Keep the hope for peace alive: Support the GRP-NDFP peace talks in substance

In a world full of ills and troubles for the people, life needs peace and peace must live. Peace for Life fervently hopes that substantial matters are taken up at the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as they enter the third round of talks on January 19 in Rome, Italy.

The substantial matters to address the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines, particularly fundamental social and economic reforms, must be firmly supported. Upon this foundation, which can be agreed upon within the year, can lay the basis for the succeeding negotiations to tackle political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities, and disposition of forces.

The hope for peace must be kept alive even as the unilateral ceasefire declared by both parties becomes untenable in the face of continuing military operations of the government, occupation of Indigenous Peoples’ communities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) incursions in New People’s Army’s (NPA) territories, and the unfulfilled release of political prisoners.

The “whole of nation” approach adopted by the AFP from the United States Counter-insurgency Guide of 2009, sought to “win the peace” through a combination of primarily military combat operations and intelligence and the use of civilian entities for its military objective in the guise of “peace and development programs. The latest Oplan Kapayapaan merely extends the bloody Oplan Bayanihan program of the past administration.

After the first round of formal peace talks in August 2016, there are still 392 political prisoners languishing in various jails. Only two were released in line with the GRP-NDFP talks. At least 20 have been released based on the merits of their cases and the persistence of their lawyers, families, and human rights organizations.

Aside from the thousands summarily killed in the “war on drugs,” there are at least 19 victims of political extrajudicial killings in the first six months of the Duterte presidency from June to December last year. There were more than 13,000 victims of forced evacuations and more than 17,000 suffered under indiscriminate firing and bombing of communities of the rural poor, peasants, and Indigenous Peoples.
Landlords still hold monopoly over vast estates and vestiges of old feudal relations persist even in so-called modern agricultural ventures. Peasants and farmworkers’ struggles are increasingly met with violence and repression. Initial steps to help ensure sufficient land for food production and attain national food security by progressives within the agrarian reform department have been met with resistance by Duterte’s neoliberal economic managers. Rather than heed the long-standing demands of workers to end labour flexibilisation measures, such as contractualisation, the Philippine labour department appears to be more concerned about reassuring and appeasing capitalists.

Aristotle once observed that “the root of revolution and crime is poverty.” With the worsening poverty, inequality and injustice in the Philippines, the peace negotiations become more valuable in the people’s own struggle for sovereignty, democracy, and social justice.

Hence, as peace advocates, Peace for Life shall keep the flame of peace burning in our hearts as we work with the Filipino people for genuine reforms, justice, and peace.

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