Photo by Loi Manalansan/Bulatlat
December 6, 2023
Vice President Sara Duterte’s comments against the resumption of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) are no surprise.
Since the onset of her term, and even during the campaign period, she has rejected and repudiated peace talks between the two parties as a way of addressing the roots of armed conflict and prefers to utilize to the hilt the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), of which she is vice chair, to further orchestrate militarist campaigns in their bid to crush the armed resistance.
Perhaps the peace the Vice President aspires for is the peace of the graveyard — an end to dissent, to vigorous democratic discourse and debate and the quest for better alternatives for our people. Her contempt for the GRP-NDFP peace talks and rabid espousal of the NTF-ELCAC is anathema to the people’s quest for peace and justice.
Karapatan believes that the NTF-ELCAC, in its five years of existence, and its whole of nation approach have not addressed the root causes of the armed conflict in the country. Rather, counterinsurgency schemes with militarist approaches have only resulted in grave human and people’s rights violations as well as violations of International Humanitarian Law.
The GRP-NDFP peacetalks is an opportunity to tackle these root causes, including issues on land monopoly, low wages, high prices of goods and services, the regressive tax system, pro-monopoly capitalist investment regulations, unfair trade, and onerous debt. The peace talks have also delved in the development of multiple sectors of the economy in agriculture, industry, and services. Policies concerning basic rights to health, education, water, electricity, transportation, communication and culture, among others, are subjects of discussion in the draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms.
This peace process has birthed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which outlines individual and collective freedoms and human rights in the political, social, economic and cultural spheres and the principles of IHL in the domestic context. The Joint Monitoring Committee to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL remains a viable option for redress for victims of human rights violations, their families and communities.
At the time the peace talks were scuttled in 2017, the draft CASER was close to being completed and approved by both parties and the reciprocal working groups on the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms were gearing to meet. There were prospects for social justice and lasting peace.
Karapatan is one with the overwhelming majority of peace and human rights advocates, and people’s organizations of peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, women, and youth in calling for the resumption of the peace talks and the quest for just and lasting peace. We will not relent, even in the face of attempts by peace spoilers to deprive our people of this opportunity.
Karapatan Secretary General