By Sarah P. Gabriel
“ON THE OCCASION of the International Day of Peace 2018 (IDP2018), we respectfully urge both Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (GRP-NDF) panels to pause for a moment and contemplate on the urgency of delivering the people’s ‘right to peace’, which is the theme of this year’s global celebration of the IDP. We urge them to reaffirm the primacy of the peace process by discussing more about the substantive agenda of the talks and how they could address the fundamental roots of the conflict.”
Thus said, Gus Miclat, the regional initiator of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA). He is also the executive director of Mindanao-based Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), the secretariat of GPPAC-SEA. Miclat reiterated his group’s previous call that a return to the negotiating table is still the best recourse to end the 49-year old protracted insurgency in the country.
This year’s theme of the International Day of Peace is “The Right to Peace – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70. UDHR is a milestone document in the history of human rights drafted in 1948 which sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
Miclat added, “While there is no specific mention of the right to peace within the UDHR itself, such right is paramount and guaranteed by existing international norms, laws and standards wherein states are expected to comply and fulfill this in the spirit of peace, human rights, justice and development.”
He explained, “We urge both panels to realize the ‘higher cause’ and instead focus more on strengthening ‘confidence building measures’ and engage in principled compromises, which are essential to the revival of the on-and-off peace talks.”
IID reminded the panels that the parties have already achieved significant gains of the talks before its cancellation last year by President Rodrigo Duterte. Both panels had agreed on three (3) common drafts on general amnesty and release of all political prisoners in compliance with Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); coordinated unilateral ceasefires; and part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and part II National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). Also, both parties have already drafted an agreement on the coordinated ceasefires, a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF).
Miclat emphasized that the people on the ground have been the perennial innocent victims of the armed conflict and are on the verge of being exasperated. Miclat continued, ‘the conflict has literally locked up the people to the cyclical denial and deprivation of their right to development and to dignity with the government spending more on war than essential social services.’
Remembering Martial Law
Miclat said, “While we celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21, in the Philippines, the same day continues to haunt our collective memory as a nation as this particular event reminds us of the darkest period in our history when Martial Law was declared by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos more than four decades ago. We are one with our people in honoring the martyrs of Martial Law and today recommit ourselves to defend the gains of their valiant struggle against dictatorship.’’
The IID head explained that it is in this context that, “The continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao which began in May 23 last year, has confirmed the bankruptcy of a military solution to resolve Mindanao’s insurgency problem. If anything, the declaration of martial law has aggravated the already dismal condition of Mindanao especially the people of Marawi and Indigenous Peoples in the hinterland. The conflict has resulted to the loss of hundreds of lives as well as socio-economic deterioration, which could once again complete the recipe for violent extremism.”
Miclat further stated, “There is just no way we could achieve genuine peace through military means. In fact, it was President Duterte himself and also top generals of the armed forces who have earlier said and admitted that a military solution will never work to resolve the insurgency.”
He concluded, “Martial Law is a counter-productive measure that hurts not only Mindanao but the whole country. Today, we reiterate in saying NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW!”