Local, int’l groups urge resumption of GRP-NDFP talks

National church organization and an international lawyers’ group urged the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume formal peace talks, following yet another cancellation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a gathering at Cagayan de Oro City Thursday, June 21, members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), the Mindanao Peace Forum/Dialogue for Land and Peace and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform called on both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to go back to the peace negotiating table.

They were joined by recently-elected barangays officials who the groups said are “crucial in the promotion of just peace in their communities.”

“The gathering also gave time for representatives from local government units and national legislators to share their perspectives on the peace process, for sectoral leaders to express their yearnings for social and economic reforms and the defense of human rights, and for church people to deepen their commitment to our common struggle for Shalom,” RMP, through its national coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo, RGS said.

Co-organizers of the peace forum included the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the Sisters Association of Mindanao, and Sowing the Seeds for Peace.

In separate statements Thursday, both the GRP and the NDFP said Duterte wanted a three-month period to review documents and agreements forged by the parties before discussions on the resumption of formal negotiations can again be entertained.

In Brussels, Belgium, a global organization of human rights lawyers joined calls for the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the underground national liberation movement in the country.

Members of the IADL’s Governing Bureau during their meeting in Brussels, Belgium. (Supplied photo)

Members of the Governing Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) who just concluded its two-day meeting in Brussels passed a resolution “urging the GRP and the NDFP to honor and abide by their agreements and resume their peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue in order to try to resolve the basic issues of the Philippine armed conflict so that the Filipino people can attain a just and stable peace.”

The lawyers from 17 countries in six continents attending the biannual meeting said that they were “informed that the Philippine government is again persistently demanding that the peace negotiations be held in Manila, a position divergent from a binding agreement between the parties that it be held in a foreign neutral venue.”

The lawyers were alluding to the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) the parties signed in 1995.

The progressive lawyers from Algeria, Belgium, Brazil, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Philippines, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States, South Africa and Togo pointed out that “mainly for security reasons, history and universal practice teach us that most, if not all, peace negotiations between two warring parties were generally held in a foreign neutral venue outside the country or territories where their respective armed forces are.”

Founded in 1946 in Paris, France, the IADL, which has consultative status with the United Nations, also has members in Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Cuba, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, South Korea, North Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Puerto Rico. Spain, Turkey and Vietnam.

Its founders and leaders were part of the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Nuremberg trials and the anti-apartheid movement.

IADL lawyers have helped to establish fundamental concepts of international and domestic law including the provision of prisoner of war status to combatants from liberation movements and the recognized legal right of peoples to self-determination.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)