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Pilgrims for Peace

National Conference Summary

 

On September 12, 2003, more than 300 peace advocates from ninety-one (91) church and multi-sectoral organizations across the Philippines, gathered at the Environmental Studies Institute at Miriam College on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Pilgrims for Peace and the 11th Anniversary of the Hague Joint Declaration between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

 

The participants gathered under the theme “Just and Lasting Peace: A Continuing Challenge Amidst Intensifying Global and National Crisis” to affirm commitment to peace-building in light of global and local events affecting the progress of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP and between the GRP and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The day included three major inputs with three reactors; five workshop sessions; solidarity statements and cultural performances. 

 

MORNING SESSION

 

Fr. Charly Ricafort, OSC, Vice-Chairperson of Task Force Urban Conscientization (TFUC-Mission Partner of AMRSP) served as the day’s master of ceremonies.  Youth from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) – Peacemakers and the United Methodist Church (UMC) opened the program through the Pilgrims for Peace theme song.

 

A Message from the GRP Peace Negotiating Panel

Sr. Alice Arreglo, Justice and Peace Coordinator of the Daughters of Charity (DC) and Convenor of Pilgrims for Peace, read a message from the GRP Panel for Talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  The statement acknowledged the continuing and deepening armed conflict, and mentioned the government’s attempts to address the conflict through reforms.  The statement stressed that “all must champion the cause of peace.”

 

A Message from the NDFP

Rev. Sol Villalon of the UMC read the statement of the NDFP.  In addition, Mr. Luis Jalandoni, who authored the statement, greeted the conference via phone and reaffirmed the NDFP’s position to resume formal peace negotiations within the framework of the Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements.  The NDFP also urged the establishment of the Joint Monitoring Committee on human rights in light of continued human rights violations. 

 

A Message from the MILF

The Central Committee of the MILF greeted the conference participants with the hope that the gathering will contribute to the achievement of just and lasting peace for the Bangsa Moro people. “Ang kasapian at pamunuan ng MILF ay taos pusong sumusuporta sa mga pagkilos at hakbangin na ang layunin ay kamtin ang tunay at makabuluhang kapayapaan... Sa kasaysayan ng mamamayang Moro ay naging mailap ang salitang kapayapaan... Sa kabila nito, ang mamamayang Moro ay hindi napapagod at patuloy na nakikibaka upang magkaroon ng tunay at makabuluhang kapayapaan.”

 

A Message from the Honorable Senator Loren Legarda

Sen. Legarda greeted and congratulated the conference participants through a video-taped message. She echoed the Pilgrims for Peace call for the resumption of formal peace talks between the GRP and NDFP and between the GRP and MILF on the basis of previous bilateral agreements.  Acknowledging that massive poverty and injustice push the people to take up arms, the senator stated that addressing the roots of the armed conflict and channeling budget for food, housing and education rather than huge spending for bombs and bullets are imperative for the government.

 

A Message from the AMRSP

Bro. Brix Baynosa, Executive Secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) read the AMRSP’s solidarity statement signed by AMRSP Co-Chairpersons Mo. Clarita Balleque, RVM and Bro. Armin Luistro. AMRSP commended efforts of the Pilgrims for Peace to enlighten and educate the citizenry on the current status and prospects of the GRP-NDFP and GRP-MILF peace talks. “This declaration is also our way of manifesting our own commitment to unceasingly work towards the achievement of just and lasting peace.”

 

Messages from Catholic Bishops Fernando Capalla (Davao), Dinualdo Gutierrez (Marbel), Romulo Valles (Kidapawan) and Sergio Utleg (Ilagan) were also acknowledged and distributed at the gathering.   

 

“Pilgrims are aware that their journey is long and arduous and they prepare themselves for the challenge to persevere until the end ... But even before a just and lasting peace is fully realized, we are already heartened when we see signs of changing attitudes and visions among our people. May this National Peace Conference help people know the current situation, understand the root causes of unpeace and arrive at a common ground for effective action.”

                        Bishop Sergio Utleg

                        Diocese of Ilagan, Isabela

 

“In this millenium of economic globalization let us strongly push for GLOBALIZING SOLIDARITY FOR PEACE based on truth, justice, love and freedom.”

                        Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez

                        Diocese of Marbel

 

“Peace will come. It is the promise of Jesus to us. Jesus must be with us in this long and arduous task.”                                                                 Bishop Romulo Valles

                        Diocese of Kidapawan

 

“It is also my fervent hope and prayer that in the course of this grace-filled gathering, we all strive to be peacemakers begging the Lord “to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)

                        Archbishop Fernando Capalla

                        Archdiose of Davao

                                                           

 

Input #1:

The Global Situation

The Current Global Crisis and Prospects for Peace

 

Hon. Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna

 

Rep. Ocampo opened his speech by stating that, “advocacy for a just and lasting peace is inextricably related to the struggle against poverty, inequality, oppression, and exploitation.”  He pointed out that in the Philippines and in many other parts of the world, armed conflict persists precisely because of the government’s failure to address the root causes of strife, injustice and poverty besetting the great majority of the masses. He concluded that peace workers and advocates should exert efforts alongside with those who struggle against local and foreign oppression toward a society that is more just, humane, democratic and liberating.

 

Input #2: 

The Present National Situation and Our Continuing Pursuit of Peace

The Philippines: A Society in Perennial Crisis

Dr. Robinson Montalba, PhD, INPeace Mindanao

 

Dr. Montalba discussed the worsening crisis in Philippine society by noting socio-economic statistics and the growing rifts between the ruling elite and within the armed forces.  He said that this crisis is decades old but is aggravated by the government’s adherence to the policies of the GATT/WTO and the US ‘War on Terrorism.’”  He noted that these two aspects are part of the US’ drive for global hegemony, and pointed out the US agenda in Mindanao as a “frontier area for foreign investments in the era of imperialist globalization” and the “second front in the US war on terror.”  He concluded that a viable path to resolving the problems of Philippine society is through peace negotiations that address fundamental political and social problems. 

 

Input #3: 

Status of Current Trends in the Peace Talks

Genuine Peace or Pacification?

 

Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, Philippine Peace Center

 

Mr. Casambre opened his presentation with a reminder of the principles for negotiation laid down in The Hague Joint Declaration between the GRP and the NDFP.  Despite these principles, the GRP has submitted a “Final Peace Accord” to the NDFP, which calls for the renegotiation of all previous agreements and the disbandment of the NPA within five months of signing the agreement.  He also said that concentrated military operations continue in MILF areas despite ceasefire agreements that cover those areas.  Mr. Casambre noted some trends in the GRP’s use of military and diplomatic measures, such as terrorist tagging, as means to pressure the NDFP and MILF into signing final peace agreements. 

 

Open Forum

The questions and further discussion focused on the following issues and concerns:

·     the role that Pilgrims for Peace can play in Mindanao

·     the series of Mindanao bombings and July 27 exposé of junior officers regarding accountability of Pres. Arroyo, Gen. Angelo Reyes and BGen. Victor Corpuz

·     what kind of advocacy calls should Pilgrims for Peace take on beyond the call “Resume Formal Peace Talks”

·     what we can do to increase awareness regarding US intervention in Mindanao and whole Philippines

·     what is the status of international alliance work regarding US wars and intervention

 

AFTERNOON SESSION

Prof. Aurora de Dios, Dean of Miriam College, opened the afternoon session with a message of welcome and solidarity.  She noted that through groups like Pilgrims for Peace, the possibility of peace is not far-fetched. She enjoined the participants to organize and sustain efforts in building a constituency of peace among the citizens in schools and communities, as antidote to the culture of war and violence that is threatening the social fabric of the country.

 

Solidarity Message from

Prof. Jose Maria Sison

 

Bishop Leo Soriano of the United Methodist Church – Davao Episcopal Area read a message from Prof. Jose Maria Sison.  Prof. Sison criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s all out war policy, her compliance with and campaigning for the US “war on terrorism,” and her failure to negotiate an agreement on social and economic reforms since the start of her term in office.  He challenged GMA to investigate the allegation of the Magdalo group and various organizations in Mindanao that former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes was involved in the Davao bombings.  Prof. Sison said that this is the time for the GRP and NDFP to offer mutually acceptable solutions to the country’s ills.

 

Reactors

Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente noted with appreciation the inputs on why globalization is not really good for people in the third world. He commented that when the Twin Towers in New York were hit and destroyed and about 3,000 people were killed, that was really an act of terrorism, and it is condemned as immoral. He assailed the US’ acts of counter-terrorism in the name of democracy and freedom by denouncing the trend that when Americans bomb Iraq and thereby kill innocent people, it is not terrorism but just ‘collateral damage’. Nanay Mameng Deunida of AnakPawis Party List criticized the government’s failure to address the fundamental problems of the country’s poor majority. She reiterated that genuine peace will remain elusive for as long as the rights of poor peasants, workers and all marginalized sectors are violated by the government.  

 

Workshops

Mindanao and the Moro Problem

Resource Speaker: Mr. Wahab Guialal of the Moro Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA)

 

Pilgrims for Peace was challenged to heighten peace advocacy efforts for Mindanao in the face of worsening unpeace situation caused by continuous military operations and human rights violations. Thousands of evacuees still could not return to their communities and had to endure lack of social facilities and health services. Since May 7, 2002, the MILF and GRP signed agreement on the implementing guidelines on the humanitarian, rehabilitation and development aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement. There was a sense of euphoria among the people regarding prospects for peace in Mindanao and demands of the Moro people – peace, recognition as a people, respect and development. However, important issues included in the agreement were still ignored: human rights, ancestral domain, environment, women issues, self-determination, poverty, graft and corruption, corruption of Moro values.

 

Militarization and Human Rights Violations Resource Speaker: Ms. Girlie Padilla, KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)

 

Pilgrims for Peace was challenged to llaunch continuous organizing and education on human rights concerns and to urge the opening of more churches, convents, seminaries for human rights victims considering the government’s intolerance to other political beliefs is shown in its military’s human rights violations record of killings, including summary executions and massacres, bombings and other forms of human rights violations against people who are critical of government policies. Though Pres. Arroyo went through the cursory gestures of peace negotiations rather than “all out war” waged by Estrada against the CPP/NPA/NDF and the MILF, she went the way of Estrada when she allowed the militarists in her cabinet, especially Gen. Reyes, to have the upper hand in deciding the track of the peace talks. 

 

Political Crisis

Resource Speaker: Dr. Carol Araullo, PLUNDERWATCH

 

The group focused on two recent developments as these reflected major conflicts and contradictions in the political scene – the July 27 military rebellion at Oakwood, Makati and the Lacson exposé regarding the Jose Pidal billion peso accounts. Pilgrims for Peace was challenged to launch education campaign on corruption issues and roots of the Philippine crisis within the churches; to actively promote Church of the Poor; being pastoral and prophetic - denounce the evils of society, announce the good news of peace; and to launch immersion programs in basic masses’ communities.

 

Socio-Economic Crisis

Resource Speaker: Mr. Raffy Baylosis, Member of Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms

 

Pilgrims for Peace was challenged to heighten advocacy for the rights and welfare of Filipino workers, peasants, urban poor, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors as no meaningful policy of effecting urgent reforms to improve the socio-economic situation of the people has been fulfilled under the Arroyo administration. The workshop participants proposed action plans to further promote solidarity with the basic sectors struggling against demolitions, labor contractualization, low wages and unemployment, rising prices of oil, basic goods, electricity and water rates, among others.

 

Anti-Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism or State Terrorism?

Resource Speaker: Atty. Edre Olalia, Public Interest Law Center / International Association of People’s Lawyers

 

Pilgrims for Peace was challenged to critique the repressive policies pushed by the Arroyo government in the name of “counter-terrorism.” The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill is one important concern as this legalize the declaration of workers’ strikes, protest rallies and other legitimate mass actions as ‘terrorist acts.’ In violation of The Hague Joint Declaration between the GRP and NDFP, the president has allowed foreign governments to intervene in the peace negotiations by lobbying for and welcoming the inclusion of the CPP/NPA and Prof. Sison in the list of terrorists.

 

 

 

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