Editorial: Resume, persevere in the peace process

www.nordis.net

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s termination of the Peace Talks denies the people’s aspiration for peace.

The attainment of just and lasting peace through Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was a key campaign commitment of Duterte when he sought the presidency. This would end the armed conflict with the political settlement of the root causes of the armed struggle waged by NDFP that include the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front, New People’s Army, and Communist Party of the Philippines. Duterte’s promise to end the armed conflict through Peace Talks boosted his pro-people image thus his popular election victory because peace is a nationwide earnestly sought aspiration.

To be fair, the Peace Talks, stalled during the Benigno Aquino regime, was promptly resumed in the first year of Pres. Duterte. And significant results were achieved. As reported by both the GRP and the NDFP, resolutions were reached on the second substantive agenda for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reforms (CASER). And both GRP and NDFP Reciprocal Working Committees (RWC) reportedly had started on the third agenda on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR).

The CASER, regarded as the meat of the peace talks because it addressed basic issues on land, economy and social justice, is said to be ready for signing. Peace Talks would then advance to address the third agenda on PCR, and move on to the last agenda on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces. The first substantive agenda, Comprehensive Agenda on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), was signed by President Estrada in 1998.

The completion of the required four substantive agenda would be a leap forward in the Peace Talks. Also during the 2016 Peace Talks, local peace consultations were held with GRP-NDFP representatives. These generated active people’s participation in the peace process, and provided much needed information on the armed conflict: that there are two “parallel” governments, the GRP and the NDFP, with their armed forces, the AFP and the NPA. Peace Talks is an option for addressing the roots of the armed conflict by negotiating political settlement instead of taking on the battle field.

In the first year of Pres. Duterte, there were achievements in the Peace Talks, many thanks to the dedicated Panels and Reciprocal Working Committees of both the GRP and the NDFP, as well as support of the Royal Norwegian Government.

Peace Talks is a comprehensive and complicated endeavor because it addresses armed conflict. It requires big thinking and quality cerebral exercise, principled diplomacy and much patience. This is only possible if there is unquestionable passion for the common good, and genuine statesmanship.

But such progressive advance of the Peace Process is now torpedoed by recent pronouncements of the President to terminate the Peace Talks, all out war by the AFP against the NPA which means intensification of the armed conflict, and threats against legal democratic militant formations and personalities. Duterte’s explosion into an aggressive arrogant warmonger, from an earlier profile of a masa concerned with peace, shows his two conflicting sides. Surely the people as well as history, will judge him by what he does. As peace is close to the hearts of the Filipino people, a failure of the Peace Talks anytime is detrimental to the people.

On the other hand, the ruling class would be pleased if the Peace Talks fail as resolutions especially on CASER would not be implemented. This highlights the reality of Philippine society sharply divided between the few rich elite and the majority poor with a precarious middle class trying to make ends meet.

The challenge remains for Pres. Duterte to check his bearings, whether to serve the Filipino people or opt to be in service of the ruling class and their foreign masters. The same challenge is addressed to those in the Cabinet, Congress, the bureaucracy and Local Governments; and for Statesmen and women to rise up now and advance the Peace Talks.

Statesmanship should deal with observed alleged violations, like those cited by Duterte to terminate the Peace Talks. There actually is a mechanism, the Joint Monitoring Committee, to deal with questionable conduct by either party; so that lesser matters do not jeopardize the paramount endeavour to end the armed conflict.

As we know, Peace Talks is fervently pursued to end the long running Philippine civil war. Because Peace Talk resolutions that institutionalize just and lasting peace would render the option for armed struggle as no longer necessary. But for as long as historic injustices persist with the basic problems of Philippine society still unsolved, armed revolution is always an option. That is Philippine history.

Give Peace a Chance. Resume and Persevere in the Peace Process. # nordis.net

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