Peace breaks out as the 22nd Waging Peace Conference Commences

by Raniel Ponteras

 

Quezon City–Peace advocates from all walks of life all over the Philippines gathered to keep the dream of lasting peace alive in the 22nd National Conference of Kilos Kapayapaan and Waging Peace (GPPAC) Philippines centering on the theme Beyond the Talking Tables – Re-Imagine! Build an Inclusive Peace! The two-day event, held at ISO Conference Rooms 5 & 6, Ateneo de Manila University, on December 6-7, spearheaded by Kilos Para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan and the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute was attended by participants from Sulong Carhrihl, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Mindanao Peaceweavers, Indigenous Peoples groups, We Act 1325, and Generation Peace Youth Network.

Some civil society, government, religious, women and youth representatives to the Waging Peace - Kilos Kapayapaan Conference 2012. The theme is "Beyond the Talking Tables: Reimagine! Build an Inclusive Peace!"

Some civil society, government, religious, women and youth representatives to the Waging Peace – Kilos Kapayapaan Conference 2012. The theme is “Beyond the Talking Tables: Reimagine! Build an Inclusive Peace!”

Proposals and approaches toward the achievement of a comprehensive Bangsamoro framework, fresh approach to the NDF dialogues, and the linking of different groups for a larger peace network were discussed on the first day. MILF Peace Panel member, Abdullah Camlian was the first resource speaker on the second day, as he discussed the MILF’s position and future prospects on the ongoing Bangsamoro project. Afterwards, newly appointed GPH Peace Panel Chairperson Miriam Coronel – Ferrer discussed updates and answered questions on the Bangsamoro issue. The afternoon saw Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Teresita Quintos – Deles and GPH panel member Jurgette Honculada grace the stage for some news on the ongoing talks with the NDF.#

GenPeace Statement on the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

PNoy Speech on GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

Get it here, or scroll down for full text:

Talumpati
ng
Kagalang-galang Benigno S. Aquino III
Pangulo ng Pilipinas
Ukol sa balangkas ng kasunduan sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front

[Inihayag noong ika-7 ng Oktubre 2012]

Dalawang henerasyon na po ang lumilipas mula noong magsimula ang hidwaan sa Mindanao. Isang siklo ng karahasang umangkin sa buhay ng mahigit isandaang libong Pilipino—hindi lamang ng mga kawal at mandirigma, kundi pati mga inosenteng sibilyang dumanak ang dugo dahil sa alitang puwede namang naiwasan.

Marami na pong solusyong sinubok upang matapos ang hidwaang ito; nakailang peace agreement na po tayo, ngunit hindi pa rin tayo umuusad tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap para sa rehiyon. Nabigyan ng poder ang ilan, ngunit imbes na iangat ang kaledad ng buhay sa rehiyon, nagbunga ito ng istrukturang lalo silang iginapos sa kahirapan. Nagkaroon ng mga command votes na ginamit upang pagtibayin ang pyudal na kalakaran; naglipana ang mga ghost roads, ghost bridges, ghost schools, ghost teachers, at ghost students, habang tumaba naman ang bulsa ng iilan. Nag-usbungan ang mga warlord na humawak sa timbangan ng buhay at kamatayan para sa maraming mamamayan. Umiral ang isang kultura kung saan walang nananagutan, at walang katarungan; nawalan ng pagtitiwala ang mamamayan sa sistema, at nagnais na kumalas sa ating bansa.

The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform. Read the rest of this entry

Press Release: Peace Day 2012

PDF VERSION 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 21 SEPTEMBER

contact:

Nikki Delfin, Secretariat Coordinator, 09178946454/generationpeacenetwork@gmail.com

Youth celebrate Peace and remember Martial Law Day

Groups call for a just and sustainable peace nationwide

 

GenPeace leads the annual International Day of Peace activities for the youth in the Philippines since 2007. Photo taken from Peace Day 2011, Quezon City.

Quezon City, Philippines– Youth groups hold simultaneous peace initiatives nationwide on September 21. The date is infamously known as the declaration of PD 1081 or the Declaration of Martial Law but some commemorate it differently. September 21 is also the International Day of Peace, which is signed unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

“The youth can be apathetic but also active agents of social change and its time to bridge the gap. Many are unaware of the armed conflict and the International Day of Peace which is a day of peace, ceasefire and nonviolence,” said Mirma Mae Tica, the national spokesperson of GenPeace.

Armed conflict persist in the Philippines and remain an important issue. Consider the following:

-          The Philippines experience the most protracted armed conflict and most protracted peace negotiations in this part of the world.

-          The country’s armed conflicts continues after over 40 years

-          In 2008 the country held the world record for most internally-displaced persons at 600,000. That year there were more internal war refugees in the Philippines than in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

-          This year, the world is attempting the largest reduction of armed violence on September 21. Throughout the world, groups are calling governments and armed groups for a day of truce from armed violence.

-          The government is pursuing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and a framework peace agreement is expected within the Aquino administration

-          The National Democratic Front peace negotiations are stalled due to issues such as Safety and Immunity Guarantees for rebel leaders.

“We remember Martial Law, and the human rights and humanitarian abuses during the Marcos administration. Our theme ‘just and sustainable peace for our future’ is our way to pay it forward. We are making it national and the time for peace is now.” Tica said.

This photo is taken during the exodus of ‘bakwit’ that followed the 2002 all-out war armed skirmishes between the government and the MILF. photo copyrighted to PhilANCA and Gil Nartea

 In Quezon City, Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace) leads students and youth organizations, women, indigenous peoples, local government and religious groups in peace rituals and an advocacy fair. Simultaneous peace day events also take place in Butuan, Surigao City, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, Zamboanga, and Catarman. Activites range from candlelit vigil, art competitions, ceasefire petitions, a photo exhibit, a feeding program, peace rituals and forums. The youth organization also partners with local governments for localized peace resolutions and ordinances.

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GenPeace is a national youth network that supports the peace negotiations through peace advocacy, education and empowerment programs. We supercharge youth organizations to become active for peaceful social change. Learn more about what we do at http://genpeace.tk/

We are part of local, national and global networks on peacebuilding: United Network of Young Peacebuilders, Global Youth Movement for an Alliance of Civilizations, Youth Solidarity Fund Winner — UN Alliance of Civilizations, Mindanao Solidarity Network, Waging Peace Philippines, Kilos para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan, GPPAC-SEA.

Peace Day 2012 (plans)

September 2012, Philippines–GenPeace spearheads localized celebrations of the International Day of Peace in the Philippines. Youth leaders and organizations take the lead in raising awareness on the country’s armed conflict, and challenging this generation to support peacebuilding initiatives. In a country with two 40-year old forgotten armed conflicts, the youth can be a potent force in bridging the peace gaps.

With the theme, “Just and Sustainable Peace for Our Future: Support the Peace Processes!”, GenPeace through its member-organizations, school partners, friends and communities, prepared numerous initiatives for the peace month of September.

September 21, apart from being the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law 40 years ago, is also the UN-declared International Day of Peace, Ceasefire and Non-violence. The youth network aims to: 1)  educate the public on the Peace Day, the issues and root causes of armed conflict in the Philippines; 2)  promote participation and contribution from the young generation; 3) campaign for a 24-hour unilateral declaration of ceasefires, and; 4) gather broader support for the peace processes in the country.

Activities

GenPeace and its partner organizations have lined-up a month-long set of activities for September. Some of the plans are:

1.       Simultaneous Peace Day Celebrations can provide the space for  raising awareness that there is a global day of peace, ceasefire and non-violence. During this day, we join the rest of the world in aspiring for peace but also, concretely working towards that goal through education, communications and media, networking, policy advocacy, dialogues, and projects with conflict-affected localities.

  • Cagayan Valley Region
  • Manila
  • Quezon City
  • CARAGA
  • Cebu
  • Iloilo
  • Davao City
  • Samar and Leyte

2.       Ceasefire Campaign. We are asking the government and NDF and MILF to unilaterally declare ceasefires on 21 September. We are also part of global peace day ceasefire call.

3.       LGU Engagement: Peace Day Resolutions/Ordinances

We are asking local governments to pass resolutions and/or ordinances supporting peace day and the peace day ceasefire, and to fully support the peace talks. We believe that localized declarations of support increases the chances for convergence at the local level–supporting the conflict-affected communities and the grassroots–where peacebuilding matters most.

4.       Fundraising: Peace of Cake

The Peace of Cake is a fundraising to help us achieve our goal: raise awareness on peace, and support the localized peace initiatives nationwide.

We’re raising Php 200,000 for the nationwide activities of the youth network. Buy our cakes, 100% of proceeds will be for the month-long peace advocacy and education activities.

5.       Campus Tours: Peace Forums. This will be the education campaign of GenPeace for the Peace Month and beyond. The forums target students from different universities and seek to update the youth on the peace talks, raise understanding of the conflict issues in the country, the primacy of the peace talks, and challenge the youth to become peace advocates.

6.  Give Peace a Shot: Photo and Signature Petition for Supporting Peace Processes and the 24-hour Global Ceasefire

We join the world in calling for a Global Day of Truce through localized unilateral ceasefire declarations of the government through its Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front. Ceasefires are often construed as pacifist and a counter-insurgency measure, but we want to institutionalize the Peace Day Ceasefire nationwide and throughout the world. A day of ceasefire can give the people a day of respite from all the violence and take time to reflect on peace. Everyone can be nourished by a day of ceasefire as the longer struggle towards a just and sustainable peace continues thereafter.

Statement of Support for The GPH-MILF Peace Milestone

GENERATION PEACE YOUTH NETWORK
Statement of Support for The GPH-MILF Peace Milestone

We, Generation Peace Youth Network, join our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters in rejoicing for this long-awaited moment: a great leap towards just and lasting peace. We celebrate the positive progression of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Despite the difficult and rocky road is a sight of a brighter future ahead of this promising milestone. It is truly a wonderful gift for all of us who remained hopeful and committed in this advocacy.

With burning passion, we strongly support the developments in the peace process and commit to continuous work for the peace that we dream and greatly desire. We commit to engaging youth-led advocacy for everyone to partake and join in collective action in translating these peace agreements to a reality. We recognize the vital role of the young in creatively and innovatively campaigning support for the Bangsamoro aspiration.

Together let us work hand in hand, that we may be one in this journey towards a just and lasting peace.

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INPUT ON THE MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS

“Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now.  While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.” – Teresita Quintos Deles, PAPP
 
(Presented during the Panel Discussion on Mindanao at the 2013 Philippines Development Forum (PDF), held in Davao City on 4 February 2013
By Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)
This 2013 Philippines Development Forum comes at a most propitious time in the Mindanao peace process.  The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or the FAB, which was signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October, 2012, has been hailed here and worldwide as a breakthrough in what has been a very long-drawn and protracted peace process.  Today, hope has returned that finally there will be peace in Mindanao.
The fragile peace in Mindanao, intermittently broken as it has been with serious outbreaks of violence between GPH and MILF forces, has been a major deterrent to the full development of Southern Philippines. As we enter a new phase of the peace process with the MILF, we welcome fresh opportunities to redraw the development paradigm to ensure sustainable peace and development in the troubled territory.  The challenges that lie ahead remain formidable, however, and there are dangers that we need to watch out and prepare for.
This morning, I have been asked to share the latest developments on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.  While there remain significant issues still being negotiated on the table, I hope to be able to provide you with a broad but extensive view of how the FAB may change the political, economic, and social landscape in this part of the country, which will, in turn, have a major impact on the development not only of Mindanao but of the entire Philippines.
While people’s interest and attention are surely focused on the GPH-MILF peace process, I hope towards the end of my presentation also to spend a few minutes to speak on our other peace table with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  In particular, I wish to draw your attention to the aftermath of the disaster caused by Pablo, which, in a different way, has also changed the landscape of another part of Mindanao.
Let me start with the update on what has happened since the FAB was signed in October, 2012, less than four months ago.
First, the government has a new Chair in the person of Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, or Iye to many of us.  Iye is a professor of Political Science of the University of the Philippines.  She has been a long time civil society peace advocate who has pursued different levels of engagement with various Philippine peace processes, particularly with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the MILF, and the CPLA.  She was appointed a member of the GPH Panel for talks with the MILF at the start of this administration, at the same time that now-Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was appointed Panel Chair.
Professor Ferrer is the first woman Chair for the peace process with the MILF.  From her background and practice in the academe, she brings with her a keen eye for detail, a capacity to sift through the many technical dimensions embedded in the annexes and put forward a clarity of understanding that serves the process well.  We are confident that Iye, who leads a line-up of other ground-breaking women on the peace table, will bring to a satisfactory conclusion to what Justice Leonen had started.
Since the FAB signing, three rounds of talks have been held in Kuala Lumpur, one meeting per month since November, 2012 – one while Justice Leonen was still chair and two under Professor Ferrer.  In all these rounds of talks, four joint Technical Working Groups or TWGs, which have equal representation from both parties, have been working simultaneously on four Annexes to the FAB.  As stated in the FAB, these are the Annexes on (1) Power-Sharing, on (2) Wealth-Sharing, on (3) Normalization, and on (4) Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.  It is the TWG’s task to draft the text of their respective Annexes for adoption by the Panels and eventual approval by the parties’ respective principals.
The parties’ joint work on the Annexes has been evolutionary.  In her closing remarks at the last round of talks last January 26, Professor Ferrer recounted: “When we organized our working groups, we had no TORs.  We had no rules except the basic ethic of respect and decency.  We evolved, round after round.  We explored together.  We adjusted.  We agreed and disagreed together.  We vetted ideas, words, paragraphs, even whole sheets, of draft formulations one after another to each other.”
At the end of the last round of talks, the two panel chairs jointly announced that they had reached a milestone.  The panels adopted and signed the draft Terms of Reference of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), which had been produced by the joint TWG on Transitional Arrangements.  The TPMT – I have to warn you that we may have to start another lexicon, born of the Filipinos’ love affair with verbal short-cuts and acronyms, to keep up with the peace process – is envisioned to be an independent body that is tasked to “monitor, review and assess the implementation of all signed agreements, primarily the (FAB) and its Annexes.”  It shall be chaired by an eminent international person and shall have two representatives from local NGOs and two representatives from international NGOs as members, one of each category to be nominated by each party.  The panels agreed to identify the TPMT chair and members within one month.  The TPMT shall exist and function until an Exit Agreement between the two parties has been reached.
Both sides had hoped that the four Annexes would be completed and signed by the end of 2012, as stated in the FAB.  Elaborating the Annexes to a mutually satisfactory level of detail has needed an extension of a few more months, however.  In negotiating these details, the President’s instructions to the GPH panel remain the same: We cannot agree to anything that we will not be able to deliver.  The government will deliver legally, politically, economically, and culturally everything that it signs.  It is taking a bit more time but we are confident that the FAB and all its Annexes, as carefully crafted as they are, will be able to pass the test and all provisions will be fully implemented.
While acknowledging that there are still very difficult issues to be negotiated, both sides have expressed optimism that the Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing, and Transitional Arrangements will be completed by the end of February, 2013, while the Annex on Normalization may take up to March.  As our GPH chief negotiator has said:  “Flexibility has always been our trademark in this process.  There are difficult issues, but no issue is insurmountable.”
Once completed, the Annexes on Power Sharing and on Wealth Sharing will provide the parameters for the crafting of the Basic Law which, once passed by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite conducted in all covered areas, will establish the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.
Crafting the Basic Law will require being able to imagine a different way of structuring the regional government in order to ensure true autonomy.  Other parts of the country may continue to question, and we will have to continue to explain why, in the words of Professor Ferrer, “it is important to realize self-governance in the envisioned Bangsamoro; why this Bangsamoro is different from local government units and administrative regions in actual terms and as envisioned in the Constitution when it provided in Article X for Autonomous Regions; and why therefore they deserve to have more powers, more support and institutional features that are different from the rest of the country, such as the plural administration of justice system and a ministerial form of government.”
And still again and again, we have had to explain and will continue to explain that these differences do not separate the Bangsamoro from the rest of the country.   The Bangsamoro, the MILF are Filipinos.
Provisions on Power-Sharing establish what government powers are reserved to National Government, which ones are exclusive or fully devolved to the autonomous government, and which powers are concurrent or shared between the two.  It requires a fine balancing act to determine such power-sharing, given the asymmetric relationship between the central and the regional governments and between the autonomous political entity and local government units.  Through the hard work of the joint TWG, good compromises have been reached on many of the provisions.  Only three unresolved items remain: on  jurisdiction over natural resources, on the sharing of powers related to transportation and communication, and on the new concept of “regional waters” or “water domain.”
Provisions on Wealth Sharing, on the other hand, seek to provide the new political entity with the sufficient level of fiscal autonomy that will allow it to effectively define its development path.  Clearly, the status quo embodied in the current ARMM is not acceptable.  Presently, ARMM relies solely on the budget it receives from national government, with negligible capacity to generate and retain its own revenue to finance its activities.
An important question is: When can the Bangsamoro attain such fiscal autonomy?  How much subsidy should national government provide for how long, and how much internal revenue from what source should it generate and retain?  At the same time, it is important to highlight that accountability measures are also an important component of fiscal autonomy and that, as part of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro also has an obligation to contribute to the national coffers.
The joint TWG has achieved consensus on a majority of the proposed provisions, with only three items left for resolution: these are on the devolution of taxing powers, on the automatic appropriation of annual block grants, and on the sharing ratio on revenues from natural resources.
The Annex on Normalization, the third Annex, provides for the process that will allow the combatants and their communities to return to or enter into conditions in which they can achieve their desired quality of life.  The process involves three major aspects: (1) Security, (2) Socio-economic Development, and (3) Transitional justice and reconciliation.  Four components fall under Security: (a) The phased and calibrated decommissioning of combatants and weapons until, in the words of the FAB, “they are put beyond use”; (b) Police reform, with the gradual transfer of law enforcement to the police force in the Bangsamoro; (c) Disbanding private armed groups and eradicating loose firearms; and (d) Maintenance of ceasefire and demilitarization.  Normalization will require an interfacing of concurrent actions where the police is reformed and strengthened, the AFP is repositioned for external defense, the MILF is decommissioned, other armed groups are disbanded, and loose firearms eradicated – all these processes timed with the delivery of the political commitments laid out in the FAB.
While many stakeholders are focused on the disarmament of the MILF, it is clear that effective normalization has to go beyond that.  One cannot just talk about the arms of the MILF but also of everyone else  How can we ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or families with which they may be in conflict continue to be armed?  We are looking towards a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to seriously address how to increase people’s sense of security over their lives and property and how to get citizens to trust that state forces can and will protect them from harm.
Of all the sections of the FAB, the provisions on Normalization, particularly on the aspect of the decommissioning of MILF fighters, is drawing the most questions from the public.  There is concern over certain statements from some MILF fighters that they will not give up their arms.  We should not be surprised if some members of the MILF, a movement which has been fighting for so long, would have a different perspective on decommissioning.  On our part, it is also about being able to assure combatants that there is life beyond fighting.  This has to be part of the discussion: What alternatives do we offer?
As the fighters see these developments on the ground – that the peace is real, the land can now be cultivated and crops can grow to full harvest, there is livelihood for me and a market for my products, my children can go to school, there are functional health facilities when a member of my family falls sick – then it will be a matter not just of me giving up something but of a better life I will be gaining for my family and my community, especially our children.
Many provisions of the Annex on Normalization will not need to be enacted into law but can be directly accomplished by the act of the two parties.
Some aspects of the Annex on Transitional Arrangements may also proceed without need of the law.  To begin with, Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission was signed by the President last December 17, 2012.  Immediately on the following day, on their last working day of the year, both Houses of Congress passed their respective Resolutions expressing support for the FAB and the creation of the Transition Commission.
The TC is the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will be certified by the President for enactment by Congress and, thereafter, ratification through plebiscite.  It will be composed of 15 members of which eight, including the chair, are selected by the MILF and seven by government. The MILF has submitted their list of eight, while nominees for the GPH side have been short-listed.  The necessary documentation, including clearances from the appropriate bodies, is now being completed for submission to the President.  We are looking towards the presidential appointment of the TC chair and members by mid-February.
In accordance with the provisions of the FAB, EO 120 provides a mechanism for authentic democratic collaboration in the crafting of a proposed law by the affected people themselves.  The aim is to install the Bangsamoro through a new organic act as soon as possible in order to ensure that an elected Bangsamoro government is in place by 2016, simultaneous with the entry of the next administration.  The issuance of the Executive Order creating the Transition Commission marked the delivery of the first political commitment under the FAB.  Once the TC is operational with the appointment of its full membership, we will be able to say that the road map set by the FAB is firmly on the move.
This leads us to the provisions of the FAB on the reconstruction of communities in the Bangsamoro that had been affected by the armed conflict.  We all know that the areas of the ARMM remain to be the most underdeveloped communities in the country.  Almost all MDG indicators, from health to education to maternal and infant mortality and women’s participation, are lowest in ARMM.  With the signing and implementation of the FAB, there are high expectations that the peace that the FAB promises will bring accelerated development in the area.
Indeed, government is committed to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of conflict-affected areas and to fast-track socio-economic development in the region. This will be accomplished in a large part by empowering the Bangsamoro themselves through their participation in transforming their own communities.  According to the FAB and EO 120, the Transition Commission shall assist in identifying development programs together with the Bangsamoro Development Agency and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute – two institutions initiated by and affiliated with the MILF.
We see two tracks to development for the Bangsamoro.  The first one involves the MILF combatants, their immediate families and communities, and those most vulnerable to conflict, particularly IDPs, women, and children.  Programs for these beneficiaries will require strong partnership with and leadership from the MILF.  Both parties are determined to ensure that the organizational leadership of the MILF takes a leading role in shaping the programs for their internal constituencies.  This is imperative for the success of the peace process.
Already, there is a list of projects on health, education, and livelihood that has been drawn up and agreed upon by the GPH and the MILF for implementation in the next twelve months.  Tentatively called Sajahatra Bangsamoro (which I understand means the welfare or state of happiness of the Bangsamoro), the program is part of the continuing confidence-building efforts between the two parties as well as assuring the communities that they do not need to wait until 2016 to experience the benefits of the FAB.  The program is set to be launched on February 11, 2013, in Maguindanao in the presence of the President and Chair Murad.  Sajahatra may be a precursor of more basic services and livelihood programs for the MILF and their communities, and we can anticipate that this program will play an important part of the normalization process under the FAB.
The second track involves the more massive and longterm reconstruction and rehabilitation of the entire Bangsamoro region.  For this track, the national government is prepared to do its part to the utmost of its capability and in accordance with the spirit of partnership that it is seeking to forge and strengthen with the MILF.  How exactly this will play out requires more discussion, coupled with mutual discernment and discretion, also confidence- and trust-building between the government and MILF, as well as strengthened and appropriate capacity-building for those who will play key planning and implementation roles in whatever programs and projects will be put in place.
Given the healthy financial situation of the Philippine Government due to Daang Matwid, we have been assured by both Secretaries Purisima and Abad that we stand ready to bankroll the costs of the initial and substantial phases of reconstruction and rehabilitation.  Through several conduits and directly from Chair Murad himself, we have received information that MILF is embarking on processes to come up with a Bangsamoro Development Plan.  We look forward to seeing these processes move forward, even as government continues to maintain and update its own data bases for appropriate future use.  We hope that the MILF’s first engagement in the PDF will bear fruit in spurring the process forward.
In the meantime, in the short-term, given that the ARMM remains to be the government entity operating in the area, OIC Regional Governor Hataman will be relied upon in the planning and programming of socio-economic programs and projects for the territory.  Governance reforms initiated when he took office in 2012 need to continue and be strengthened.  Delivery of basic services needs to be accelerated and improved to facilitate a catch-up on MDG targets.  Access, connectivity and markets need to be pursued if livelihood opportunities are to be sustained.  Threats from climate change need to be addressed.  The current ARMM government needs to accomplish all these not to pre-empt the powers and prerogatives of the prospective new political entity but to provide for a better baseline of governance and development once the new Basic Law on the Bangsamoro becomes a reality.
If all that is needed is infrastructure, much will need to be done, but it will not be that difficult.  The task becomes more complex when one sees how development should in turn build and strengthen legitimate institutions within the Bangsamoro territory.  We all acknowledge that despite the level of development assistance poured into the area over the past many years, the state of underdevelopment has prevailed.  I do not know whether there are estimates on how much has been lost to corruption, inefficiency and poor planning, but it may be safe to say it has been considerable.  Just anecdotal conversations in the field indicate that as much as 50 to 70% of budget covers do not reach the intended beneficiaries in many areas in ARMM.  While Governor Hataman has been earnest in instituting reforms, much remains to be done.
This means that as we plan and do reconstruction and rehabilitation in the area, we will also need to build legitimate institutions that will guarantee inclusive growth, increase participation in the political and economic decision making, as well as guard against interests that are inimical to social, political and economic empowerment.
The Basic Law for the Bangsamoro will be instrumental in shaping these institutions.  Those who will craft the Basic Law should learn from what went wrong before and incorporate into the provisions sufficient guarantees that the institutions to be established in the autonomous region will bring about inclusive, participatory and empowering social and political processes.
Flashed before you is the roadmap to 2016.  Important milestones include the completion of the draft Organic Law that will create the Bangsamoro, its passage by Congress, the plebiscite that would ratify the law, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that would ensure the continuing functioning of government in the territory, and, fully anticipating that all the earlier milestones happen, then the elections of officials for the Bangsamoro government in 2016.
It is easy to see that the process laid out in the FAB leading to 2016 is not an easy one.  Many things can go wrong.  Those who prefer the status quo, which the FAB rejected, are determined to find ways to derail this process.  The traditional powerbrokers are still very much entrenched, and it will be a challenge how to engage them rather than totally reject them.
But the roadmap leading to the creation of the Bangsamoro should also be seen as an opportunity to help those who have been working for reform all this time to gain the platform to engage the political arena, and even win in that arena.  The ministerial form of government is promising in that it is anchored on a multi-party system, allowing for a multitude of voices aiming to garner the necessary votes to gain power.   It will be necessary to increase the voice of those among the Bangsamoro who have been champions of reforms but have not been able to engage the politics of reform.  These people need to be capacitated and provided with a platform that will allow them to compete for space in the formal political arena, to not be fearful or embarrassed to deal with the world of politics.  This is an important challenge that MILF must become ready to confront.
Reformists need to engage the state and the government if we want to entrench systems and mechanisms for long term reform. If not, we leave these same systems and mechanisms to those whose only desire is to maintain the status quo.
What I have said about institutional reform is very much tied to the whole effort of development in the Bangsamoro.  One without the other will not bring us to sustainable just and lasting peace and development, the Framework Agreement notwithstanding.  We will need to build inclusive social and political institutions if development is to make a difference in the lives of people in Mindanao.  This is an imperative that underlies all of our work.
Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now.  While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.
But, here in Mindanao, the recent disaster brought about by Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Sur presents a unique opportunity for partners of peace and development.  Not too many people realize that practically all of the areas affected by Pablo are also areas affected by the conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  The map shown provides the overlay of Pablo-affected and conflict-affected areas.
As government and its partners begin the difficult work of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Pablo-affected areas, it might be worthwhile to consider a reconstruction philosophy that will guarantee that the re-established communities will not only be more resilient to climate change, but also be free from the armed conflicts that have prevented sustainable development to happen in the area.  We are calling on the New People’s Army operating in these areas to truly show they care for these communities by taking this historic opportunity in partnering with us in healing and reconstructing communities badly affected by Pablo.
Every moment provides us with an opportunity to bring peace in our country.  With the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro, the partnership between the GPH and the MILF allows us to break through decades of conflict and violence. The Pablo disaster likewise is an invitation to help each other rebuild communities of peace and development.
We are at the dawn of a new era of peace and development in Mindanao. But, as I hope I have laid out for you, much remains to be done.  As always, we will need to depend on each other.  As always, we will need to have a resolve that will carry us through the challenging times, a spirit that allows us to imagine a future different from the past, and the courage to believe that peace is truly within our reach.
Maraming salamat po.  Daghang salamat.  Shukran. 

Peace challenge II to the GPH and NDFP: Just drop the charade of peace talks, focus on the doable especially for human rights and IHL

 

By Soliman M. Santos, Jr.

Naga City, 8 October 2012

 

[Author’s note:  This article started to be written several days before the presidential announcement of a new GPH-MILF framework agreement on 7 October 2012 but was finished the day after that announcement.  The announced development  is relevant to this article’s making some key comparisons or contrasts between the GPH-NDFP and GPH-MILF fronts of war and peace. Ironically, the new substantive progress on the GPH-MILF peace front does not change, and on the contrary reinforces, this article’s loss of hope in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.]

 

More than one year and seven months after the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Oslo Joint Statement (OJS) of 21 February 2011 when they had resumed their formal peace negotiations under the current Aquino administration after an impasse of almost seven years under the Arroyo administration, it is clear from both the verbal and body language of both parties that those supposedly resumed negotiations are going nowhere.  In fact, it is probably long overdue to call a spade a spade, to say that the Emperor has no clothes:  that the GRP/GPH-NDFP peace talks have long become a charade, that the parties have no real political will to earnestly see the talks through in an honest to goodness peace process.

 

Better then to just stop the charade or pretense, so as to not continue to raise any illusions or false expectations (if still any) about it among the people.  Better to then be guided accordingly and redirect the main effort to something truly feasible and still desirable, even if it is not the most ideal result of “resolving the armed conflict” and “attaining a just and lasting peace.”  The way things stand, one important thing which is still doable and desirable, even in the face of continuing armed hostilities and precisely because of this, is achieving the best possible “respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL)” in order “to ensure the protection of non-combatants and reduce the impact of the armed conflict on communities found in conflict areas.” But even this has to break out of the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations, and all concerned, not just the two warring parties, have to find new and better ways of civilian protection.

 

Low-Intensity Effort and Dedma

 

It is evident that both parties to this armed conflict, but more so the NDFP to be fair about it, do not have their hearts into their peace negotiations.  They show only low-intensity effort to follow through on the supposed resumption way back February 2011 after an already long impasse since 2004.  They do not try hard enough to effectively, practicably and flexibly deal with and dispose of real and imagined obstacles in order to be able to proceed from that breakthrough resumption.  Worst of all, they imagine or themselves place the obstacles when there really should be none. Theirs is a clear negative example of the recent-day vernacular saying that kung gusto, ay may paraan; kung ayaw, ay maraming dahilan (which may be roughly translated as “if they want it, there are many ways to get it going;  if they don’t want it, there are many reasons to avoid getting down to it”).

 

Up to now, the impasse since February 2011 is ostensibly due to the main non-substantive issue of the GPH release or non-release of claimed NDFP consultants who are detained.  The parties cannot seem to find a way to, as we said, effectively, practicably and flexibly deal with and dispose of this so-called obstacle, notwithstanding various proposals of how to go about or around it.  This independent peace advocate made his own specific and fully argued proposal relayed to both peace panels as a “Peace challenge” way back December 2011:  [1] to just proceed forthwith to the peace negotiations on the three remaining substantive agenda headings (of socio-economic reforms, of political and constitutional reforms, and of end of hostilities and disposition of forces) for completion with comprehensive agreements over an already agreed time frame of 18 months (e.g. January 2012 to June 2013), [2] accompanied by a “unilateral, concurrent and reciprocal ceasefire” to build confidence and create a favorable atmosphere during the same 18-month period of peace negotiations, and [3] with the secondary non-substantive issues like the release of claimed NDFP consultants to be initially addressed or processed simultaneously or in parallel, not as “prejudicial issues,” at a committee level lower than the panels, like the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), so that these do not unduly draw away the panels’ attention from the more important substantive talks.

 

This specific proposal has not been responded to adequately by both panels, other than a thank you letter of acknowledgement from the GPH Panel Chairperson Alexander A. Padilla of our suggestions as “valuable inputs,” but that’s about it.  The response or more precisely non-response from the NDFP panel side was simple dedma (feigned non-notice), apparently calculated so as not to give any importance or status to certain independent peace advocates (and advocacies) not in their comfort zone.  Both sides clearly cannot find it in themselves, cannot find enough will and ways, to just proceed forthwith to the more important substantive talks, as a number of concerned quarters like the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the Waging Peace Convenors (with last Easter Proposals) and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) have called for over the past months at least since the Christmas season last year.  But all we get is dedma.

 

Strategy and Tactics

 

Our “Peace challenge” paper of December 2011 already attributed the lukewarm attitude of both sides to earnest peace negotiations to the greater importance they give to their respective current war strategies — whether it be the relatively new and more sophisticated Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the old protracted people’s war (PPW) strategy of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) with its current drive towards a strategic (military) stalemate within the five years or so.

 

But, without negating the root causes of the armed conflict, government responses are also, if not largely, shaped by the main form of struggle adopted by the revolutionary forces challenging it.  The CPP-NPA-NDFP has long waged and continues to wage armed struggle as its main form of struggle to overthrow the ruling “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” system and replace it with a “national-democratic” one.  Thus, even as it engages in peace negotiations, it does so as a tertiary form of struggle that is subsumed under and must serve the PPW strategy with armed struggle as the main form of struggle.  This is why the NDFP is “allergic” or averse to any prolonged ceasefire to accompany peace negotiations.  Thus, for the NDFP, “ceasefire” seems to be the hardest word.  It’s almost like don’t even think of proposing to them any ceasefire longer than one week or at most one month.

 

In the contrary case of the NDFP’s tactical ally, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a general ceasefire was one of its first significant agreements with the government in 1997.  More importantly, the MILF has long shifted from armed struggle to peace negotiations as its main form of struggle and strategy to achieve its desired Bangsamoro self-determination.  The government response has been to constructively engage the MILF (actually itself also constructively engaging the government) mainly in peace negotiations. This engagement, at least on the part of the MILF, is strategic, and not just tactical – as  has long been  the case in the NDFP’s engagement in peace negotiations with the government.

 

Historically, the NDFP has had only tactical objectives for the negotiations:  international diplomatic recognition of so-called status of belligerency (SOB);  propaganda;  prisoner releases;  and more recently to help secure the legitimacy of the CPP, NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison internationally in view of their “terrorist” listing.  There has been no strategic decision (unlike the case of the MILF) to give peace negotiations a real chance for a negotiated political settlement.  This is why we said earlier that it is more so the NDFP than the GPH that does not have their hearts into their peace negotiations.  Otherwise, the GPH could also constructively engage the NDFP in serious strategic, not just tactical, peace negotiations just like the case is with the MILF in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.

 

As for the CPP’s contention that the Aquino regime is “using peace negotiations to hoodwink” the MILF, let it be the best judge of that. For the MILF itself to persist in this particular peace process engagement, notwithstanding its tactical ally’s (NDFP’s) kibitzing, speaks for itself as to the seriousness of those negotiations.  And so can it be with the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations – IF these are strategic, not just tactical, and IF the parties will allow it or treat it so.  It is the NDFP however that has articulated more calculatedly a certain political or propaganda line about these negotiations.  This line we shall now proceed to engage or deconstruct, as must be done as part of supporting the main thesis of this article to just stop this charade of negotiations and do something sincere/honest instead, with doable concrete benefits even if not of that high policy level of a negotiated political settlement.

 

High Peace Policy Statements

 

In the CPP highest policy statement on its 43rd anniversary on 26 December 2011, it said “The Aquino regime has simply shown its lack of sincerity and seriousness in peace negotiations with the NDFP.  We should dispel any illusion that the regime is interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and forging agreements with the NDFP on social, economic and political reforms.  Clearly, it is hell bent on destroying the Party and the revolutionary movement.”

 

And in another CPP high policy message on the 43rd anniversary of the NPA on 29 March 2012, it followed through on this by saying:  “The Aquino regime is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP.  Within the framework of its Oplan Bayanihan, it considers peace negotiations only as a means to divide and weaken the revolutionary forces while it escalates brutal military campaigns of suppression to ‘decimate’ the armed revolution and suppress the people’s resistance.  Unwittingly, it is inciting the people and the revolutionary forces to intensify their armed resistance and to advance the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”  And there the CPP-NPA shows its slip, as it were, on what their hearts, minds and hands are really into.

 

If what the CPP saying is true, or if it believes its own propaganda line that “The Aquino regime is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP,” then the logical, honest or even honorable thing to do is to pull out from those negotiations.  But no, instead the afore-cited CPP anniversary statement says:  “However, we continue to express our desire for peace negotiations in order to prevent the enemy from claiming falsely that we are not interested in a just and lasting peace and also to keep open the possibility that the enemy regime would be compelled by the crisis and/or by our significant victories in people’s war to seriously seek negotiations.  Indeed, the only way to compel the enemy to engage in serious  negotiations is to inflict major defeats on it and make it realize the futility of its attempt to destroy the revolutionary movement, especially the people’s army.”  (underscoring supplied)

 

The CPP is in effect saying that it/we must continue this charade of peace negotiations if only for the propaganda measure of countering whatever anti-peace image unfavorable to it.  But because its heart is not really into it, the CPP then makes its “maraming dahilan” (many reasons) not to proceed with the negotiations:  “The formal meetings in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations cannot be held unless the GPH addresses the prejudicial issues [esp. the release of claimed NDFP consultants] being raised by the NDFP and makes amends.”  And so it becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy on the futility of negotiations with the enemy regime that is said to be not serious about it (in fairness to the CPP, there is also some basis for saying this).

 

Militarist View and Weapons-Driven Approach

 

The above underscored CPP statement also reveals its rather militarist view of and approach to peace negotiations, as in “compel the enemy” through military pressure to seriously negotiate and grant concessions.    This view/approach, aside from the primacy of armed struggle in the CPP-NPA’s PPW strategy, accounts for its aversion to ceasefires to accompany peace negotiations.  It is extremely hard to see how continued tactical military offensives, rather than a general ceasefire (the case with the MILF), might constitute “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations.” The said view/approach also indicates that the CPP-NPA does not really expect anything significant such as in terms of substantive reforms, and much less a negotiated political settlement, to come out of the negotiations.  Otherwise, why invest so many precious lives of its Red fighters?

 

On the other hand, is the CPP in effect saying that its tactical ally MILF’s peace negotiations with the GPH are not serious because of the accompanying ceasefire there which naturally does not “inflict major defeats” on the AFP?  Tell that to the MILF.  A perusal of the afore-cited CPP-NPA high policy level anniversary statements, particularly the sections on “Urgent fighting tasks,” show that there is nothing in terms of urgent tasks for the peace negotiations while there is very much on inflicting major military defeats on the enemy regime in order “to advance the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”

 

For example, in terms of “intensifying the people’s war,’ the afore-cited CPP anniversary statement contains quite specific military instructions or guidance such as this:  “We must hamper and prevent enemy intrusions into the guerrilla fronts through ambushes and other actions, including sniper fire, grenade attacks, mortar and land mines.  We must destroy the transport and supply lines and depots of the enemy.  We must give the enemy forces no rest by launching attacks on their camps and detachments whenever possible, even at night.  When enemy personnel hide in fortifications, we can wait for them to take the road and expose themselves to our attacks.”

 

The afore-cited NPA anniversary message follows through on this sort of guidance thus:  “Small teams can be trained and employed to use AMFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) bombs, plastic bombs, TNT and incendiaries, including modest cigarette lighter, to destroy target objects such as military vehicles, facilities, fortifications and other fixed structures.  Land mines, sniping and grenade throwing can be employed to impede enemy troop movement or harass any encamped force [author’s insertion:  like the one on 1 September 2012 in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District, Davao City which resulted in shrapnel injuries to 48 civilians, 18 of whom were minors] and gasoline bombs to destroy fuel depots, motor pools and military planes and helicopters.  Units of people’s militias and self-defense forces are also encouraged to employ indigenous weaponry such as punji-spiked booby-traps, produce explosives from unexploded munitions of the enemy and make use of local tactics in combination and coordination with the full-time formations of the NPA.”

 

The afore-cited NPA anniversary message is titled “Strengthen the people’s army and intensify the people’s war.”  The message explains that accent on the NPA:  “The Party considers the NPA as the key force for advancing the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate…. It is responsible for annihilating the enemy military forces and laying the ground for establishing Red political power…. The main objective is to wipe out enemy units and seize weapons so that more units of the people’s army can be formed.  The people’s army must seize several thousand more high-powered rifles and other weapons from the enemy.”  (underscoring supplied)

 

In other words, the key force which is the NPA is designed such that it must engage regularly in combat, otherwise it will wither away. That is the way it survives and replenishes itself, by paying special attention to seizing enemy weapons that allow it to form more units of the NPA.  This seems to be an inordinately weapons-driven approach.  And to seize those weapons, the enemy units carrying them must be annihilated or wiped out (the context of course is legitimate combat but it smacks almost of killing primarily for the weapons). There can thus be no ceasefire, particularly one that is unduly long from the NPA perspective. And the peace negotiations cannot be allowed to dilute or distract away from the “Urgent fighting tasks.”

 

Social Costs and Root Causes 

But the price for this approach is very costly in terms of precious lives irreplaceably lost, including of the best and the brightest sons and daughters of the people — on both sides and among the civilians caught in the crossfire.  One must ask, is it worth it, even from the revolutionary perspective, after more than four decades of protracted people’s war and still in the strategic defensive stage?  Of course, Sison has his own sophisticated answer by way of saying that “The costs of keeping the reactionary ruling system are far higher than the costs of waging armed revolution.  Exploitation and oppression exact a terrible toll on the people and are precisely what drive people to wage armed revolution.  We should be able to see the high cost of the violence of daily exploitation to recognize the necessity and lower cost of armed revolution.”

There are of course social root causes of the armed conflict, and they can be addressed through the peace process.  NDFP-Bicol spokesperson Greg Bañares says “We all dream of a real and long-lasting peace founded on social justice.  It can be borne out of the success of the peace talks that leans on agreements that will solve the ills of our society.”  But, and here is the catch, he says that “peace could also be achieved through the success of the revolutionary war… While the peace negotiation has no clear direction, it is better to go on with the armed struggle.”  (underscoring supplied)   The peace negotiations actually have a clear general direction, which is found in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1 September 1992, the 20-year old framework agreement between the GPH and the NDFP for their peace negotiations.   But for the most part of those past 20 years, the peace talks have been going nowhere, especially nowhere in that clear general direction.  The parties have only themselves to blame for this, for squandering most of 20 years.

The CPP points the finger of blame at the Aquino regime which it says is not “interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and forging agreements with the NDFP on social, economic and political reforms.”  That may be true but, to be sure, one can only really say that definitively after it has been shown to be such in the practical course of peace negotiations on those reforms.  The proof of the pudding would be actual substantive negotiations.  But precisely the substantive negotiations on reforms have yet to be conducted.  As we said in our “Peace challenge” paper of December 2011, let the substantive talks on specific reforms – not issues like release of claimed NDFP consultants or removal of “terrorist” listing or even the use of landmines – be the litmus test on the sincerity and seriousness of the parties, on who is interested or not in key reforms, and on the viability of their peace negotiations.

 

“Special Track” for “Immediate Just Peace” 

 

The problem is that the parties do not have the requisite will to even just bring it to the test of actual substantive negotiations.  Perhaps this is already indicative of a sense or calculation that nothing would come out of it or, worse, of a policy decision preferring another mode like military victory to resolve the armed conflict.  Possibly instructive in this regard is the NDFP proposal on a “special track of immediate truce and alliance on the basis of a general declaration of common intent” which would purportedly “accelerate addressing the roots of the armed conflict.”  The NDFP “special track” proposal includes a 10-Point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace (CAIJP) which could be described as a capsulized version of the 10-Point or 12-Point NDFP political program in terms of its basic national-democratic program planks.

 

Significantly imbedded in the CAIJP, and found in three of its 10 Points, is having a “coalition government.”  This would presumably include the NDFP which proposes it and which “coalition government” features, among others, “significant representation” of “the toiling masses of workers and peasants” – precisely the basic sectors which the NDFP claims to mainly represent.  In addition, “alliance and truce become the modus vivendi of the GPH and NDFP.”  As a come-on, “The civil war between the GPH and the NDFP shall cease and a just peace shall ensue” as soon as they co-sign the CAIJP.

 

Ano ang NDFP, sinuswerte?  (How lucky can the NDFP be?)  Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH would deliver to it on a silver platter the core NDFP political program and seats in a “coalition government”?  The GPH Panel Chair Padilla has already stated that “the GPH had already rejected this” and that “the GPH will never agree to establish a coalition government or a power-sharing arrangement with the NDFP-CPP-NPA.”  [On the other hand, it must be noted at this point that the GPH and the MILF have agreed at least in principle and framework, if not also on key arrangements, on power-sharing and even wealth-sharing between the Central Government and a “new autonomous political entity” for the Bangsamoroand called “Bangsamoro.”]  Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH would agree to “alliance and truce” with a force that refers to it as the “U.S-Aquino regime” and is hell bent on inflicting major military defeats on it, if not overthrowing it?

 

Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH will find “common political ground” in the CAIJP’s nat-dem catch-phrase flagship programs like “national industrialization and (genuine or revolutionary) land reform,” “a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture,” “cancellation of the foreign debt,” “reduction of the appropriations for the military and other armed organizations of the GPH,” “a truly independent foreign policy” and so on?  As it is, the GPH and the NDFP already have differing perceptions or understandings of the “mutually acceptable principles” of  “national sovereignty, democracy and social justice” in The Hague Joint Declaration.  They are not on the same page, as it turns out, even on these general concepts and principles in their framework agreement.  How much more when it comes to nat-dem catch-phrase flagship programs?

 

There is a sense that the NDFP “special track” proposal was made with the full expectation that it would be rejected as the kind of proposal that any Philippine government cannot but refuse.  And so, why propose it in the first place?  The answer is found at the end of the CAIJP document:  “Otherwise [i.e. if not co-signed by the GPH], the Filipino people and revolutionary forces are more than ever justified to continue the new democratic revolution through people’s war…”   It all goes back to the PPW strategy.  But for the NDFP to say on the other extreme that, upon the co-signing by the GPH of the CAIJP, “the civil war ends and a just peace is achieved immediately,” is also to raise false expectations about achieving peace.  Institutional peace-building just doesn’t happen that way.  It begins (or should begin) not with the signing of a peace agreement but even long before that, during the process surrounding the peace negotiations.

 

Thus far, we have engaged or deconstructed largely the NDFP’s political or propaganda line about the peace negotiations, in order to argue the thesis of this article that the negotiations have become a charade.  This purposive engagement is because the NDFP has articulated that line more calculatedly, consciously and prominently.  In contrast, the GPH has not been as voluble.  But actions (or more precisely lack of action) can speak louder than words.  The inaction of not trying, or of not trying hard enough, can belie whatever spoken words or intentions.  One might say this, for example, about the published statement of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  that “Amidst roadblocks in the GPH-NDFP peace process, the government remains firm on its commitment to attain a final negotiated political settlement with the NDFP.”   How can the OPAPP even talk about “a final negotiated political settlement” (and raise false hopes like the NDFP does with the CAIJP) when the parties have not been able, for a considerable length of time already, to resume their formal peace talks that still have to cover three major substantive agenda headings?

 

The parties agreed in an informal meeting initiated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) in Oslo last June 2012 “to continue meaningful discussions of concerns and issues raised by both sides” (mainly about the level of violence and landmine use raised by the GPH, and about claimed political detainees and consultants raised by the NDFP).  It is the RNG Third Party Facilitator, rather than the parties themselves, that has been exerting extra effort “to revive the lagging peace process.”  And yet more than three months have passed, including the European summer vacation season (the NDFP peace panel is based in Europe), without any follow-up meeting on even these non-substantive “prejudicial issues,” but there has been no vacation or break on the war front.

 

“Strategic Stalemate”:  What is to be done?      

 

And so, all told, there has been for some time already a “strategic stalemate,” not in the military situation but in the more-off-than-on peace negotiations.  It is about time that these, just like the ARMM, be declared to be a “failed experiment.”  What is to be done then after just dropping the charade of peace talks?  The answer to this question deserves a separate fuller treatment.  We will for now, however, outline here some thoughts about just one important particular area of concern and work.  Since the parties, especially the NDFP, have their hearts more into pursuing their respective deadly wars against each other, it is also in their respective interest, and more so of the civilian population in the war zones, that the war is conducted in accordance with the rules, basically the rules of human rights and IHL.  Proof, though not necessarily the best evidence, of this common interest is their 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), considered a substantive agreement, the first one and likely the only one. In a manner of speaking, respect for human rights and IHL may be “the only game in town” on the GPH-NDFP front, certainly better than “playing our charade” of peace talks.

 

Unfortunately, the CARHRIHL’s  implementation has also been stalemated not only by the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations under which such implementation has been subsumed, but also by its stalemate-prone Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) mechanism with certain consensus rules.  This is further complicated by each party asserting their respective justice systems in another game of “two governments,” and raising again the specters of unconstitutionality and belligerency status. Perhaps the parties may want to consider at least “uncoupling” the JMC mechanism from the peace negotiations, so that the operationalization of the JMC is not dependent or contingent on the state of progress (or lack of it) of the formal peace talks.

 

Human rights and IHL are ultimately too important to be left at the mercy of the JMC mechanism.  As we said early on above, we to break out of the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations, and all concerned, not just the two warring parties, have to find new and better ways of civilian protection.  The NDFP proposal for a “special track” for “immediate just peace,” no matter how politically unrealistic, at least shows that there can be some “thinking out of the box” of the “regular track” of four sequential substantive agenda stages in the peace negotiations outlined in The Hague Joint Declaration and its 1995 implementing agreement on Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs).  Let this kind of “thinking out of the box,” creativity and flexibility manifest itself more in the direction of humanitarian protection.

 

For one, the CPP-NPA-NDFP national leadership should no longer discourage or prohibit its local commands from local-level talks (not local peace talks) that would more expeditiously and effectively address humanitarian concerns arising from armed hostilities at that level. This kind of local-level talks should no longer be proscribed by that leadership as necessarily a counter-insurgency trap to pacify, divide and induce the capitulation of the revolutionary forces.  Relatedly, local-level talks initiated by conflict-affected local communities, that seek respect for their own genuine declarations of their communities as “peace zones” that are off-limits to armed hostilities, should not be treated as necessarily a counter-insurgency measure to cramp or limit the areas for NPA tactical offensives.  The whole countryside is vast enough for that.

 

Civil society peace groups like notably Sulong CARHRIHL (Advance CARHRIHL) have tried to make CARHRIHL work even without the stalemated JMC mechanism, albeit Sulong CARHRIHL has focused mainly on work at the local community level, where after all the work is most needed.  But of course the broad work of advancing human rights and IHL is not limited to and by the CARHRIHL.  The broad array of IHL (and also human rights) advocates who had gathered around the first National Summit on  IHL in 2009 have significantly since then taken on and stepped up the work to address the relevant main challenges of:  [1] humanitarian intervention especially during massive internal displacement due to armed hostilities; [2] education, information and communications on IHL (and human rights); and [3] monitoring, investigation and prosecution of IHL (and human rights) violations in the context of the armed conflict.

 

In terms of exploring alternative institutional mechanisms for that last most difficult challenge monitoring/investigation of and accountability for IHL (and human rights) violations, the 2009 IHL Summit for one called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to develop its own complementary or fallback mechanism to the JMC. It is good that an independent constitutional commission mandated for human rights concerns, with a nationwide offices, and with international links, is giving attention also to the related but distinct field of IHL and to HR-IHL violations not only of the state armed forces but also of non-state armed groups.  Seeking rebel accountability is a special challenge in itself due to various conceptual and practical reasons, including “no permanent address.”

 

Conceptually, there is the traditional notion that human rights and their violations pertain only to state agents, not to non-state actors.  One of the best evidences and arguments against this traditional concept is the CARHRIHL itself which holds a non-state armed group in the NDFP to standards of human rights and a measure, albeit limited, of accountability therefor. And yet the existing and pending legislation on torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings are by definition limited to only those perpetrated by state agents.  Again, perhaps the best evidence and argument against that narrow(-minded) definition is the experience of the CPP-NPA anti-infiltration campaigns of the 1980s where all three crimes were admittedly committed.

 

There is a CPP-NPA organizational “plea of guilty” to these purge violations but there has been inadequate accountability and redress.  It is about time that those collective as well as individual human rights and IHL violations be given a more effective institutional redress in terms of truth, justice and healing for the purge victims and survivors and their families before the moment and memories are lost.  Given the passage of time (with the legal rules on prescription, albeit only for prescriptible common crimes, but not for war crimes and crimes against humanity, among others), there should be exaction of at least historical and moral accountability, if no longer legal accountability, such as through some form of “truth commission.”

 

The work of upholding respect for human rights and IHL in the context of the GPH-NDFP armed conflict may be well below the ideal and the high policy level of a negotiated political settlement.  But aside from its more immediate value of civilian protection, HR-IHL work has a long-term strategic value and direction of laying better ground (and lowering the costs and antagonism) for a negotiated political settlement when the requisite political will and also paradigm shifts on both sides come about, hopefully sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, let’s not fool ourselves “playing our charade” of peace talks, and just devote our efforts, energies and valuable time to what can be realistically and beneficially done.  This is the new peace challenge on the GPH-NDFP front of war and peace.

 

______________________________________

 

SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR. has been a long-time Bicolano human rights and IHL lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer, whose initial engagement with the peace process was in Bicol with the first GRP-NDFP nationwide ceasefire in 1986.  He is presently Presiding Judge of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur and Acting Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balatan, Camarines Sur.

 

 

 

Media Kit

Click to download the Youth Media Guide/Toolkit

KIT CONTENTS:

I. Media Advisory

II. Press Release

III. Background Materials

a.  What is Peace Day?

b.  Why Support Peace in the Philippines?

c.  Peace Day Ceasefire Call

 

 

 

 

Dear Youth Peace Advocates,

This media kit provides us with some ideas, and information that can help us with our media coverage. We encourage that you  engage your local media partners for your peace initiatives. This helps us in broadening the impact of our softcore peace work—popularizing the issue of peace, and making peace a national (not marginal) issue.

Included in this kit: media advisory, which is an invitation for your media contacts. We also included a sample press release, which is what you provide your media contacts to ensure your messages are included in their coverage. We know you can do better than our samples, these only serve as your guide but feel free to Sotto them without conditions (redit, revise, reword, redraft, repackage, etc.)

Lastly, we included some information bonuses through simple Q and A of what is Peace Day, why support peace and our peace day ceasefire call. We are confident that you can use or at the least be inspired by this simple kit to pursue engagement with both traditional and non-traditional media.

Padayon para sa kapayapaan at karapatang pantao!

 

Localize the Peace Day: Resolution and Ordinance Templates

September 21 is the International Day of Peace. In the Philippines, the date also marks the commemoration of PD 1081 infamously known as the date when Martial Law was declared in 1972.

Few people know about the Peace Day. It is, in fact, a UN General Assembly Resolution and is unanimously approved as a day of “Peace, Nonviolence, and Ceasefire”.

Another unknown, or perhaps unpopular, issue in the country is the problem of armed conflicts on two fronts–the Bangsamoro and the Communist armed struggles.

While we are perennially in conflict for the past four decades, the urgency of resolving these age-old armed struggles remain a whimper.

GenPeace as a youth network is embarking on a ‘green packets’ sort of project, or more appropriately, packets of peace. The Local Government is a potent avenue for youth engagement, collaboration and advocacy. Because of that, the youth network, through LGU engagement wants to:

1. Promote and popularize the International Day of Peace.

2. Educate the youth on the armed conflict and the peace processes in the country.

3. Provide space for community collaboration–multisectoral and multistakeholder peace initiatives at the community and grassroots level.

4. Join the global call for a Peace Day Ceasefire.

If you are one with some or all of the points above, join our local lobbying for Peace Day Resolutions and/or Ordinances. Below are some of the resources that may be helpful for our cause. You may use, modify, repackage, etc. as long as proper attribution is considered. Let’s build more spaces for peace: Support the Peace Day, Advance the Peace Processes!

Template Letter for Your LGU (word document)

Template Peace Day Resolution (word document)

Template Peace Day Ordinance (word document)

ORDINANCE-RESOLUTION FOR PEACEDAY: A briefer (powerpoint)

Peace Day 2012 Ceasefire Call

Towards Just and Sustainable Peace:

Declare a Peace Day Ceasefire!

A Citizens’ Call for a September 21 Ceasefire

PDF VERSION

On the UN-declared International Day of Peace, also called a Global Day of Ceasefire and Non-Violence – September 21, we urge the Government of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDF to declare a 24-hour ceasefire. The ongoing ceasefire between the GPH and the MILF must be especially be upheld on that date.
We ask that the guns be silenced in our country on Peace Day, in solidarity with all who seek to end violent conflicts around the globe.

“If we all unite, together we can create the largest global reduction of violence ever recorded on one day” –Peace One Day

As peace advocates from diverse political, cultural, faith and social backgrounds, we call for a cessation of hostilities in order to highlight the urgent need for peace.

We support the ongoing peace processes that aim to resolve through political negotiations the decades-long armed conflicts in the Philippines. We are determined to accompany the process toward signing of peace agreements and more importantly, in the implementation of these peace agreements.

In the Philippines, September 21 is more known as the day when Martial Law was declared, that we remember by vowing, “Never again.” On this 40th year since the declaration of Martial Law, we still suffer its legacy of armed conflicts and stubborn roots of injustice and poverty.

Therefore our call for peace is not just for the absence of war but further for the presence of “jobs and justice, food and freedom, land and liberation”. One of the lessons of our struggle against dictatorship is that a durable peace will be built only with the fullness of human rights and dignity.

On September 21, a day of ceasefire will be a moment marking our common commitment to building a just and sustainable peace.

WE SUPPORT THE PEACE PROCESSES. WE WANT A JUST AND LASTING PEACE. DECLARE CEASEFIRE ON PEACE DAY!

Generation Peace, Mindanao Solidarity Network, Peace Day Committee Waging Peace Philippines – GPPAC Southeast Asia

*If you wish to include your organization to our peace day ceasefire call, 
leave a comment below.
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