All That Fits: The Peace Talks to indigenous peoples


We would like to emphasize this week, the relevance of the peace talks to indigenous peoples. There is no better time, with the worsening plight of indigenous peoples, especially indigenous activists, grassroots organisations and communities asserting self-determination.

We also would like to underscore the active participation of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera in the peace talks, with the various efforts organised in the region through the mass movement, widely participated and supported in by multi-sectors and with concrete outcomes. We give importance and do not undermine what was achieved in these undertakings which should be built upon in the present, between both parties, when the peace talks resume. By all means it should resume.

The Hague Joint Declaration between the GPh and the NDFP (signed 1992) underscores that the formal peace negotiations between the two parties shall be held to resolve the armed conflict, with a shared goal of attaining just and lasting peace. The Declaration further enumerates that the negotiations shall take place after the parties have agreed on substantive issues through reciprocal working committees (RCWs) organised by each party.

The peace negotiations, as agreed in the Declaration, “must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”.

In the Declaration, both parties agreed to “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favourable climate for peace negotiations”. Finally, the substantive agenda is agreed in the following: human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reform, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

From the signing of the Declaration in 1992, we can say that important outcomes include the major written agreements (published into a book by the NDFP Monitoring Committee through its NDFP-Nominated Section in the Joint Secretariat of the GPh-NDFP Monitoring Committee—you can refer to this for the complete listing and reading) and the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), following the first substantive agenda. The journey has not been smooth-sailing as there were many outstanding issues along the way.

The peace talks resumed anew in 2011 after 6 years of impasse, and at that time, to start discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER), the second substantive agenda of the peace talks. The CASER is considered the meat of the peace negotiations because it would address the roots of the armed conflict, the rationale behind the long running revolution in the country. The voice of indigenous peoples in the CASER is a major element that cannot be done without, considering the historical quest of indigenous peoples across the country for ancestral land and self-determination.

With this, concrete actions were undertaken in the region for Cordillera indigenous peoples’ participation, from 2011 to 2015, starting with the Joint Peace Consultation with the GPh and NDFP on April 27, 2011 in Lacub, Abra, during the 2011 Cordillera Day. This was followed by more focused consultations of NDFP representatives facilitated by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform in Sagada, Bokod and Ifugao from 2012 to 2013. Finally, a Cordillera Peace Conversation on the GPh-NDFP Process was organised in Baguio in 2015.

At a national scale, indigenous peoples through KATRIBU (national federation of indigenous peoples) engaged the president as early as his inauguration with an IP Agenda for Land, Self-Determination, Rights and Just Peace.

Several dialogues were also undertaken with the intent of having military troops pulled out from indigenous communities. IPs participated in peace summits with concrete recommendations on socio-economic reform, good governance, peace and human rights. National mobilisations such as the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya highlighted the resumption of the peace talks as an urgent demand among national minorities.

Presently, we understand the current regime to be undermining the gains of the peace negotiations by stalling its resumption for various shallow reasons that rather speaks of arrogance and disinterest instead of sincerity. By all indicators, the resumption of the peace talks is urgent. Martial law is still upon Mindanao, allowing further militarisation of both Lumad and Moro ancestral domains and resulting in various human rights violations.

Dissent is criminalised by the regime, with trumped-up charges filed against activists and local leaders: the DOJ terrorist listing has included 6 IP human rights defenders from the Cordillera while the AFP has filed trumped-up charges against women human rights defenders from the region as well. On top of these, ancestral lands are continually treated by the State as resource bases for plunder, profit and exploitation.

I would like to quote Sr. Alice Sobrevinas, when she gave the introduction during the peace consultation in Lacub way back 2011:

“Peace is not merely an absence of war, an absence of hostilities. Peace is not only the silencing of guns. Peace is, above all, the well being of every woman, man and child. Peace lies in a just and equitable distribution of the earth’s resources.

In concrete, peace begins when the hungry are fed, and when the thirst for justice is quenched. Genuine peace is only possible in a society where justice is nurtured by the dignity felt by every human being—free from poverty, cynicism, violations and other evils borne out by greed and power. Thus, peace is not solely a term and concept. It is a process”.

How soon this process resumes is therefore crucial. #


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