break away from them. They will kill these
people if given the opportunity," Ferrer said.
Raymundo Ferrer of the Army's First "Tabak" Division
gives support to the GRP-RPM-M peace process. More
He said that under his area
of responsibility, the rebels have a force operating in five towns
bordering Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.
Ferrer, who is known for his
peace building efforts during his Basilan tour of duty until a few
months ago, said he supports the GRP-RPM-M peace process.
Senior Supt. Rogelio Nuñeza,
of the Philippine National Police in Northern Mindanao, said the
group is responsible for several ambuscades and attacks against
government soldiers in the past.
"If they want peace, we
can say a major threat has been removed," Nuñeza added. (With