Peace, a continuing aspiration of Filipinos – Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace Statement

From Arkibong Bayan repost from Panay News
August 1, 2022

THE Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace, the largest network of peace groups in the country, is alarmed with the government announcement that there will be no peace negotiations.

Roughly a week before the State of the Nation Address of President Marcos, his peace adviser, Secretary Carlito Galvez, announced a recommendation from the National Task-Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, that there will be no national level peace talks. Instead, there will be localized peace talks.

CAJP stands by our position that the peace negotiations at the national level should resume. This is because the roots of the armed conflict in the country, which includes poverty, landlessness, foreign domination of our economy, inaccessibility to services and inequitable distribution of resources, demand a comprehensive and systemic response.

In this time of deepening economic crisis, where prices of basic commodities and services continue to rise, it is counter-productive to engage in a very costly all-out-war or a program like the failed localized peace talks of the past administration, that have resulted in fake and forced surrenders, harassment and other rights violations. No local New People’s Army command has actually engaged in said local talks. Instead, civilians are coerced and misrepresented as armed combatants. There have been many reports of fake surrenders, including alleged corruption related to these.

In a recent survey, “promoting peace” emerged as number eight in the top ten most urgent issues that Filipinos want the Marcos administration to prioritize. This shows that Filipinos value peace. Peace is a continuing aspiration of our people. For the CAJP, peace is not merely the silencing of guns but the reign of freedom, genuine democracy and social justice. It must be manifest through land to the tiller, decent jobs and fair wages, food on the table, housing, education, health and other social services. Peace with justice means people living in their communities without fear or threat to their lives and livelihood. Without these, the violence of the past and its manifestations in the present will continue, and escalate.

We reiterate that such a vision for a just and enduring peace requires a comprehensive and national approach. President Marcos has banked on the call for unity but there can be no unity in the country if there is unpeace. It is in this context that the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace calls on the government to resume the peace negotiations which address the roots of the armed conflict. Much has been achieved in the negotiations, including meaningful work on the highly anticipated Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. The parties should stay the course and advance the negotiations as well as implement signed agreements, like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

We echo the call of church leaders in the recent summit of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform to “respect the work and agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships” and for “a stop to the practices of red-tagging, filing of trumped-up cases against dissenters, and extrajudicial killings; and the release of all political prisoners.