Humanitarian Ceasefire for Bicol, Christmas Ceasefire for All
(Statement based on the resolution of the “Waging Peace in the Philippines Conference- Twenty Years of Philippines Peace Processes” 5-6 December, 2006. Social Development Complex AVR, Ateneo de Manila University)
The crisis caused by the disaster in Bicol calls for urgent support and concerted action by all sectors of society. After the terrible loss of lives to the landslides, the people especially need a humanitarian ceasefire, a pause in all fighting and killings to ensure safety and security for critical relief work.
The Filipino people also deserve a Christmas ceasefire, a break at the end of a year of so many extrajudicial, political or “unexplained” killings. The need is not just for suspension of military operations, but for a stop to the more pervasive assassinations of non-combatants, in violation of International Humanitarian Law.
The tradition of a Christmas ceasefire is not based on military assessment or peace strategy but simply on the message of angels: “Peace on earth, goodwill to all.” The ceasefire is initiated out of humanity and good will. These may not be enough to achieve long-term peace, but in the end they are the necessary elements, without which we fall into the hubris of warriors.
The ceasefire should be time for a real rethinking of war and peace strategies on all sides. The government policy of eliminating the communist insurgency – which may wear the faces of media persons, religious leaders, partylist representatives, farmers, student researchers, etc. cannot win the peace. Rather it already reaps more killings and counterattacks, especially during an election season. Sadly, the lessons of the Martial Law period have not yet been learned. Even in a country where impunity is triumphant, human rights violations will haunt the perpetrators, as they traumatize us all, whose humanity have been scarred.
The communist reaffirmists of protracted people’s war must likewise accept that after 38 years, it is no closer to victory. More important, the people do not want to pursue this war.
We, the participants of the “Waging Peace in the Philippines Conference- Twenty Years of Philippine Peace Processes” held on December 5-6, 2006 in Quezon City, therefore appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Bicol region and other disaster-affected areas during this period of relief and rehabilitation. We further urge a stop to the extrajudicial killings, and the observance of a lengthened Christmas ceasefire leading to a vigorous and sustained pursuit of peace processes, including formal peace negotiations between GRP-NDF and GRP-MILF.
At a time of political turmoil and continuing crisis in governance, we join in the exercise of all peaceful means to assert the political, electoral and socio-economic reforms addressing the structures of conflict. Nurturing the precious few gains of twenty years of peace processes, the citizen peacemakers commit to be a vigilant third party even at this time of seemingly immovable impasse.
May the silence of the guns this Christmas be the stillness where the hope for a just and enduring peace can grow.
For the Waging Peace Conference participants’
Karen N. Tanada
GZO Peace Institute