Calls mount for peace talks to continue

Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace
We are greatly alarmed at this sudden turn of events. We are concerned that the armed conflict will escalate. The President’s abrupt and unilateral actions puts to waste the positive and substantial gains of the peace negotiations. Turning his back on the negotiating table and espousing an all-out war against fellow Filipinos can only wreak more division and violence across the land.

We hope that calmer heads prevail on both sides, that the gains of the past six months are kept, and that the march towards achieving a just and lasting peace continues.###

 


 

Joint Statement of Cabinet Secretaries Rafael V. Mariano (Department of Agrarian Reform), Judy M. Taguiwalo (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and Liza L. Maza (National Anti-Poverty Commission) on the peace negotiations

 

As heads of national government agencies tasked to address poverty and improve the quality of life of the Filipino, we believe that the GRP should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP forward. The current agenda on the table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), is the most substantive agenda in the negotiations and is key to lasting peace and long-term poverty eradication. We are one with the peace advocates, legislators, and individuals who urge both parties to resume the talks. We will continue to engage within the Cabinet and the rest of the administration towards the resumption of the talks and to strengthen the civilian voice in the peace process.

After 15 years of impasse, the peace negotiations have made historic strides on many fronts. This time, by pursuing peace, and through the political will of President Duterte, the talks have been productive. The Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have never been closer in their articulation of a shared vision of a society that addresses the root causes of war – poverty and inequality.

In the 3rd round of talks in Rome, both parties surpassed earlier expectations and were able to exchange initial views on their respective drafts of the CASER. They have reached a common understanding of the problems the agrarian unrest in the country and have agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers. Both parties also reached a decision to accelerate the negotiation process through simultaneous discussions of technical working committees of the remaining substantive agenda, as the discussion on the CASER commences.

The Reciprocal Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWGs-PCR) were able to exchange views on the proposal to form a federal form of government and the need for safeguards and constitutional guarantees as demanded by the people.

Both parties were looking forward to meeting again in the fourth round of talks to flesh out these agreements and move to address the issues of land reform and rural development, national industrialization and economic growth, access to social services, patrimony and sovereignty.

While the government carries on with negotiating the agreements, the agencies under the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster are working on the direct, immediate and substantial benefits that are advantageous to the poor and the marginalized sectors of the society.

Recognizing the urgent need for genuine change, the President has made a commitment to lift nine million Filipinos out of poverty by the end of his term. The statement adds weight to the Government’s work in implementing a genuine agrarian reform, building its industries, and promoting social welfare and development as an integral part of poverty alleviation.

The foremost concern of both parties in the peace negotiations is the interest of the Filipino people to address the roots of poverty and achieve a just and lasting peace. It is unfortunate that the talks have now come to a standstill. Let each side come to terms with the compelling reasons why we have come to the negotiating table in the first place. For it is the welfare of the poor Filipinos, in their millions, that is at the core of the peace negotiations. Let us give just and lasting peace a chance. Continue the GRP-NDF peace talks and pursue socio-economic and political reforms for the people.

 


 

National Youth Commission

The National Youth Commission laments the unexpected breakdown in the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF panels. “We are saddened by the decision to suspend all efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to end the armed struggle in the countrysides, NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra said.

We were hopeful that the recent talks held in Rome will ultimately be concluded with both sides in agreement to resolve the contentious issues presented.

However, the NYC still believes that lasting peace can be achieved if there would be a sincere conduct of peacetalks without taking advantage of the peace process

We humbly appeal to all concerned to reconsider their decisions and to return to the negotiating tables, keeping an open mind that whatever is the result will greatly affect the largest percentage of the Philippine population – the youth.

We urgently call for the resumption of the peace talks to ensure a better, safer and secure environment for the future generation. The best legacy that we can all leave to the youth.

 


 

Citizens Alliance for Just Peace
We urge President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to reconsider pronouncements that he is suspending peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. As peace advocates, we urge both parties that hopeful and sober thinking must guide their actions: scuttling the peace talks would bring monumental disappointment for those striving to build a just and enduring peace in our land. The significant gains of the GRP-NDFP peace talks are at stake—peace is for everyone, though most especially for those who live in grinding poverty who have the most to gain from a more just and equitable society.

Respecting and implementing agreements signed between the GRP and NDFP like the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) will go a long way in moving the peace negotiations forward. The CARHRIHL supplemental guidelines just signed in Rome, Italy before the 3rd round of talks under the Duterte administration should be robustly engaged to address human rights violations in communities. The absence of reciprocal, unilateral ceasefires should not unhinge our efforts for building peace.

Likewise, the negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) are intended to take seriously issues like land reform and national industrialization which have been identified as essential in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict. The peace talks should wholeheartedly prioritize achieving the substantive agreements that both parties have agreed to pursue. The gains that have been achieved through the talks are significant and the energy had been markedly positive and productive in the first three rounds of GRP-NDFP peace talks under the Duterte administration.

The voice of every peace-loving Filipino is greatly needed at this time to convey our collective hope for the GRP-NDFP peace talks to prosper toward the attainment of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. Gains toward JustPeace must not be imprudently sacrificed—we must exercise a unified resolve to fastidiously overcome every obstacle to building peace in our nation. In addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through the substantive agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace talks as well as honoring and implementing the agreements that have been successfully forged, the peace negotiations can continue to flourish. We rise above doomsday declarations to urge President Rody Duterte to keep his eyes on the horizon of hope and work for the Filipino people’s peace and prosperity!

 


Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform

We call on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume the formal peace talks in order to address the roots of the armed conflict despite recent developments that threaten to scuttle it for good. Over the weekend, the light of hope for a just and enduring peace through a negotiated political settlement that started on a very positive and upbeat note was suddenly snuffed out.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the termination of the formal talks and ordered the arrest of the NDFP consultants whom he labelled as “terrorists”. He also instructed the military to go on an offensive which is virtually a declaration for all-out war. This was his response to the deaths of six soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and following the statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) that they will terminate their unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10. The CPP-NPA cited the AFP’s abuse of the ceasefire to enter NPA territories and the non-release of political prisoners as reasons.

Negotiations should not be bogged down by accusations and counter-accusations. Outstanding issues should be threshed out in principled dialogue over the negotiating table where great strides towards peace have been made in the last three formal rounds of talks between the two parties facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG). One such move is the signing of the supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The CARHRIHL and the supplementary agreement is a viable instrument to address the accusations of both parties that have led to the present breakdown.

Another positive result of the talks was on social and economic reforms where the parties reached an agreement on the first three sections of the draft. They also agreed to form bilateral working teams

to meet continuously before the resumption of the formal talks in April. There were also positive developments on the proposed agreement on political and constitutional reforms. These are testaments to the desire of both parties to transcend their differences towards a much larger goal.

The PEPP has always maintained that all signed agreements that were painstakingly negotiated by both parties are signs of hope and should be honored to serve as building blocks for a better future. This recent crisis in the peace talks shows how fragile the peace negotiations are and the people’s vigilance is needed to see to it that the parties involved stay on course. But all is not lost as there is a people’s clamor for the peace talks to continue. Let us be reminded that God blesses those who work for peace (Matthew 5:9), let us all pray and work for it starting with the call to Resume the Peace Talks!

 


 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

The Duterte government’s termination of the peace talks and the JASIG, and the DND’s declaration of all-out war against the NPA, signal intensifying fascist repression against the people. Only the fascists, imperialists and local oligarchs are rejoicing over these grim developments. Meanwhile, it will be the people who will carry the brunt and suffer the effects of increased military operations. There are already reports of attacks and harassment even against non-combatants and personalities of the legal mass movement.

It is an established fact that no “all-out war” approach, not even during the height of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, has ever succeeded. The root causes of the armed conflict cannot be solved by intensified military operations.

It is thus important that peace talks between the GRP and NDFP continue to find a political solution to the conflict. Even without a ceasefire, it is important for the talks to continue for the benefit of the people. Now more than ever, agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms are needed.

Let us make a common stand for a #JustPeace. Let us resist all-out war and fascism. #PeaceTalksItuloy

 


 

Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (National Alliance of Filipino Urban Poor)
It is in the best interest of poor Filipinos that the peace talks continue especially since housing rights are a prominent feature. The socio-economic reforms currently on the table were on a fast track to be agreed upon by both sides just before the president cancelled the negotiations.

“Dapat ituloy ang negosasyon at sayang ang napakaraming napagkasunduan at mapagkakasunduan pa. Kasama na dito ang pagtitiyak ng mass housing sa mamamayan at pagtigil ng mga iligal at mararahas na demolisyon sa mga komunidad,” said Carlito Badion, KADAMAY Secretary General.

On the other hand, Badion also assailed the pronouncements of the administration and the AFP in particular towards ending the peace process. “It’s as if the AFP and the government have been innocent during the ceasefire. In fact the atrocities and violations committed during the ceasefire have been perpetrated by state elements.”

On the cancellation of the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Safety Guarantees (JASIG) he added that “Duterte is giving way to more fascist steps in addressing the conflict by encouraging more military activity. A government committed to more military activity alone is not one searching for a peace alternative.”

According to a report by human rights group, Karapatan, there have been 14, 659 cases of harassment and intimidation since August to December of last year. There have also been 4, 170 cases of endangerment of civilians due to indiscriminate fire and bombing and 7, 841 instances wherein schools, churches and other civilian areas were used for military purposes.

Moreover, according to KADAMAY, under Duterte demolitions have increased while relocation sites continue to fill up without adequate utilities. This was identified early on yet the administration persists with a neo-liberal framework enjoining corporate interests in housing instead of providing services for the people.

“The peace talks and socio-economic reforms are a real shot for the benefit of the poor. Ending demolitions, housing rights for all Filipinos and genuine development of communities can become a reality. At the moment, the government is intent on fostering more conflict while the people clamor for peace. Paano magkakaroon ng kapayapaan kung pinapalayas kami, binubusabos at pinapatay?” explained Badion.###

 


 

Pilgrims for Peace

 

Peace advocates are keenly aware of how the road to a just and enduring peace can quickly become slippery and barred by tremendous obstacles.  In the last week, we witnessed the seeming unraveling of relations and held our breath as the peace negotiations slid, in real time, down a slope of disparate views.  For most Filipinos, especially those who have been so hopeful in the positive atmosphere of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks, it has been a complex week. Still, now is a time when the voice of the Filipino people is essential in bringing to the fore the reason for the peace negotiations; now is a time when the people themselves can make clear that they, themselves, are the reason for peace talks.

The challenge for peace advocates, now more than ever, is to step up efforts to involve more Filipinos in discussions and actions for JustPeace.  It is crucial that we work together to express our collective desire for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.  The comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms that was being negotiated and crafted in these last rounds of talks can inspire everyday Filipinos to get involved in the discussions.  The concrete reforms on land ownership, developing national industries, and rights of working peoples being negotiated and crafted will impact the lives of the toiling majority.  The peace that the GRP and NDFP are negotiating is the peace of the Filipino people.  Now that the negotiations are faltering, every Filipino should be encouraged to participate in expressing our shared dream of peaceful and prosperous communities!

We must bring to the forefront our stand that peace is possible.  We must build visions of peace based on justice, freedom, and democracy.  We must debunk the falsehoods of spoilers and expose their self-interests, as they seek to insist that All Out War will be the way to peace.  Peace advocates must multiply and build bridges between otherwise disparate communities.  We must prioritize and amplify the voices of the poor, exploited and marginalized in our clamor for JustPeace.

Most importantly, we must harness our courage and hope that if the Filipino people dare to stay the course and insist on the resumption of peace talks, peace talks can resume.  President Duterte will be compelled that the peace of the poor majority merits the restoration of his resolve to pursue GRP-NDFP Peace Talks; obstacles are best resolved by bringing them to the table of the negotiations.  We must insist that the road to a just and lasting peace is worth the effort.

We must extend every effort to convince President Duterte to take the side of the people who want JustPeace.  To choose the road of militarism and repression will betray his promise that “change is coming.”  In contrast, the robust implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law will demonstrate that change is possible.  As peace advocates, we must not tire in doing what is right:  we will continue to advocate for the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace talks! As a people, we must overcome obstacles to stay the course toward a just and lasting peace. ##