Youth party welcomes joint truce agreement, questions gov’t sincerity in peace talks

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kabataan Partylist welcomes the recent signing on Wednesday of an agreement of an interim joint ceasefire between the GRP and NDFP, during the fourth round of peace talks which started on April 3.

According to the NDFP, this Comprehensive Joint Ceasefire Agreement is expected to be more stable than the previous unilateral ceasefires that existed from August 2016 to January 2017.

The guidelines and ground rules for this agreement include, among others, (1) the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities and the creation of buffer zones, (2) an agreement on what constitutes prohibited, hostile, and provocative acts, and (3) a ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism to oversee the ceasefire’s implementation and handle complaints and alleged violations.

This follows complaints of previous alleged ceasefire violations that took place during earlier rounds of peace talks last year, and eventually lifted previous ceasefires and terminated the talks.

Rights group KARAPATAN reported during said period, among others, the killing of 24 peasants and indigenous peoples; the enforced disappearance of two lumad activists; at least 14,659 incidents of threats, harassment and intimidation; and 4,170 incidents of indiscriminate firing and bombings by troops who have occupied communities in the countryside despite the ongoing ceasefire.

GRP’s sincerity questionable

“We should stay vigilant, especially as no ceasefire is yet in effect,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said.

The youth party questioned the GRP’s sincerity after the opening of the fourth round of talks was delayed due to a phone call from the president.

“Even before the GRP panel left, the president’s marching orders to them were to get him a bilateral ceasefire. That makes their sincerity questionable. It reeks of plain capitulation and pacification,” Elago said.

“It’s plain pacification. Not to mention the AFP’s utter disregard of previous agreements (e.g. CARHRIHL, JASIG), with the AFP Chief even urging civilians to condemn the NPA for their ‘atrocities and anti-development activities.’ They will stop at nothing to ‘flatten the hills,’ terrorize communities, and vilify innocent civilians as NPA sympathizers which has actually cost them their lives and livelihoods,” Elago explained.

Another peasant activist killed

Just last Sunday, another peasant activist was killed by suspected military agents. Danilo Nadal, 37, was shot dead by suspected agents of 46th IBPA at Barangay Tibagun, Pantukan, Compostela Valley at 11:30 in the morning of April 2, 2017, according to a statement from human rights group KARAPATAN.

“We strongly condemn the killing of Nadal. His death is a reminder that the old system has not changed and has in fact gotten worse. As the people continue to call out Duterte’s empty promises, what they get in return are guns and bullets. The administration’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan has only affected innocent civilians and activists,” Elago said.

Tackle socio-economic agenda

“We must not forget that the peace talks is not just about laying down arms, but rather addressing the roots of armed conflict, and with it poverty and criminality,” Elago said.

The fourth round of talks seeks to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR). Among the proposed reforms are free education at all levels, free land distribution to the farmers and rural and national industrialization.

“Both parties must prove their sincerity in achieving peace, especially on the part of the GRP. After all, they have powerful interests behind their back who will not easily give up their vast tracts of land or their huge corporations, and maintain the decades-old order that has only benefited them. The GRP must have the political will to accomplish fundamental reforms, and address the roots of armed conflict, criminality and poverty, or else these agreements will be useless,” Elago added.

Call for greater support

“We urge the Filipino youth to more actively participate in the peace negotiations. Included in CASER is free education at all levels that’s why it’s in our interests to actively push for the implementation of these socio-economic reforms,” Elago said.

“Expect the youth and the people to mount more and bigger protests to denounce the worsening commercialization and deregulation of education, and the persistence of contractualization and landlessness in our society,” Elago added.

“The people have nothing to lose if they stand up for their rights. Duterte is slowly becoming the authoritarian and fascist he’s been dreaming of, but the people have a long and rich history of fighting against dictatorship and tyranny. The Filipino people will not hesitate to hold Duterte accountable for his broken promises and his crimes against the people,” Elago concluded. ###

(photo courtesy of Kodao Productions)