“As a national university, it is but appropriate that we take up the issue of peace talks. And because we’re coming from the SOS campaign, we know that peace talks should be based on justice.” – UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Members of the University of the Philippines (UP) community formed Kalinaw UP, an alliance supporting the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, convener of Kalinaw UP, said the current initiative is an offshoot of the university’s involvement in the Save Our Schools (SOS) campaign.
At the height of Lumad killings last year, UP hosted Manilakbayan ng Mindanao and supported the campaign to save the alternative schools of indigenous peoples from military attacks.
The UP community is now elevating the SOS campaign to a higher level.
“As a national university, it is but appropriate that we take up the issue of peace talks,” Tan said during the Kalinaw UP launch, July 15. “And because we’re coming from the SOS campaign, we know that peace talks should be based on justice.”
Tan said the burden of proof is with government to prove its seriousness in the peace talks. In the immediate, Tan said, the Duterte administration should immediately disband paramilitary group Alamara, which continues to sow terror among Lumad communities in Mindanao.
“As long as they continue what they are doing, our doubts would remain,” Tan said, adding there should be more “acts of good faith” such as the release of detained NDFP consultants.
There are 18 detained NDFP consultants, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.
Addressing the root causes of the armed conflict
Different sectors of the UP community are hopeful that peace talks would bring about reforms.
Gerry Lanuza, sociology professor and chairperson of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND-UP), said, “Peace requires holistic, integral development.”
Lanuza said the Duterte administration should honor the past agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and proceed with the next substantive agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (Caser).
Lanuza said the problems inside the university are related to the bigger problems in Philippine society.
Nelin Estocado of the Alliance of Contractual Employees in UP and Felix Pariñas of the All UP Workers Alliance said both parties should look into the problems of contractual employees.
Bryle Leaño, chairperson of the UP University Student Council, underscored the need to reform the colonial, commercialized and repressive character of Philippine educational system.
The Kalinaw UP is also supporting the resolution of the armed conflict in Bangsamoro communities.
Dr. Jamel Cayamodin, college secretary of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies, lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for his “intention of bringing together the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)” to the negotiations and for “acknowledging the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.”
“This acknowledgement is a good start. However, it also requires urgent, positive actions to bring about national unity and healing,” Cayamodin said.
Cayamodin said that with Duterte’s pronouncements, the Moro people “have reason to be positive.” He added that the UP IIS believes that Duterte has a firm grasp of the problems in Mindanao.
Aware of the failures of past peace initiatives, the UP IIS called for “transparent, inclusive peace talks at all levels.”
Tan said UP’s role is to keep educating the public on the peace talks.
Cayamodin also offered to provide education on the history of the Bangsamoro struggle, integrating it in the curriculum of Philippine schools.