By Mikhaela Dimpas, UP College of Mass Communications / Kodao Productions
THE peace process can still prosper even without a ceasefire agreement, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao said at a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Thursday.
Malayao recalled the productivity of the talks during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos despite the lack of ceasefire between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
The talks during the Ramos Administration succeeded in approving The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),among other major agreements.
“Kahit patuloy yung labanan ay pwede pa rin na ipagpatuloy ang pag-uusap dahil yung pinaka-productive na panahon ay yung panahon ni (Fidel) Ramos na nakapag-produce ng 10 major agreements,” Malayao said.
The Reds terminated from their unilateral ceasefire declaration last February 1, closely followed by the GRP’s own termination of its ceasefire declaration, President Duterte’s suspension of formal peace negotiations and declaration of total war against the New People’s Army.
Malayao said that the continued militarization of civilian communities and human rights violations by GRP troops were the main causes of the NPA’s termination of their ceasefire and not the “failed promise” to release political prisoners.
GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III for his part expressed dismay with the Reds’ decision and its effects on the peace negotiations.
“Like any other agreement, may mga imperfections dyan. Pero, for me, there was no justification for any party to withdraw their separately declared unilateral ceasefires,” Bello said.
Shari Oliquino, a student reactor from the UP Beta Sigma Ladies Corps, said that the reasons for the ceasefire termination were “glaring.”
“Sa aming mga kabataang estudyante ay nagiging malinaw kung bakit kailangan putulin ng NPA ang kanilang unilateral ceasefire. Kahit ongoing ang peace talks ay pinapatay pa rin ang mga lider pesante sa kanayunan, hina-harass pa rin ang mga lider aktibista, at maging mga sibilyan ay inaaresto pa rin,” Oliquino said.
Bello said that both the GRP and NDFP exchanged documents on alleged ceasefire violations of their troops during the third round of talks in Rome.
He also said that the accusations had “no basis” because the unilateral ceasefire was “not defined and had no parameters.”
The lack of definition and parameters on what constitute ceasefire violations are added reasons for the continuation of the formal peace talks, countered Malayao.
The resumption of talks will give chance to review the alleged ceasefire violations and the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement, he said.
Malayao added that the supposed fourth round of talks will also discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), the mutually acknowledged “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for his part said that removing injustices and alleviating poverty are the most “compelling reasons” to resume the peace process.
“I will assert that the compelling reasons that he used in his campaign and when he took office still remain: that he will address issues of poverty and the social problems underlying the armed conflict,” Ocampo said.
Bello agreed that the roots of the armed conflict – poverty, injustice, and corruption – will finally be addressed in the CASER.
“Bakit ba tayo nag-away-away? Dahil sa paningin ng taong bayan ang ating gobyerno ay walang kakayahan, o kung may kakayahan, ay walang planong magbigay ng hustisya,” Bello said.
“Sa ating bansa ngayon, justice is only for the rich and the powerful,” he said.
Resume the talks
The speakers reminded that the people will benefit the most from the peace negotiations and urged the youth to call for the resumption of the talks.
“This is a matter of justice. Naniniwala tayo na ang pag-abandona (sa peace talks) ay lalong maglalagay sa mga mamamayan natin sa peligro at mawawala ang mga nakamit sa loob ng anim na buwan o kahit pa in the last 30 years,” Malayao said.
Bello, on the other hand, said “whatever happens to the talks, kayo (youth) dapat ang mag-advocate ng peace process towards its logical conclusion.” #