BAYAN, Pilgrims for Peace and Kapayapaan gathered more than 500 peace advocates for the 25th year of the signing of The Hague Joint Declaration between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The document, signed September 1, 1992, outlined the framework of the peace talks and provided guidance to move talks forward.
“Hindi matatakasan ni Duterte ang realidad ng armadong labanan sa bansa. Hindi ito mareresolba ng solusyong militar lamang, gaya ng hindi mareresolba ang problema sa droga sa patayan. Kundi man si Duterte, may lilitaw na handang harapin ang peace talks dahil sa lumalalang sitwasyon sa bansa (Duterte cannot escape the reality of armed conflict. It cannot be resolved by military solution alone, like the drug problem cannot be resolved with killings. If not Duterte, there will be [those] who will be ready to address the peace talks because of the worsening situation in the country),” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Secretary General Renato Reyes summed up the affair in a packed auditorium.
He echoed the parting words of NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison in his discussion on the continuing validity of the framework agreement.
“Even if the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations cannot succeed at this time, the revolutionary forces and the people will keep increasing their strength by all means, especially people’s war. There is still the possibility that a better negotiating counterpart less reactionary than the current one can arise or the crisis of the ruling system becomes so aggravated that it produces a government that is more ready to come to agreement with the NDFP and the people’s democratic government,” said Sison.
The NDFP maintained in past statements that it is the strengthening of the people’s war that has compelled the government in power, GRP, to enter into peace talks with the revolutionary government represented by the NDFP.
The national minorities, who arrived at the national capital region at the end of August for the lakbayan for self-determination and just peace, joined the forum held at the GT-Toyota Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Diliman on September 2.
“Naranasan naming mga pambansang minorya ang pambobomba, EJK, bakwit, gutom, sakit sa evacuation center, deklarasyon ng Martial Law sa Mindanao, all out war. Tuloy-tuloy ang pagkaso ng trumped up charges sa aming mga katutubo (National minorities experienced bombing, EJK, forced evacuation, hunger, sickness in evacuation center, declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, all out war. Filing of trumped up charges against us indigenous peoples persist),” relayed Joanna Cariño, convener of Sandugo, a national alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples.
Their experiences and sufferings, she said, has put them on the front line of the peace campaign.
Church people had been involved in various roles throughout the 30-year peace negotiations and were present at the anniversary forum.
“The Hague Joint Declaration allows us to dig up and correct inequities between the wealthy and poor, the inequities ruling elite over the toiling majority, and the injustices suffered by the national minorities, urban poor, exploited workers, landless farmers and every marginalized sector rather than perpetuating oppression of the Filipino people,” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez, also of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform in his solidarity message.
Bishop Yñiguez had said before that peace negotiations, and not surrender, will bring about genuine and enduring peace.
“As church people and peace advocates, we have come to admire this wisdom: address the root causes of the armed conflict…It has come to encapsulate our desire for the GRP-NDFP peace talks…,” said Bishop Yñiguez.
Various government officials from both houses of Congress and local government who have been vocal about their support for the talks also joined the assembly.
Senator Loren Legarda hailed the framework agreement’s milestone and pledged support for the GRP-NDFP peace talks.
“Marahil ay nagkakaiba sa pamamaraan sa pagsusulong at pagtataguyod sa bansa at iyon ang dapat nating patuloy na pag-usapan. Naniniwala ako na mahahanap din natin ang ating common ground base sa Hague Joint Declaration (We may have differing ways for progress and building the nation and that is what we should continue to talk about. I believe we will find our common ground based on Hague Joint Declaration),” said Legarda.
Legarda also said that the social reforms the NDFP wanted are achievable and are actually present in existing laws and are being funded by the national budget.
“Sa implementasyon, kailangan nating makita kung talaga bang nabibigay sa katutubo, nabibigay sa mga vulnerable communities, nakakarating ba sa mga magsasaka at mangingisda (We need to see if these were really provided to the indigenous peoples, to vulnerable communities, if farmers and fishermen received them),” said Legarda, currently the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.
The forum also gave tribute to Atty. Romeo Capulong, Antonio Zumel, Governor Jose ‘Aping’ Yap, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishops Alberto Ramento and Tomas Millamena as ‘peace champions’. Atty. Capulong was NDFP legal counsel and worked with GRP emissary Gov. Yap to arrive at the signing of the framework agreement. Zumel was NDFP peace panel senior adviser and NDFP chair who was recognized for ‘having pursued the revolutionary line in engaging in the peace talks.’ Bishop Ramento pushed for peace based on justice and was an active supporter of the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita until he was killed. Bishop Millamena pushed for the full operationalization of the first substantive agreement on human rights and international humanitarian law.
Families of those who gave their lives in participation of the armed struggle present in the event were recognized, as well as kin of Tokhang victims.
Representatives from the Royal Norwegian Government, the third party facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, were present in the affair.