By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Representatives of people’s organization (PO), non-government organization (NGO), local government units and the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process (OPAPP) agreed that a continued peace negotiation is key to the resolution of the armed conflict in the country during a peace and development forum last May 2.
Engr. James Tayaban from Ifugao said that a militaristic counter-insurgency program will not end the armed conflict. He shared that during Martial Law, the violent militaristic approach failed to curb rebellion in Ifugao and in the whole country .
“The rebels even multiplied at the time,” Tayaban said.
Tayaban pointed out that the better way to resolve the armed conflict is by addressing its roots through a continued peace negotiations. He urged OPAPP and the police to push for the continuation of the peace talks.
It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally dismissed the peace negotiations in December 2017 amid the big strides forward of both the Philippine government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels in drafting the Compreensive Agreement of Socio Economic Reforms (CASER).
CASER, the second of the four substantive agenda of the GRP-NDFP talks is deemed to resolve the root causes of the armed conflict. CASER tackled issues on land distribution, genuine agrarian reforms, and national industrialization among others. Both panels have prepared their drafts and were preparing to reconcile their these when the talks was cut.
Gary Pekas from the Mountain Province local government said that the implementation of CASER would really help resolve the armed conflict. He, however, pointed out that the CASER drafts of both parties lack discussions on indigenous people’s rights for autonomy and self-governance.
Joey Olpindo, from OPAPP said is hopeful that the peace talks will continue. “Personally, I want the peace talks to continue and with the looks of it there is hope,” he said.
Olpindo said that peace cannot be attained in one day. He said that peace is a process that has to continue.
“Borrowing the words of Secretary Bello, We cannot do this overnight, we need to learn from our mistakes in the past and we must learn to do things better,” Olpindo said.
Audrey Beltran of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) agreed that the peace talks must continue. But she pointed out that while the CASER would address the long standing socio economic problems that besets the country, it is also important to ensure that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) is being upheld.
CARHRIHL is the first of the four agenda that was signed by both parties in 1998 setting the rules of engagement of the warring parties and to ensure that the rights of civilians and even combatants are upheld.
Beltran reiterated that the adherence of both parties to CARHRIHL should be monitored to ensure that even as the war rages the rights of civilians and combatants are respected. “Even wars have rules and even combatants have rights,” she said.
During the dialogue, Rita Cayandag of Abra reiterated that their economic activities such as farming, hunting, ahrvesting forest products among others are disrupted by military operations and that their villages are being tagged as NPA supporters.
Nestor Peralta of Ifugao also raised that his organization and community folk are being vilified and tagged as terrorists.
Gener Daw-ay, a village council member of Gawaan village in Balbalan, Kalinga and nephew of Marcus Agalao raised issues on how government troops treat former rebels like his uncle. He said that police and Philippine Army soldiers arrested and jailed his uncle even when a doctor already testified that he is sick and has dimensia.
Agalao suffered from a stroke in prison and later died. Gaw-an said that they had to pay his uncle’s cellmates P1,000 a month for taking care of him. “He was paralyzed due to stroke so his cellmates fed him and bathe him in prison,” he said.
CDPC raised during the said forum that they were being barred by local government units from entering their service areas citing a memorandum from the Department of Interiro nd Local Government (DILG).
The peace dialogue was organized by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Cordillera in cooperation with the Center for Development Projects in the Cordillera (CDPC).
According to Director Milagros Rimando of NEDA Cordillera, the May 2 dialogue is an offshoot from a peace forum CDPC spearheaded in Abra last February Abra folk fist raised their concerns.
Rimando said that in the May 2 dialogue not only the Abra folk but other people’s organizations from the six provinces of Cordillera were invited to raise their concerns in relation to the decades old armed conflict between the government and the NPA with concerned government agencies.
“I am happy that at least we are now talking. I see that there is hope for a continuing peace dialogue,” Rimando said. # nordis.net