Peace groups call for the revival of talks between PH gov’t and the communist rebels

A PEACE group on Saturday called on the Philippine government and the communist-led National Democratic Front to return to the negotiating table saying the peace process is still the best option to move forward the quest for just and lasting peace in the country.

The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA) and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), in a joint statement, said the setbacks on the peace talks, including its last year’s collapse, can be resolved through sustained, active and sincere dialogue.

At the same time, the peace groups urge both the GRP and NDF to refrain from hurling accusations against each other and instead invest more energy in maximizing the official negotiating table to settle their differences and reaffirm the primacy of the peace process— “which for us was a byproduct not only of the peace panels’ long and tedious negotiations but of the people and civil society who have consistently engaged this process to achieve a durable peace.”

The peace groups, which represents a large section of civil society and peace movements in the Philippines and the region, stressed that “a return to negotiating table is still our best option; just peace of the nation and the welfare of the people must be paramount.”

The peace groups noted that the 50-year protracted insurgency that unraveled in 1968 has already claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.

How many more lives do we have to lose before we say “enough”? they asked, stressing that “if we are to build a genuinely peaceful Philippine society through political negotiation, the parties should instead endeavor to create a more positive enabling environment to further the process.”

Furthermore, the two peace groups said we are sure that both panels know that principled compromises must be reached to forge ahead. This can start with an open dialogue on the fundamental roots of the conflict, and how both parties can jointly address them. Indeed trust is the starting point for open dialogue. Negotiating parties must get over their differences through efficient and programmatic confidence building measures.

“We are glad to learn that ongoing low-key and back channel talks have reported positive developments.”

Reports have it that an announcement of a ceasefire by the respective parties and a possible amnesty of NDF members are in the offing.

“We unequivocally support these initiatives and offer our services and network to accompany this process in whatever way we can and respectfully reiterate our view that a return to violence will not only hurt both parties and the end recipient of the possible resumption of armed conflict due to the absence of a formal peace process will again be the peoples and communities whom both parties vow and claim to fight for,” the peace groups said.

“To move the peace process more progressively, we urge both parties to instead bank on the substantive agenda of the talks, which have already gained remarkable results before its termination in November 23 last year. In fact, before the cancellation, both panels had already agreed on three (3) common drafts on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); coordinated unilateral ceasefires; and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).”

Also, both parties have already drafted an agreement on the coordinated ceasefires, a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF), the peace groups observed.

New People’s Army insurgents. Photo © pinterest.com

Following the termination of the peace talks with the communist rebels, the CPP-NPA has been classified as a terrorist organization in accordance with the Human Security Act. Republic Act No. 10168 is the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

‘In our view, a terror tag against a party in political negotiation is counterproductive that will surely undermine the peace talks and jeopardize the substantive gains of the dialogue process. This distracts us from the real enemy.”

“Hunger, extreme poverty, landlessness, marginalization, discrimination, militarization among others—these are the real enemies that have not ceased to haunt our peoples and communities even as the violent conflict between the GRP and the CPP-NPA have raged in the past decades. These are the real terrors our people have been facing all their lives.”

The peace groups pointed out that “the people on the ground have had enough of the perennial armed conflict that has brought no significant improvement to their lives. This has denied the people’s right to development and to dignity with the government spending more on war than essential social services. Unless we summon enough courage and will to address these social injustices that drive people to rebellion, we will never have a meaningful peace and nor achieve genuine social progress in our country.”

We note that the President has himself attributed these as the root causes of the insurgency and vowed to address the historical injustices that have bedeviled the Filipino people at the start of his administration, the peace groups.

They insists that the most substantive agenda such as the CASER tackles the roots of this armed conflict. We believe that if all substantive agreements of the talks will be implemented, this will bring us closer to defeating the real enemy of this protracted war.

“We fervently hope that by the time the parties decide to resume the peace talks, the welfare of the people is genuinely at the heart of the dialogue and both parties remain engaged in substantial discussion and debates with the future of whole nation as a primary consideration. Their direct participation in the talks must also be considered as their inputs and voices are essential, if not, vital. The resumption of the GRP-NDF peace process is a significant first step.”

“We call on partners and friends from the broad sections of civil society in the country and around the world to help in any way they can to accompany this process to its successful conclusion.”

With firm resolve and for the sake of just peace in the country, we urge both parties: RESUME THE PEACE TALKS NOW!

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