“It is important that peace talks continue as this is one of the avenues to resolve the roots of armed conflict.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The beginning of President Duterte’s administration gave high hopes to the peace loving Filipinos when it showed willingness to resume peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
But after a few rounds of formal talks, the Duterte administration shut down its doors once again to the revolutionary groups just when the peace negotiations have reached significant progress. On Nov. 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360, canceling peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP.
It was followed by Proclamation 374, declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorists. Recently, the Anti-Terrorism Council designated the CPP and NPA as terrorist groups under the new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Progressive groups and peace advocates said that these policies hinder the possibility of the two parties getting back to the negotiating table.
Duterte’s unilateral termination of peace talks has also led to the killings and arrests of peace consultants as well as activists tagged as members of the revolutionary groups. Even so, peace groups also believe that people should push for the resumption of peace talks if only to lessen state violence, and to put forward urgent socioecomic reforms.
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, co-convenor of Movement Against Tyranny said in an online forum, “Peace talks have a significant impact to the Filipino people.”
It would be remembered that before the unilateral cancellation of peace talks by Duterte, both panels were discussing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), which is known to be the “heart and soul” and “meat” of the peace negotiations.
Caser intends to address the problems plaguing the Filipino people such as landlessness and low wages. In the formal talks, both panels agreed in principle to the free distribution of the land to farmers and farms workers. Discussions on agrarian reform and rural development had also started.
Carol Araullo, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), and an independent cooperator in the peace talks explained that farmers would greatly benefit under Caser. For one, she said that farmers do not need to amortize their lands as it would be distributed for free.
She added that landlords whose lands would be distributed to the farmers would be compensated by the government.
Araullo added that national industrialization and economic development could also help in creating more jobs for the Filipinos with decent pay and not merely on a contractual basis.
“These are the things have direct benefits to the marginalized,” she said.
The NDFP’s draft of Caser also includes provisions for environmental protection, rights of the working people, promoting patriotic, progressive and pro-people culture, economic sovereignty for national development, among others.
This is why, Araullo said, peace talks is significant for ordinary people as it is their demands and aspirations that the NDFP is bringing in the negotiating table and will resolve the five decades of armed conflict.
Araullo lamented that peace saboteurs did not let peace talks prosper.
Still, despite the present condition, Araullo said people should not lose hope for peace.