By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BALBALAN, Kalinga — A progressive law maker urged the Filipino masses to actively participate in the peace negotiations and push the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to pursue agreements that would address the root causes of the almost five-decade long armed rebellion in the country.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate who spoke to the over 3,000 strong delegation to the Cordillera Day 2017 on April 24 in Bolo village in Balantoy, Balbalan, Kalinga said under the present administration there is a possibility for the 48 year old armed rebellion in the country to be resolved politically.
“We are in a very rare situation where there is a possible opportunity that we can come up with a political solution to the almost five decades of armed rebellion in the country,” Zarate said.
In less than a year of Duterte in power, Zarate said there had been significant advances in the peace negotiations after being stagnant for the past 15 years under the time of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino.
Among the advances made under the Duterte administration Zarate enumerated, among others: the affirmation of previous agreements and conditional release of 19 NDFP consultants at the first formal talks in August 2016. During the second round of talks in October 2016, he said both panels agreed on the framework of the agreement on social and economic reforms and decided to accelerate the peace process.
Zarate said that in the third round of talks last January, both panels agreed in principle for free land distribution. “This is a major achievement for the millions of landless farmers in country,” he said.
He added that another major achievement is the inclusion of a whole section on the right to self-determination and ancestral land of indigenous people and national minorities.
Zarate also said that the NDFP declared its support in the establishment of a federal form of government should the peace talks continue to succeed.
“Jose Maria Sison himself said the NDFP is willing to help co-form in 2018 or 2019 the federal republic of the Philippines,” he said.
“But despite all the significant advances in the peace negotiations, there are still many obstacles because there are groups that would not want the peace talks to succeed because they benefit from the present social order such as the land lords, bureaucrat capitalists and militarists,” Zarate said.
Zarate said the fourth round of talks this April was shaken with Duterte’s declaration of four conditions for the continuation of the peace talks that demanded the communist rebels to 1. stop collecting revolutionary taxes; 2. give up their territories; 3. free prisoners of war and 4. sign a bilateral cease fire.
Zarate said the talks pushed through after being postponed for a day and the panels agreed to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
He explained that the panels still have to agree on terms like the definition of hostile areas, buffer zone and others. He also said that the panels agreed to discuss revolutionary tax and governmental authority when they discuss the agreement on political and constitutional reforms.
“There is no cease fire yet, the panels just agreed to agree on a bilateral ceasefire,” Zarate said.
He pointed out that under former president Fidel V. Ramos agreements were signed without any declaration of a ceasefire. Among the agreements signed were the Hague Declaration was signed in 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guaranties (JASIG) in 1995 were signed and the discussion on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law was concluded.
Zarate said while the CARHRIHL was concluded in March 1998 still under Ramos’ administration, it was signed by former President Joseph Estrada.
The panels also decided in the fourth round of talk to meet again this June to discuss their drafts for social and economic reforms.
“The agreement on social and economic reforms is the meat of the peace talks, this will test the sincerity of the Duterte government in its promise of change,” Zarate said.
The solon said that the social and economic reforms will test if Duterte’s government will choose to resolve the roots of the armed rebellion, to unburden farmers from the yolk of feudal relations, end foreign meddling and bureaucrat capitalists meddling in government affairs and pursue national industrialization among others to bring about genuine change.
Zarate said that Duterte has been swinging like a pendulum from left to right in his decisions and actions. He challenged the people to push Duterte to stop swinging and steadfastly take the side of the people.
“It is in our hands, we need to push Duterte to take the side of the people and we should be prepared to back him up should he decide to go up against the landlords, bureaucrat capitalists and militarists. But if he chooses to side with them, we should also be ready go up against them,” Zarate said. # nordis.net