The chance for peace in the Philippines is a chance for change

Statement of JustPeacePH on the ongoing peace talks | October 2016

The chance for peace in the Philippines is a chance for change


The JustPeacePH global peace advocates for just and lasting peace in the Philippines laud the Filipino people for asserting their own demands for change. We believe that this is a chance for change and a chance for peace, which the international community should embrace.

The people’s demands are now being tackled in the substantive agenda of the continuing talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

We commend the peace panels of both parties, the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government, and the support of all peace-loving peoples for the resumption of the peace negotiations starting in August and into the second round this October. This is a historic step to address the roots of the armed conflict of almost half a century in the country.

The principles of sovereignty, democracy and social justice were reaffirmed together with all previous agreements including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Both panels agreed to accelerate the process for the remaining substantive agenda. Reciprocal Working Committees and Groups of both sides have now reached common outlines.

For the first time in the history of peace talks, social and economic reforms have become the heart of negotiations. Fundamental changes such as land reform and national industrialization for the overwhelming majority of farmers and workers are being addressed. The pursuit of an independent foreign policy by Pres. Duterte himself could help the nation to break free from neocolonial bondage and ages-old feudal backwardness.

We are aware that the United States is uneasy with his tirades against its history of war atrocities. The US, EU, UN officials and some human rights watchdogs retaliated with a barrage of attacks against his bloody ‘war on drugs’. But they turn a blind eye to the daily violence of poverty and injustice in the country.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), along with para-military groups, continue their operations and militarization of communities. As peace talks are on-going, and a ceasefire declared unilaterally by both sides is in effect, the killing and harrassment of farmers and indigenous peoples continue unabated. The most recent police dispersal operations against national minorities and other protesters at the Defense Department and in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila are not only blatant attacks against the legitimate rights of the Filipino people but obviously run counter to Pres. Duterte’s expressed commitment for peace, independent foreign policy and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Efforts by progressives in government such as a moratorium on agricultural land-conversion are being blocked by big landlords, capitalists, and real estate speculators. Efforts to end contractualization of labor are hindered by big business employers and neoliberal adherents.

Pres. Duterte promised to release all political prisoners, more than 400 of them languishing in various jails in the country, with a significant number of them women, elderly and ailing. We await fulfillment of that promise. It is within his powers to declare a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

As peace and change are given a chance, the people themselves are on the move. Farmers assert their own sovereignty and cultivate the lands by their own collective actions. This week, national minorities from all over the country marched in their thousands to Manila to unite and air their grievances. The working people are rising up. The Filipino people, including the 15% who are working outside of the country, demand peace, they demand substantive change.

These substantive peace talks, these great prospects for change for the better, can be derailed by the efforts of domestic and international interests who profit from the plunder, exploitation and war in the Philippines. We call on the global community to join us in solidarity with the Filipino people in their continuing fight for genuine change and a just and lasting peace in the land.

Support the people’s efforts in the Philippines for just and lasting peace!

Support the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks! Release all political prisoners!

Support the Filipino people’s demands for freedom, democracy and justice!