Lawmakers expressed optimism Saturday that the Duterte administration will succeed in making peace with the National Democratic Front.
As the third round of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front started in Rome, Italy, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said he was hopeful but also renewed his call for the immediate release of all political prisoners.
Reps. Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela and Tom Villarin of Akbayan party-list were likewise optimistic of the prospects of the peace talks.
“Let us end the longest [communist] insurgency in Southeast Asia. Too many lives have been lost and too much sufferings have befallen our country,” said Albano, majority leader for the House of Representatives’ Commission on Appointments.
“As the Duterte administration has been pushing hard to achieve a long-lasting peace for the Filipino people, it is high time to put an end to the war. Anyway, nobody is winning,” Albano added.
Villarin echoed a similar view. “I am optimistic about its prospects and fully support our people’s clamor for a just and lasting peace,” he said.
“Both camps I think can agree on many issues like social and economic reforms, release of political prisoners, JASIG list, affirmation of previous agreements, and others,” added the opposition solon.
However, Villarin said the issue of a prolonged ceasefire and eventual laying down of arms by the NPA will be a thorny one.
“The right to bear arms as a revolutionary principle will not be abandoned by the CPP,” Villarin said.
Meanwhile, the detainees Tinio called political prisoners were either arrested or convicted of common crimes, police records showed. But the solon insisted they were “victims of trumped-up charges.”
“We demand the immediate release of the political prisoners, especially those who are old and sick, including our colleagues in the education sector Amelia Pond and Dominciano Muya, Lumad educators of Davao; Rhea Pareja, volunteer teacher of Quezon; and Rene Boy Abiva, an organizer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Cagayan Valley chapter,” Tinio said.
“They were arrested and detained as criminals while serving the poor and marginalized and fighting for basic human rights,” he added.
The ACT Teachers party-list group also said the government must end militarization in rural areas and indigenous peoples’ communities where “red-tagging, threats, and harassment are unleashed upon the community, teachers, and students.”
The group said the Armed Forces of the Philippines must also end its operations against their members “and be held accountable for these acts and for violating the government’s own ceasefire.”
Tinio called for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, “which will ensure that the violence against civilian communities will never happen again.”
The GRP and the NDFP are conducting the third round of peace talks until Jan. 24 in Rome to finalize the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER.
The other draft agreements for discussion include the comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms, and the comprehensive agreement on the end to hostilities and disposition of forces.
“Reforms under CASER will tackle proposals that will address poverty, hunger, jobless growth, labor export, rural deprivation, homelessness, wealth disparity, and environmental deterioration,” Tinio said.
“The resolution of these issues is what we have long been struggling for. There would only be just and lasting peace if and when the roots of the armed conflicts are addressed,” he added.