“We believe that the resumption of the peace talks between the GPH and NDFP will redound to immediate as well as long term benefits for our people.” – Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – United in their call, various groups called on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume peace talks.
Forming themselves into the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), Waging Peace Philippines, Pilgrims for Peace and Sulong CARHRIHL held a Peace Caravan and March from Quezon City to Manila, Sept. 2.
The 26-vehicle caravan took off from the Quezon Memorial Circle at 8 a.m. and proceeded to Sto. Domingo Church for an ecumenical prayer. Peace advocates then traveled to España, in front of the University of Santo Tomas where they were joined by various sectoral groups. From there, they marched to Plaza Miranda.
In its statement, the newly-formed alliance expressed deep concern over the breakdown in the peace negotiations due to unresolved issues in both the regular and special tracks. The regular track refers to the formal peace talks, which have bogged down since February 2011. The special track, meanwhile, refers to a proposal for alliance and truce that also hit an impasse. In April, GPH panel chairman Alexander Padilla announced the collapse of the special track.
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, head of the PEPP secretariat, called on both parties to resume the peace talks. “It [resumption of peace talks] is all the more necessary today,” Iñiguez said in Filipino.
The Citizens Alliance for Just Peace held their activities in time with the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.”We believe that consistently honouring signed agreements builds on the trust imperative and the kind of peace architecture both Parties had mutually envisioned,” the alliance said. “Hence, we call for the immediate resumption of the formal peace talks in accordance with the Hague Joint Declaration and other bilateral agreements.”
Signed on Sept. 1, 1992, the Hague Joint Declaration sets the framework and the substantive agenda in the peace talks between the GPH (then referred to as the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or GRP) and the NDFP. The four substantive agenda, according to its proper order, are as follows: 1) human rights and international humanitarian law; 2) socioeconomic reforms; 3) political and constitutional reforms; and, 4) end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The GPH has been insisting on a ceasefire, the supposed fourth and last of the agenda. Padilla, in his statement last April, said of the NDFP, “They must put down their guns and pursue their desired reforms in peaceful, sincere and constructive dialogue and culturally acceptable ways.”
Address the roots of the armed conflict
Speaking at the program in front of the University of Santo Tomas, Fr. Marlon Lacal, executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP)-Men said both parties must go back to the negotiating table. “If they talk, they would be able to address the roots, the reasons why there is no peace, why there are those who wage a revolution,” Yakal said in Filipino.
In the same vein, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, speaking for the Makabayan coalition said, “Peace talks is not about ceasefire. It is about addressing the roots of the armed conflict.”
Casiño said the next agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms, is important to all Filipinos.
Both Rev. Homar Rubert Distajo of the Pilgrims for Peace and Fr. Rex Reyes of the PEPP called for the resumption of talks in both the regular and the special tracks.
Distajo said the substantive agenda laid down in the Hague Joint Declaration aims to address the roots of the armed conflict in order to attain a just and lasting peace while the special track aims for an immediate just peace through an alliance and truce.
“We are aware of the pressing need for social and economic reforms, which is the second item in the substantive agenda of the peace talks, geared to addressing the continuing hardships of our people, especially the poor and the oppressed. It is incumbent on both Parties to immediately return to the negotiating table and work at reaching an agreement on these urgent reforms,” the alliance said.
The alliance also expressed support for the resumption of the special track “to explore immediate and practical areas of cooperation such as upholding national sovereignty, agrarian reform and national industrialization alongside the cessation of armed hostilities.” “We have confidence that simultaneous discussions on both tracks can mutually enhance the prospects of reaching constructive agreements,” it said.
The Citizens Alliance for Just Peace said also called for the full implementation of CARHRIHL and the reactivation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC). In 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The JMC, composed of both parties, is mandated to monitor the implementation of CARHRIHL.
These, the alliance said, “will help mitigate the impact of the armed conflict, deter human rights violations, provide redress to the victims and end the climate of impunity.”
Speaking during the program at Plaza Miranda, Joven Reyes, executive director of Sulong CARHRIHL, said the reactivation of CARHRIHL would lessen the level of violence. “Extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses continue,” Reyes said.
In her speech, Karen Tañada of Waging Peace Philippines also said the mechanism for the implementation of CARHRIHL must work.
The NDFP has been calling for the reconvening of the JMC but the GPH refused, insisting that the JMC could only be reactivated during formal talks.
The alliance added that the implementation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) “would provide conditions conducive to the resumption and continuation of the GPH-NDFP talks, specifically, safety and immunity guarantees for all those who participate in the talks, from either side.”
According to the NDFP, 13 of its consultants have been arrested and detained in violation of the Jasig.
The alliance said both parties are urged to find ways and to take measures to resolve the issue on the release of detained NDFP consultants and thus break the current impasse.