By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Two events this week have pushed forward the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP): the meeting of President Duterte with some consultants of the NDFP peace talks panel, and the release of 11 jailed NDFP consultants. But it’s strange that the implication of these two events has been lost on the media.
The Monday meeting has been reported as an ordinary meeting in Malacañang between the President and NDFP consultants, with one popular newspaper headlining it as “Duterte, Reds friends again.” But it is more than an issue of friendship.
Peace talks, whether between the government and the NDFP or with the MILF, MNLF, especially if the intention is to address the roots of the armed conflict do not just involve the contending parties; it concerns and involves us all.
The peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), for example, are meant to address the historical injustices and oppression being suffered by the Bangsamoro people. So it involves the whole Bangsamoro people. And since Mindanao is populated by Muslims, Christians and Lumad, necessarily, measures meant to uphold the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people would affect the peoples of the whole Mindanao.
More so with regards the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. The armed conflict does not merely involve the government and a small group of idealists out to topple it. Because if that were so, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army NPA), and the NDFP could not have spread all over the country. And the revolution could not have lasted for 48 years with no sign of let up.
The armed conflict is rooted on the fundamental problems of worsening poverty, landlessness, joblessness, social injustices, different forms of oppression and exploitation. These problems affect all of us, except for a few who lord it over the nation politically, economically and socially.
This is why the discussions on economic and social reforms are said to be the meat of the negotiations. The solutions and agreements that will be forged would affect us all. All of us, therefore, have a stake in the negotiations.
There are those who would want to make people believe that nothing could be done to solve these problems, but to wait and let government do its job. However, after decades of the government pursuing the same policies, the problems of worsening poverty, landlessness, joblessness, social injustices, different forms of oppression and exploitation are nowhere near being solved and are in fact, getting worse. The Aquino administration promised that it would solve poverty by eradicating corruption. But it eradicated neither poverty nor corruption.
The Duterte campaign slogan of “Change is coming” resonated and propelled him to the presidency precisely because the Filipino people are yearning for change.
It is time to generate alternative solutions and ways of doing things in order to address these fundamental problems. And the peace talks could be a platform for this. But for the talks to be meaningful, the people should put forward their concerns and suggestions. It’s time to search for and implement alternative solutions. It is time for the people to get involved.