Statements: Address the roots of the armed conflict, 25 years of The Hague Joint Declaration


2 Sept 2017

Twenty-five years ago, a short document was signed by some visionary Filipinos. The Hague Joint Declaration signified an entry into the daring work of peace-building in the Philippines, shifting the dialogue and framing the peace process between the National Democratic Front in the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in a helpful way.

The Hague Joint Declaration focused neither on defeat nor surrender, but instead marked a pathway to agreement and progress, in addressing what actually causes and fuels this civil war in our country. As peace advocates, we have come to admire its wisdom. Though the phrase ‘address the roots of the armed conflict’ is not found verbatim in The Hague Joint Declaration, it has come to encapsulate the meaning of the declaration as well as our desire for the GRP-NDFP peace talks.

With this declaration that provides a frame upon which we can build a household — a nation — at peace, The Hague Joint Declaration simultaneously allows us to dig up and correct:

1. Inequities between the wealthy and the poor,
2. Iniquities of the ruling elite who “lord it over” the toiling majority, and
3. Injustices suffered by national minorities, urban poor, exploited workers, landless farmers, and every other marginalized sector of society.

Rather than perpetuating oppression of the Filipino people, The Hague Joint Declaration established road markers that lead the way in aspiring for “just and lasting peace” for our people.

In sharp contrast to a recent statement by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who applauded the massive killings in a so-called ‘one-time, big-time’ operation in his ’war on drugs,’ The Hague Joint Declaration is intended to help us truly heal “what ails this country.”

Pursuing peace through GRP-NDFP peace talks should be a priority: not the wanton disregard for the rule of law in killing thousands of citizens, an extended martial law in Mindanao that makes poor communities vulnerable to evacuation and militarization, or the resurgence of foreign intervention in the affairs of our country. We must ‘address the roots of the armed conflict,’ rather than stoke the fires of war against the poor and marginalized.

Let it be acknowledged that under the Duterte administration, there had been many gains that moved the peace talks closer to agreements. Over the course of four formal talks and numerous back-channel meetings, significant strides were taken on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER); a Bilateral Ceasefire; and, the reinstituting of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC). Still, peace advocates also acknowledge that the prospects for peace talks under the Duterte administration are now dim.

Words coming from the President himself continue to be alarming. He has publicly stated that war is now the way forward with the New People’s Army (NPA) and the NDFP, giving the Armed Forces of the Philippines a mandate to pursue an all-out war. Taking the cue from the President, the Office of the Solicitor General also ordered the cancellation of bail of the freed NDFP Consultants.

The NPA has also stated that it is escalating attacks on state forces. Even if the majority of NPA operations are defensive in nature, this will likely continue to keep President Duterte fanning the flames to step up military attacks and increase bloodshed.

As this violence intensifies and spills over into many communities throughout the Philippines, we must also intensify our efforts as peace advocates. Peace is possible. Obstacles should move us to more deeply analyze and unpack the current impasse, with efforts to develop creative, fresh, and persuasive approaches in pushing the formal peace talks to continue. We must transform this crisis into an opportunity for us to work together.

It’s been 25 years of struggling for peace under The Hague Joint Declaration. As we commend the innovative and persevering leaders of the GRP and the NDFP who forged this enlightened framework that continues to be relevant in addressing the roots of the armed conflict through the peace process, we must also urge the GRP and the NDFP to struggle to transform the current impasse in the peace talks. We call for the resumption of the formal peace talks, especially as there is, yet, no formal termination of the peace negotiations.

Peace advocates will continue to work alongside the sectors of society who desire JustPeace! As Galatians 6:9 says: we must not tire in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. We must work for justice in our land, so that peace will take root to displace the oppression and exploitation that propel many to rise in revolution.

Let us work and pray together for a just and enduring peace, where our children will live in prosperity and sing the songs of freedom! #


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