By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Who does not share the vision of a Philippines freed from the fetters of economic crisis and political turmoil? A country where the majority of the people — the poor and working classes — do not suffer the yoke of poverty and exploitation. A country where the needs of the majority for education, health and housing are met; and there are countless opportunities for them and their children to develop their skills and gifts, and can create art and beauty even as they also build a self-reliant, independent and self-sustaining economy.
What we need, what we aspire to is a Philippines where the government is untainted by corruption, and its leaders are not greedy and power-hungry; where justice cannot be escaped by those who commit crimes that destroy hundreds of lives in a myriad of ways. What we work for is a country that does not exist in the shadow of foreign power; a country not indebted or enslaved, and its territory cannot be taken over by foreign troops that their own nations’ economic, political and military interests to the extreme detriment of our nation’s sovereignty, internal security, and at the risk of the Filipino people’s safety.
This vision, this aspiration is far from being realized, but by no means are we willing to let go of them.
It is for these reasons that I fully support the peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
I support the peace talks because I want the issues most important to the Filipino people to be discussed and, more importantly, to be addressed. Day in and day out I am confronted by reports of slow death and painful dying because of poverty, hunger, disease and violence, all a result of the most basic needs of the poor majority being neglected and unmet. I believe that the peace talks are an effective venue wherein these matters will be brought up seriously.
I support the peace talks because I believe that the armed conflict in the country can only begin to be resolved if the two sides, the two governments of the GPH and the NDFP, sit and talk and come up with solutions to the problems that precisely resulted in the conflict.
I support the peace talks because I want to see how the new administration of the GPH will conduct itself in the negotiations and whether it can be relied on to make good somewhat on its grandiose promises that it will work for true change in the Philippines.
I will not deny that I, as a social observer, believe that what the NDFP brings to the negotiating table are the most cherished hopes and deepest aspirations of our people for a just and lasting peace, for independence, freedom, and genuine democracy. Through the years we have seen and heard how the NDFP has supported the stands of the poor and the oppressed against the unjust economic policies and anti-people, anti-sovereignty political maneuverings of administrations of the GPH.
I’ve been alive for three decades and a half, and in the last two I have yet to to witness a GPH administration support the calls of workers for just wages, or the demand of farmers for genuine agrarian reform. Neither have I have seen any top GPH official truly and sincerely take up the cudgels for the urban poor, the inidgenous peoples, fisherfolk, women and students by repealing laws that have proven inimical to their welfare and interest in both the short and long term. Case in point, the new leadership of the GPH, barely a year in office, has already caused serious disappointment in the hearts of its most rabid defenders.
But even as my faith mostly relies on the NDFP (if the talks were a soccer match, it’d be the team I’d be yelling myself hoarse for), I am all the same willing (okay, maybe grudgingly) to give the GPH a chance to prove its sincerity that it, too, wants peace to take root in the Philippines. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that all goes well in the peace negotiations in Oslo, that no serious hitches take place, and that at the end of it all, both panels come up with a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and bring the Philippines one step closer to a just and lasting peace.