By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — When you step on a cat’s tail it will screech and bite. When you step on an ant hill, the soldier ants would raid your foot. Any animal for that matter when threatened or pushed to a corner will fight back. In the same manner that when people are pushed to their limits they will revolt.The people’s right to revolution and take up arms against an abusive and destructive government is duly recognized in various international rights declarations that include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Universal Declaration of Rights of People also known as the Algiers Declaration.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution itself is a product of the Filipino people’s victorious uprising against the infamous Marcos dictatorship.
In a peace consultation held April 27 during the 27th Cordillera Day in Buneg, Lacub, Abra, Ednar Dayanghirang, a peace consultant and head of the reciprocal working committee (RWC) for the Comprehensive Agreement for Socio Economic Reforms (CASER) of the Government of the Philippines (GPh) said that for over four decades now, there is an ongoing armed conflict in the country.
This is the armed revolution being waged by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and its armed wing the New Peoples Army (NPA) against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) now called the GPh.
Rafael Baylosis of the RCW-CASER of the NDFP reiterated that the continuing economic crisis and widespread poverty and hunger among the basic sectors of society (the workers, peasants, urban poor and indigenous people) are the main reasons of the uprising and armed revolution of the revolutionary forces of the NDFP and the wider Filipino masses.
Dayanghirang agreed as he enumerated what the GPh deems to be the six rootcauses of the 42 year old armed conflict that include poverty, lack or absence of social services, injustice, unequal distribution of wealth, unemployment or underemployment and environment.
Windel Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), stressed that in the history of the Cordillera people’s struggle against destructive government projects and human rights violations perpetrated by state security forces, many have taken up arms as a last resort.
“Awan ti agarmas nu saan nga induron ti kasasaad. Nu ti aso tupay a makugtaran ket kumagat, ti tao pay ngata,” (Nobody would take up arms if he is not forced by the situation. Even a dog if maltreated bites, how much more a human being) he pointed out.
Bolinget reiterated that in the fight against the large scale logging of the Cellophil Resources Corporation, mega Chico dam project and abusive security forces, many have taken up arms and joined the ranks of the NPA. He added that armed struggle was instrumental in foiling these anti- people programs pushed by government.
CPA is the largest alliance here, comprised of 220 indigenous peoples organizations from all over the Cordillera. It hosted the peace consultation as part of its Cordillera Day celebrations.
Baylosis even recognized the contribution of the Cordillerans to the waging armed struggle as he honored some of those who have given their lives. He mentioned Ama Lucian “Ka Charlie” Lumbaya, Wright “Ka Chadli” Molintas, Jennifer “Ka Maria” Carino, Agustin “Ka Merto” Begnalen, Leonardo “Ka Nardo” Pacsi, Ka Lejo Cawilan, Michael “Ka Tarius” Reyes, among others.
Quest for peace
The peace consultation is part of the peace negotiation process between the government and the NDFP that has been on and off for 25 years now. The negotiations resulted to the signing of one substantive agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
It can be recalled that the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration suspended the peace talks for six years. The CPP-NDFP-NPA was also declared as a terrorist group under the Arroyo regime.
The present administration of Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) resumed the peace negotiations. The formal talks started last February. The GPh and the NDFP panels are now looking into the second substative agenda, the CASER.
Dayanghirang explained that the GPh does not consider the NDFP as an enemy but a partner in the quest for peace. “Kung ang iba itinuturing kami na magkatunggali, kami sa GPh itinuturing namin ang NDFP na kasama sa paghahanap ng kapayapaan,” he stressed.
There were also earlier pronouncements by GPh Peace Consultant Alex Padilla that the government no longer consider the CPP-NDFP a terrorist group.
However, Baylosis pointed out that the delisting of the CPP-NDFP-NPA from the terrorist groups was not part of the signed joint statement. He also lamented that 17 NDFP consultants continue to languish in jail with the over 350 political prisoners.
Baylosis stressed that the socio economic reforms are the meat of the peace negotiations as it will answer the most needed reforms in the economy and social structure and lay down the foundations of a just and lasting peace.
He further challenged the government to immediately implement economic and political reforms that could bring relief to the already beaten Filipino masses. He pointed out that granting of a legislated wage hike for the private and government workers and a moratorium on mining would give the people a reprieve.
The said peace consultation was a first of its kind. Dayanghirang explained that the newly formed panel, the GPh decided to conduct peace consultations to gather the sentiment of the majority for them to be able to draw a CASER draft. He said this was the first consultation.
While the Cordillerans welcomed the peace consultation, they are wary that the agreements signed by both parties would be useless as in the CARHRHIL which to their experience, it is not being implemented.
Jaime Dugao, a Kankanaey elder from the Mountain Province stressed that the peace talks is useless if the agreements are not equally respected by both parties. He cited as example the CARHRIHL, which he claimed is not being implemented.
In addition, Beverly Longid, president of Katribu Partylist and the NDFP resource person for indigenous peoples concerns pointed out that the encampment of state security forces under the houses of civilians is a violation to the CARHRIHL. She stressed that the encampment is a brazen disrespect and violation to the rights of indigenous people.
The Alpha Coy of the 41st IB of the Philippine Army was encamped under one of the houses in Buneg during the Cordillera Day celebrations. According to Buneg Barangay officials the army elements came a few days before the event.
Ama Bansilan Sawadan and elder of the Binongan Tribe in Abra shared that barangay officials even had a dialogue with the army asking them to leave but they said they were just obeying orders.
Ama Banag Sinumlag of the Butbut tribe in Kalinga expressed disappointment over the peace negotiations saying that the over two decade talks did not succeed. He attributed the failure of the talks to the non-implementation of the agreements between the two panels. He pointed out that in the Kalinga experience, the state security forces are the ones not recognizing and violating the provisions under the CARHRIHL.
Sinumlag also stressed that should the peace process fail again, and the rights violations continue the armed struggle will surely grow stronger. “I hope that the peace talks would succeed this time,” he reiterated in Iloco.
Both panels agreed that the root causes of the armed struggle are injustices and the inequitable distribution of the country’s wealth. They both believe that resolving these root causes would put an end to the armed struggle.
But as Sister Alicia M. Sobrevinas of the OSB in her introduction of the peace consultation put it, the quest for peace is not easy. She said the resumption of the peace talks is a good start.
Sobrevinas also said that peace is not just the silencing of the guns or the absence of war but lies in the just and equitable distribution of wealth. “In the concrete peace begins when the hungry is fed and when the thirst for justice is quenched,” she added.
She reiterated that even if the road to genuine peace is long sometimes coiled and narrow, dark and stormy, it is a road that must be traveled to bring hope to present and future generations. # nordis.net