PEACE GROUPS APPEAL TO GPH-NDFP: Resume Peace Talks; Work for Permanent, Bilateral Ceasefire

The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) expresses its deepest concern with the cessation of the unilateral ceasefires by both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NDFP), and of peace talks between the two parties. We call upon President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to reconsider his pronouncements ordering the “folding up” of the GRP panel and the termination of the formal talks, which have already gained significant momentum since August last year ironically also due to the bold initial moves of the President himself.

We urge both the GRP and the CPP-NPA-NDFP to not lose sight of the higher cause, and the compelling reasons why they have come to the negotiating table in the first place.

Thousands of lives from both camps, including lives of innocent civilians have been lost since 1969, with previous administrations spending more on war than essential social services, billions that were siphoned from the public coffers for the cost of arms and military operations and that could have at could have been spent instead for essential services that could have uplifted the lives of many Filipinos. Let us also not forget the unquantifiable social costs — the anguish and insecurity that this war have caused the communities, which in the first place are already among the poorest. A comprehensive political settlement must be reached because what is at stake is the peace and future of the whole nation. A return to violence will hurt both parties’ ranks but most importantly and certainly the lives of peoples and communities affected whom both parties vow and claim to fight for.

The parties came to the negotiating table because our weary people have said enough is enough.

Hence, we strongly implore both parties to reaffirm the primacy of the peace process over a military ‘solution’. While the length and complexity of the dialogue process can be frustrating, the alternative track is unacceptable. The protracted sufferings of the victims and communities affected by the armed conflict must be given primary credence.

While there are indeed basis to the termination of their respective ceasefires, active dialogue to clarify and iron out these issues should have been given preference, maximizing and implementing agreements already signed. We hope that the current disagreements will instead inspire the parties, not to throw in the towel of dialogue, but to even more strongly resolve to listen and understand each others’ side in order to jointly determine the path towards realizing just peace.

After years of impasse, the negotiations have made historic strides on many fronts. The agreements in the past three rounds of formal talks should reassure both parties that there are gains, and that these gains can be maximized to further deepen the process towards peace.

First, the supplemental guidelines on the Joint Monitoring Committee to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed before the third round of the talks should be engaged to address human rights violations against communities allegedly committed by both sides.

Second, the agenda of the table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), is the most substantive agenda in the negotiations as it tackles the roots of this armed conflict. In the last round of talks, common understanding about the agrarian unrest in the country and common principles to forward sustainable solutions such as land reform and industrialization were reached. Both parties were looking forward to fleshing out these agreements in the next round of talks.

Moreover, the parties even agreed to discuss informally the idea of a bilateral ceasefire this month in The Netherlands when the negotiating panels were to meet to deposit the names of NDF personnel to be covered by the Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Alas, now even the JASIG is in jeopardy at the instance of the government’s notice to terminate it.

Nevertheless, the absence of reciprocal, unilateral ceasefires should not unhinge the continuation of these dialogues. Even then, we still hope that the conditions for a bilateral ceasefire are achieved soonest.

We, together with the rest of the peace movement, remain committed to broaden the peace constituency, to strengthen public support for the peace process, and to support and engage the search for lasting solutions towards just and durable peace.

We call upon all the other sectors of society — the academe and schools, the churches and faith-based groups, the private and business sector, the local governments units especially affected by the war, and the rest of the civil society — to join the chorus in support for the resumption of the peace talks and of the entire peace process.

Resume the peace talks now! Our people deserve a permanent respite from war. ##