Alarmed by the recent announcement of an all-out war by the Philippine government against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front (NDF), following President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to terminate the formal talks, we, members and allied partners and networks of the All-Out Peace (AOP), urge both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the CPP/NPA/NDF to instead work towards all –out peace.
We urge them to pause and contemplate on the possible repercussion of an all-out war scenario, especially on people on the ground, who, for the last five decades, have been at the receiving end of this prolonged armed-conflict.
The AOP speaks in behalf of its constituency among the women, children, youth, peace workers, indigenous peoples, even spouses and relatives of soldiers, guerillas and specially those innocent victims caught in the crossfire and the rest of the most vulnerable sectors in times of war.
This war, waged in the name of the people, is as vicious as its aftermath. This has to stop. And the people, their future and welfare, must be given premium if we, as one nation, intend to live up to our collective desire to arrest this cycle of senseless wars.
The people have had enough. Looking at the cost of war for decades, with previous governments lavishly spending billions of taxes on arms and ammunition instead of allocating the national budget for social services such as health, housing and education, brought us further to exasperation and hopelessness. The continuation of this war is essentially a thievery from and a crime against the people.
Any war of attrition such as this five-decade old armed conflict has proven futile and detrimental to the interests and welfare of the people especially to communities.
Historically, a military approach has been proven to be ineffective to curb the conflict as it has brought further unrest to peaceful communities, and caused destruction of livelihood and displacement of thousands of families. This has been in fact recognized by this current government, thus its initial bold and fresh approach to the process.
At this particular juncture, we urge both the GRP and NDF to refrain from throwing accusations against each other and instead maximize the official negotiating table to settle their differences and reaffirm the primacy of the peace process—the peace process that was a byproduct not only of the peace panels’ tedious negotiations but of the people consistently engaging this process for a durable and lasting peace.
We urge both sides to stay the course for genuine peace, and towards this direction, we implore both sides to at least re-install their unilateral ceasefires. For us, there are still reasons to be optimistic and recent setbacks are mere challenges that can be surmounted through active dialogue.
We likewise appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to terminate the formal talks as this will bring the whole country back to square one.
In just a short period, the recent talks had been making significant advances compared to earlier negotiations such as the agreement on free land distribution to landless farmers under Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) which also seeks to address the root causes of conflict; formation of the Bilateral Working Teams of Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) in order to accelerate the drafting of CASER; exchange of drafts and initial discussion on Political and Constitutional Reforms; signing of a Supplementary Agreement for the operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); and agreement of both parties to discuss the government’s proposal for a binding bilateral ceasefire pact on February 22 to 25 in the Netherlands.
These remarkable achievements, we at AOP believe, are enough reasons to add our voices to the mounting call for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and NDF.
Terminating the formal talks therefore would only put to waste these substantive gains. Ending the talks will put in jeopardy the “most compelling reason” why peace negotiation must continue—that war can never be a substitute to the people’s yearning for a just and lasting peace.
As part of the broader movement for peace in the Philippines, the AOP appeals for sobriety, mutual respect and calmness to the members of the peace panels. We fervently hope that by the time they decide to resume the peace talks, the interest of the people will be the core of their peace table.