Peace advocates support resumption of GRP-NDFP talks, urge Mayor Sara to reconsider position

Apr. 15, 2018

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace Movement in Mindanao chats with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza after the opening ceremony of the fourth round of the GRP-NDFP peace talks in Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has gained unprecedented advances under the Duterte administration, peace advocates said it is a “mistake” to ditch the peace talks as what Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte wanted.

READ: ‘Counterproductive, useless’: Mayor Sara on GRP-NDFP peace talks

In a statement on Saturday, Anakpawis party list Representative Ariel Casilao maintained that the peace negotiations is the venue to talk about the solution to address the root causes of the armed conflict in the country.

“We urge the Davao mayor to read the contents of the documents, which serve as the guide of the peace talks especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). Rejecting the peace talks is like throwing away the aspiration of the people mostly the poor to advance their socio-economic welfare,” said the lawmaker.

Casilao also said Mayor Sara is “toeing the line” of the military and defense department, “They are in chorus to sabotage the potential resumption of the peace talk.”

The lawmaker urged the Presidential daughter to personally investigate the recorded human rights violations involving the military.

“While it is disappointing that the Davao chief executive changed tune on her stance on the peace talks, we likewise urge her to investigate the military in its involvement on reported human rights violations against peasants and lumads. The recent International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao confirmed cases of rights violations committed by the military against peasant and lumad communities”, said Casilao.

Meanwhile, Bishop Felixberto Calang, convener of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace Mindanao said peace panels of both parties are sincere in their efforts in the negotiating table while other government agencies pushed for the abandonment of the talks.

“It is not the panels that is the problem. How could the NDFP for instance, publish a proposal on the peace talks if they are not indeed true to their words. There might be some quarters in the government who do not want peace talks to continue,” Calang told Davao Today in a phone interview.

The church leader said the skirmishes happening on the ground is a compelling reason to resume the talks to end the five-decade civil war in the Philippines.

Calang, who was among the independent observers during the previous rounds of talks, said both panels used to continue to discuss the main agenda of the negotiations while accepting other side issues surrounding the talks, a mechanism that should be maintained.

“I’m positive that the continuation of the peace negotiations would be productive as the two panels can discuss the substantive agenda while addressing other issues that would pop-up in relation to the talks — they can bring it to the side table and later on they can come up a joint resolution or agreement,” Calang added.

He cited what happened during the fourth round of formal talks when both panels set up side talks to discuss President Duterte’s order to its peace panel to come up with a ceasefire agreement first before continuing the talks.

“I thought that the NDFP would refuse and yet later they said we will but of course let us discuss the mechanism. This mechanism [of setting up side talks] should be strengthened, how will the NDFP say they are okay with what the President proposed if the peace talks is stalled?” said Calang.

Bishop Calang is hopeful about the resumption of talks as he sees that President Duterte is passionate about the peace process.

“We urge the President to resume the peace talks and in fact I would like to humbly ask the mayor to pay attention to the peace negotiations,” said Calang.

Mayor Sara on Friday asked President Duterte to reconsider his decision to reopen the peace talks since the CPP-NPA was tagged as terrorist organizations and shows no willingness for a “peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

In a statement on April 7, the Communist Party of the Philippines said they maintain the “policy of openness” and welcomes the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace talks.

The CPP expressed its full trust in the NDFP’s representation in the negotiations and upholds that no preconditions should be set for the resumption of talks as stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration.

“At this point, Duterte has yet to provide the Filipino people with a reason for them to reduce their efforts to resist his regime and call for his ouster. Without a substantive effort to implement previous agreements and seriously negotiate the CASER without precondition, the Duterte regime’s talk of reviving the peace talks will be reduced to nothing but a mere PR (public relations) blitz used for political damage control amid its worsening political crisis and isolation from the people,” it said. (

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