ERRATUM: Atty. Fatima Irene Adin is a legal resource person for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and not a legal counsel for the NDFP as stated in the photo caption. We apologize for the incorrect designation. -Ed.
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Updated as of 2:58 pm, March 15, 2017)— After the announced continuation of peace talks, the public should see to it that both Parties are talking, a member of the government’s peace panel said in a forum here Monday.
Speaking before hundreds of students and teachers at the Holy Cross of Davao College, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad rallied the public to continue the calls for the government and the NDFP not to abandon the peace negotiating table.
“We have a deadline to beat, we have to fast-track our discussions,” Librado said, explaining why both Parties have agreed to hold the fourth and fifth round of the peace talks in April and June, respectively.
Librado said the fourth round of talks happening on April 2-6 will focus on the discussion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, dubbed the meat of the peace negotiations.
Librado admitted that discussing reforms that would address poverty will not be easy.
“Lisud ni sya kay ingon nila kadaghanan nga naay yuta naa sa Congress. It’s really an issue that we must be aware of. If we want this to happen, we must participate,” she told the participants of the forum, Ipadayag: Hisgutanang Pangkalinaw.
On March 10 and 11, the backchannel talks of both Parties in Utrecht, The Netherlands resulted in the signing of a joint statement paving the way for the resumption of the fourth round of formal talks on April and the fifth round on June 2017.
The informal talks came to ease tensions between both Parties since the termination of the ceasefire on February 4 by President Rodrigo Duterte.
‘Heart’ of the peace negotiations
CASER is considered as the “heart” of the peace negotiations that will address the root cause of the almost five-decade armed conflict.
According to the Joint Statement signed by both Parties during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy on January 25, the fourth round of the formal talks shall discuss the remaining items under the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, National Industrialization and Economic Development, Environmental Protection, Rehabilitation and Compensation, and the outputs of the bilateral teams.
Before the peace talks was terminated, the third round of talks between the government and the NDFP was deemed successful with both Parties reaching a common understanding on the general features of the agrarian problems in the country, agreeing in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers, and creating bilateral teams to accelerate the negotiation process of the CASER.
Accelerated peace talks
The resumption of talks under the Duterte administration highlights the accelerated negotiations with simultaneous discussions of the three remaining substantive agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace process: CASER, Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms, and the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.
However, on February 1, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army through NPA National Operations Command spokesman Ka Oris, announced that they will lift their unilateral ceasefire effective on February 10. The Communists cited the non-release of political prisoners and the “encroachment” of government troops in guerrilla bases during the ceasefire as the reasons for lifting their ceasefire.
President Duterte reciprocated the announcement with the immediate lifting of the government’s unilateral ceasefire on February 3, a day after the killing of government troops in Bukidnon province on February 2.
Armed encounters between the two warring forces ensued, with the rising number of casualties from both sides including civilians and activists.
Lilibeth Panes, Social Work Program Head of HCDC said the forum aims to inform the students about social issues.
“This is a very crucial issue, especially when President Duterte announced the termination of the peace talks,” Panes said.
She said students have a lot of questions during their lessons in the classrooms which they could not answer.
“So we decided to conduct a forum so that from the side of the government and the NDFP there are those who can give answers,” she said.
The forum is an effort of the Mass Communication students with the Social Work Department, Crossroads and Gabriela Davao.
Mary Ann Sapar, secretary general of Gabriela Davao said students must realize that they are part of the peace campaign.
“This is their future, this is not just an issue between government and the NDFP,” Sapar said. (davaotoday.com)