DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A progressive lawmaker called on the peace panels from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and National Democratic Front of the Philippines to continue the peace talks despite the lifting of ceasefires from both sides earlier this week.
“We call on the negotiating panels of both parties, as well as their respective working groups and committees, to focus in the crafting of an agreement on socio-economic reforms – the crux and the most crucial part of the peace process,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement on Saturday.
Zarate, vice-chair of the Congress Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, said the GRP and NDFP must push to further expedite the talks to finally address the roots of the armed conflict.
“The agreed acceleration of the process, by also tackling the other substantive agenda on political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, can continue even in the absence of a ceasefire,” he said.
With this, Zarate said that both parties must “proceed with the February 22 scheduled meeting in Utrecht, Netherlands, to discuss the issue of ceasefire and the release of political detainees, particularly the sickly and the elderly.”
“The absence of a ceasefire should not be taken as signal to the agents of the state for a renewed violation of human rights,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Hustisya, a group composed of families of the political prisoners said that the GRP-NDFP peace panels should “continue to sit down and discuss the substantive agenda of the peace talks.”
“We are not backing down with our call to release the political prisoners. It remains the most just thing to do,” Gloria Almonte, deputy secretary general of Hustisya, said, challenging the Duterte administration to release all the political prisoners.
“When you treat political prisoners as pawns and peace talks as a game just to establish points and take advantage over the other side that is insincerity,” the Hustiya leader said.
“Pres. Duterte should have the resolve to rein in his troops and the political will to solve decisively the root causes of the armed conflict. He should heed the cries of the people for a just and lasting peace instead of giving in to the mongering of his hawkish generals”, she said. (davaotoday.com)