July 6, 2018
MANILA – "We urge both the GRP and NDF to continue finding constructive ways to work together in order to renew official negotiations and find joint understanding of settling their differences at the table. To achieve this, creating a more positive enabling environment to further the process is essential. Negotiating parties must get over their differences through efficient and programmatic confidence building measures. Previously announced possible ceasefires by the respective parties and amnesty of NDF members are positive signals that need to be built upon."
Thus said, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), a worldwide network of global peace advocates after it noted with concern that the talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) have again been postponed.
Established in 2003, GPPAC is a global civil society-led network which seeks to build an international consensus on peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict. It is composed of fifteen regional networks, each of which has its own Regional Action Agenda and Work Plan and participates in activities at the global level.
GPPAC added, "As a global network of member organisations working on peacebuilding and prevention, we know how conflicts rip apart the social, economic and cultural fabric of people. Our members have first-hand experience of tragedies in Syria, the war in Colombia, widespread violence in Mexico and the fifty year guerilla war in the Philippines. We therefore call on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and National Democratic Front to return to the negotiating table. The national peace process is still the best option to move forward the quest for just and lasting peace in the Philippines. We were very much encouraged by the announcement of a new round of negotiations that were planned to take place end of June in Norway. Unfortunately those have been postponed again."
According to GPPAC Foundation Manager for Knowledge, Policy and Advocacy Pascal Richard, "In our experience inclusive peace talks bring about more sustainable outcomes as they are then able to consider the needs of a broad population. The input and potential participation of a wider civilian component in the talks could therefore be considered. But for us, as a global peacebuilding network, the first and most important step right now, remains the resumption of the GRP-NDF peace process. To us it provides an essential avenue to build a sustainable future for the Philippines."
What is at stake?
Commenting on the current impasse and the brewing tension between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Jose Maria Sison, the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Gus Miclat, the regional initiator of GPPAC in Southeast Asia and the Executive Director of Mindanao-based Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said, "What is at stake is a genuinely peaceful, just and democratic future we all desire as a nation. What is most at stake, again, are the lives and security of thousands of affected communities, most of them are non-combatants including thousands of vulnerable women and children."
Miclat stressed, "We urge both parties to live up to their common vision of 'serving the people'; of "getting from the masses and giving back to the masses" by making this peace talks successful. We call upon them to settle their differences at the negotiating table. After all, peace is not exclusive to their respective interests. They are there to represent the best interests of the people and we don't think this prolonged word war between them will help the peace negotiation succeed. Worse, it may jeopardize the previous gains of the talks."
According to GPPAC, instead of engaging in a 'flimsy word war', both panels must invest in "creating an enabling environment allowing all relevant actors, including women and youth, to participate in an unhindered manner including, among others, through the release of political prisoners, avoiding classifying or calling out other parties in a detrimental manner and the full commitment to and upholding of a ceasefire by both parties is needed."
'Invest in Substantive Agenda'
Miclat emphasized, "We are all for principled and healthy debate and the clash of ideas that would make the peace negotiation progress and become more democratic. This can start with an open dialogue on the fundamental roots of the conflict, and how both parties can jointly address them. We note that both parties have started on a friendly, conducive and even intimate note at the start of this administration before the series of setbacks that led to this impasse. They can collectively seek a viable peace formula to address the conflict. Throwing accusations against each other is counter-productive."
The GPPAC-SEA initiator concluded, "The most substantive agenda such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) tackles the roots of this armed conflict. We believe that if all prior substantive agreements of the talks will be implemented, this will bring us closer to defeating the real enemy of this protracted war."
The GPPAC call was issued also amidst impending deliberations of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Congressional bicameral committee of the other peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Philippine GPPAC members have been actively engaging this process.