Karapatan welcomes openness of presidential candidates to resume peace talks, urges scrapping of Duterte’s militarist policies

Photo from Arkibong Bayan

Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomed the openness of presidential candidates Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, and Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines during their recent interviews with journalist Jessica Soho, as the group enjoined them to “uphold previously-signed agreements and scrap policies that spoil the progress of the peace talks and endanger people’s rights.”

“As we welcome Vice President Robredo, Senators Pacquiao and Lacson, and Mayor Moreno’s ‘yes’ votes for resuming the peace talks, this entails their commitment to the call for just and lasting peace by upholding previously signed agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

“We call on them to support the call to rescind militarist policies such as Executive Order No. 70, through which the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was established, and Memorandum Order No. 32, which enabled the increased deployment of military and police in Bicol, Negros and Samar. These policies have only engendered war crimes and human rights violations in the government’s counterinsurgency campaign,” she added.

Karapatan also warned the four presidential candidates against President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 158 — which reorganized and renamed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity — for it “effectively shuts the doors on the resumption of serious and formal peace negotiations” by “institutionalizing the scheme of ‘grass-roots level’ engagements with rebels or the so-called ‘localized peace talks.’”

“The candidates should also be wary of President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 158: it is deceptively wrapped in hollow promises of ‘peace, reconciliation and unity’ yet what it actually does is cut off any possibility of resuming the peace talks and reaffirm the same militarist, whole-of-nation counterinsurgency tactics and agenda peddled by the war hawks and peace spoilers of the NTF-ELCAC,” the Karapatan official said.

She further asserted that the executive order is “nothing more than a divide-and-conquer strategy which actually refuses to acknowledge that the root of causes of armed conflict are systematic, historical, and national in scope.”

“The legitimate grievances that have driven the armed conflict for more than five decades are not just community- or grassroots-level concerns, and formal peace negotiations open the doors for agreements on upholding human rights and international humanitarian law as well as comprehensive social, economic, and political reforms as the bases for a just and lasting peace. Instead, Executive Order No. 158 disregards all the agreements and progress made during the formal talks,” Palabay averred.

The Karapatan official continued that “what Executive Order No. 158 wants to engineer is the surrender of Communist Party of the Philippines rather than engaging it in dialogue and negotiations to actually and comprehensively resolve the roots of armed conflict. Any notion of ‘peace, reconciliation and unity,’ is also belied by the fact that bombings, mass displacements, militarization, forced and fake surrenders, and murders are still being committed in the Duterte government’s brutal counterinsurgency war.”

“Along with Executive Order No. 70 and Memorandum Order No. 32, presidential candidates who vow to resume the peace talks must reject Executive Order No. 158 for its militarist agenda and its betrayal of the agreements made during the peace negotiations. We call on all peace-loving Filipinos and candidates in the upcoming elections to uphold the call for just and lasting peace and assert the calls for the resumption of the peace talks,” she ended.