ROME, Italy – Peace organizations are drumming up their calls for a just and lasting peace days ahead of the third round of the formal talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front here. The talks will take place set on Jan. 19-25.
Fr. Ben Alforque of the Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace said they are elated with the progress of the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected as President.
Duterte, a self-proclaimed Leftist, vowed to pursue peace negotiations under his term, ending the five years of impasse of the talks with Communists.
However, Alforque expressed worry of the stumbling blocks that confront the negotiations. He said Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza is on the same approach as his predecessor former Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles with regard to the issue of the non-release of the political prisoners and bilateral ceasefire.
“The same approach of former OPAPP head Ding Deles for the peace talks appears to be the same path current Secretary Jesus Dureza’s is following, particularly on the issue of non-release of political prisoners and issues related to a ceasefire. The OPAPP appears more interested in a bilateral ceasefire rather than addressing the unjust situation of political prisoners and achieving substantial agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms,” Alforque said.
He described this “obsession with a ceasefire agreement” before the substantial issues on the negotiations is addressed as a question of the government’s sincerity on the peace process.
“These talks are supposed to address the root causes of the armed conflict. The talks are not solely for the purpose of securing a ceasefire while the roots of the armed conflict remain unresolved,” he said.
Alforque said the raging armed conflict in the Philippines is “fueled” by problems of landlessness, poverty, injustice, and hunger — issues which will be tackled on the third round of talks as both parties will discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.
Both the government and the NDFP agree that CASER is the “meat” of the negotiations.
Alforque said they hope both parties will “earnestly sit down to discuss the social and economic reforms necessary to end the armed conflict, and develop our country.”
“We call on the whole nation to be vigilant and be actively involved in the outcome of the 3rd round of peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP. We call on everyone – President Duterte, the GRP Panel, the NDFP panel, and the CPP-NPA-NDFP – to listen to the people’s concerns and agenda,” Alforque said.
Religious leaders under the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform also expressed support for the peace talks.
“Our prayer goes with the hope that the negotiations on the second substantive agenda on social and economic reforms that aims to address the roots of the armed conflict, redound to a peaceful future where all the basic requirements for all Filipinos to live an abundant life, as the Lord promised, is fulfilled,” the group said in a statement over the weekend.
PEPP also urged both parties to “put the interests of the people, especially the most vulnerable, at the center of the discussions.”
Meanwhile, the government is all set and ready for the talks.
Chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III will submit today to Duterte the draft documents that will be tabled for discussion.
The GRP panel also challenged the NDFP to formalize the unilateral ceasefire with a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Bello said this will “give our communities and combatants a more secure environment for the peace process.”
The government panel will also pay a courtesy call to the president in Malacañang before leaving tonight.The main group of government (GRP) delegation leaves for Rome tomorrow, January 17, for the opening the following Thursday. (davaotoday.com)