Walk the Walk, Talk the Peace Talks:
Continue the Path Towards Peace
The path towards genuinely resuming the Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines(GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) cannot be made through ultimatums or demands by President Duterte prior to the formal talks. In his State of the Nation Address on July 25th, 2016, President Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). He swiftly revoked it when he set a deadline by the end of the week for the CPP to reciprocate the ceasefire after an altercation between the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which resulted in the death of one AFP member.
It does not make sense for the longest running communist revolution in Asia to simply apply the ceasefire without fully negotiating the terms of such an agreement. Although the militant Left and the CPP have issued statements of hope for the new Presidency, President Duterte must still carry out his pro-people declarations and show the Filipino people the real change that he claims to be. The basic character of Philippine society remains semi-feudal and semi-colonial resulting in the continuance of the vast majority of the Filipino people to be impoverished, landless, and unemployed. Duterte must make meaningful moves to tackle the roots of the armed conflict rather than focus solely on the combat aspect in order to resolve the question of peace in the Philippines.
Despite Duterte’s pronouncements promoting peace, the counter-insurgency program Operation Plan Bayanihan has not been suspended, and the AFP has continued to violently harass and intimidate activists in various provinces, as reported by the participants of the SONA Lakbayan from Bicol. Karapatan, a human rights organization in the Philippines, has also reported the AFP is continuing its military combat operations in Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, Davao City, Isabela, Cagayan, Bulacan, Quezon, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Bohol, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Samar, Surigao, and other provinces, even after Duterte’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire. It will take a seismic shift in the AFP to change their ways since they have carried out such violent counter-insurgency programs from Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya I & II to Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, which combined resulted in more than 1,500 extrajudicial killings with no prosecutions or justice for the victims.
The Filipino people are waiting to see what the new President will really accomplish during his first 100 days and the world will continue to watch intently if the peace talks will resume as scheduled on August 20, 2016. If followed through, this bold step could be the first along the path to resolving the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.