Will President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. listen to Church leaders asking him to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front?
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a network of church leaders from various religious federations, wants the new president to reconstitute the GRP Peace Panel and pursue peace negotiations with the NDF, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), to end the longest running armed insurgency in Asia.
“Every administration, including that of your father, intensified its respective counter-insurgency program aimed at defeating the communist rebellion. Despite the massive campaigns implemented by these administrations to end this armed conflict, it has continued to rage, particularly in the countryside, causing internal displacement in the most vulnerable communities,” the group said in a recent statement.
“This long-running conflict only mirrors how deeply embedded its roots are in social injustice. Can there be peace without justice and meaningful change in the lives of the majority of our people who continue to wallow in poverty and misery?” they asked.
The religious group also pointed out that the all-out war policy of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, “failed to resolve the decades-old armed conflict despite the investment of huge resources and personnel better spent on poverty alleviation and sustainable development.”
They have a compelling argument there.
But it’s not just the government that must bend over backwards and go back to the negotiating table.
The CPP-NPA-NDF must do so as well.
First, by agreeing to a temporary ceasefire that would show good faith and sincerity in returning to political negotiations.
That is not surrender on their part, by any means, but a recognition that dialogue requires two sides talking.
It’s a pity that the peace talks have been cancelled despite progress earlier made.
There’s the Hague Joint Declaration, a framework agreement signed on September 1, 1992, in The Netherlands containing a four-point agenda to resolve the armed conflict.
Based on this declaration, the two sides signed a Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that protected the NDF negotiators and their consultants from arrest and allowed them to move freely for the duration of the talks.
Under this framework agreement, the two sides also agreed to discuss social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and ending hostilities and disposition of forces.
The two sides managed to get a draft of social and economic reforms up for discussion, but the talks got nowhere as hostilities between the military and the rebels intensified in the countryside, rendering the peace talks a colossal waste of time.
“We are committed to working together for the common advocacy of achieving a just and enduring peace in our country,” the group stressed.
But will the government and the rebels even consider going back to the negotiating table at this point, despite the entreaties of the religious sector?