Perhaps, nobody had so eloquently, yet so simply, summed up the road to peace than the late Senator Jose W. Diokno when, as head of the negotiating panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), he declared that the keys to peace are “food and freedom, jobs and justice.” These words also practically sum up what the basic human rights are all about.
These are just what we need in these trying times, when the country is facing a lot of problems and these problems are bound to escalate.
The peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP has been terminated. President Duterte egged soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to shoot on sight armed New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas, ordered the mass arrest of NDFP consultants, and declared that he would run after so-called “leftist front organizations.” In short, President Duterte is ordering an escalation of military operations and the war.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos did this, in his “nip in the bud” military operations plan and it got the country nowhere near the road to peace. The late President Cory Aquino declared a “total war” against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NPA and the NDFP, still the armed conflict never abated. Who and what suffered are the people and their rights.
The same has been happening again. Already eight Lumad farmers have been shot to death. Fr. Tito Paez, a 72-year-old Catholic priest and staunch defender of human rights, was shot at, Monday December 4, while driving his vehicle in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, and died shortly thereafter. Fr.. Tito had just assisted in facilitating the release of Rommel Tucay, a political prisoner who was detained in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.
President Duterte once taunted the NDFP by saying that the government has been fighting the NPA for 50 years and is ready to fight it for another 50 years. So clearly, he knows that the escalation of the armed conflict would not lead to peace. It would just result in more sufferings for the people.
If President Duterte wants to achieve peace and development, his administration should heed the words of the late Sen. Diokno that the keys to peace are “food and freedom, jobs and justice.”
The same is true for the war on illegal drugs. Reports say that 12,000 people, mostly from the urban poor, have been killed in the government’s war on drugs. Is the country anywhere near solving the problem of the illegal drug trade and use?
When Rodrigo Roa Duterte was campaigning for president, he promised to solve the drug problem in six months by killing all pushers. A year and a half into his term, with 12,000 people killed, there appears to be no dent in the problem of the illegal drug trade.
Again, the keys to peace may be the keys to solving the drug problem: “food and freedom, jobs and justice.” Provide jobs so that the people would have food on the table and would not be tempted to use and sell drugs. Protect the rights of peoples and individuals while ensuring the administration of justice in running after drug syndicates and corrupt officials.
The problem with the Duterte administration’s approach to addressing the armed conflict, and the drug problem for that matter, is that it disregards human rights, on the illusion that it would solve the problem quickly. On the contrary, the armed conflict has been ongoing for more than 50 years and the drug problem for a lot longer than that. There is no quick fix solution.
President Duterte has been quoted in news reports saying that human rights complaints in relation to his war on drugs would “fall on deaf ears.” I guess he would be saying the same about human rights complaints in relation to the intensified military campaign against the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
It is now up to the Filipino people to be, in the words of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno: “people with a conscience, people with a heart, people with the guts to stand up and defend their rights.”