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Peace advocates hold high hopes for building a just and enduring peace in the Philippines

A statement by the Pilgrims for Peace on the possible resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace talks
June 25, 2016

Winds of hope continue to sweep the whole archipelago as the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines (NDFP) take steps in close coordination toward resuming the long-suspended, formal peace negotiations.

From parishes and churches to schools and local communities, peace advocates stir interest in and disseminate information about the GPH-NDFP peace talks. Excitement grows for the resumption of talks focused on forging the requisite agreements for building just and lasting peace for the Filipino people. Peace advocates, who steadfastly affirm that peace building must address the roots of armed conflict, enjoin the people to engage in meaningful discussions on what will make for peace in our land.

Significant positive changes in the new GPH leadership’s commitment and readiness to continue and complete the peace negotiations have bolstered our hopes. Not only has it completed the new GPH negotiating panel, but it has also been demonstrating active leadership in resolving hurdles to clear the way for resuming the formal talks. Our ardent hope is that the new leadership will honor its commitment to release the political prisoners who are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). In this regard, we urge President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to exercise political will.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines has not relented on its commitment to pursue the peace talks. Sending a representative to personally meet with President-elect Duterte soon after his proclamation – which led to the holding of bilateral preliminary discussions and tentative agreements in Oslo on June 14-15, the NDFP has likewise demonstrated active leadership in resolving problems hindering the resumption of the talks. Beyond the peace talks, the NDFP responded positively to President Duterte’s unilateral gesture of cooperation; endorsing progressive leaders for consideration as appointees to the Cabinet posts he had offered, appointments were made in due time.

With GPH-NDFP peace talks shaping up to resume on August 20-27, 2016, peace advocates foresee that the two parties will affirm previously signed agreements and proceed to hold negotiations on the next substantive agenda, namely Socio-Economic Reforms. There are positive signs that the two parties will seriously and steadfastly take up this important agenda, referred to as the “meat” of the peace negotiations. To be tackled are issues such as persisting inequitable and unjust control of land by the few and proposals to achieve national industrialization. Peace advocates encourage every Filipino to join the discourse and contribute ideas and positive energies to the formulation and crafting of Socio-Economic Reforms that will address the roots of armed conflict and build justice, peace, freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

In the immediate days ahead, we encourage peace advocates throughout the nation and around the world to support our just call for the release of the 22 JASIG-protected political prisoners, who have tasks to perform for the peace negotiations. Moreover, their immediate release – as well as most, if not all, of the political prisoners – is an issue of justice: they are charged with trumped-up common criminal offences, generally non-bailable and multiple counts to make it hard for them to be released on bail. In addition, JASIG-protected political prisoners should have been IMMUNE from arrest for as long as the peace talks, or the JASIG, have not been terminated.

Respect for the JASIG and the 11 other signed agreements is an obligation of the GPH. Peace advocates are confident that the release of the JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants and the other political prisoners will contribute much in facilitating the resumption and earnest pursuance till completion of the GPH-NDFP peace talks!

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