Tag Archives: Moro Islamic Liberation Front

[In the news] Best Easter gift freedom for all kidnap victims – gov’t peace panel chair -MindaNews

Best Easter gift freedom for all kidnap victims – gov’t peace panel chair
By Mindanews
April 20 2014

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The best Easter gift would be to see all kidnap victims in the South who were believed seized by Abu Sayyaf bandits released, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said.


In a statement, Ferrer asked “all sectors including the MILF” to help secure the victims’ release.

She noted that this year alone, 23 kidnapping cases were recorded in Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga and Lanao provinces involving around 30 victims. “Let us join hands in redeeming them from a most terrible fate of being held hostage.”

She further said that the nearly 100 kidnap victims in the last three years included children as young as a year old, as well as students, businessmen, foreigners, journalists, senior citizens, barangay officials, and teachers.

“Many of these kidnap victims are still in captivity while some have been killed,” Ferrer said.

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[Statement] RHRC lauds GPH-MILF panels for signed Normalization Annex

RHRC lauds GPH-MILF panels for signed Normalization Annex

The Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao congratulates the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels for signing of the Normalization Annex. Peace prevailed once again and RHRC is a strong partner in sustaining peace and upholding human rights in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


We call on all sectors of the society to stand and unite with this peace breakthrough and to support it to make it work. Challenges are ahead of us and with our collective efforts towards we can sustain lasting peace in Mindanao.

RHRC acknowledges and commends the parties’ untiring efforts and commitment to forging the final annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in order to solidify the road to lasting peace in this part of the country.

With the signing of Annex on Normalization, we will march forward and support the parties in realizing the peace agreement. The RHRC support the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in its efforts to draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Congress its legislation of the BBL and its ratification in a plebiscite.

RHRC is resilient, peace shall prevail!

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[Statement] Human rights defenders push for the adoption of human rights framework in the Bangsamoro Basic Law -BAWGBUG

Human rights defenders push for the adoption of human rights framework in the Bangsamoro Basic Law

(Cotabato City) In the observance of the International Human Rights Day, Bawgbug is spearheading a series of community based consultations in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi for the drafting of a Bangsamoro Basic Law with a strong and highly defined human rights framework. “This is one of the shortcomings of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement which failed to entrench human rights principles and mechanisms into the governance structure of the ARMM. That is why the worst forms of human rights violations are committed in the Bangsamoro areas and the culture of silence and impunity persists”, Cocoy Tulawie, human rights defender from Sulu, explained.

Free Cocoy tulawie2

Participating in the widespread consultations will be the vulnerable and marginalized groups from the poorest of the poor in the island provinces. Using open space dialogues, Bawgbug will consult the survivors of massacres, families of desaparecidos, victims of kidnappings, indiscriminate bombings and shellings, the survivors of the gang rapes of powerful political clans in Sulu, youth and religious leaders who are oftentimes victims of illegal arrests and arbitrary detentions. It will also consult the diaspora in Zamboanga and Sabah who were forcibly driven out of the Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi because of the long drawn armed conflict that hardly observe international humanitarian law.

According to Rose Trajano Secretary General of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, “All begins with human dignity. The Bangsamoro Basic Law should be designed to ensure that a person’s dignity is protected and guaranteed”.

Law should not deprive a human being of life, liberty, property & dignity. Thus any basic law must have intrinsically a human rights framework, Warina Jukuy, Convenor of Hijaab Niqaab Advocacy Network, said.

Bawgbug, which in Tausug means to ‘stand and protect’ aims to put an end to a destructive and violent culture that is very apparent in the Bangsamoro region; a norm that propagates an apathetic orientation towards a human being’s dignity. This societal plague has been the cause of systemic injustice which called for many Moros to take up arms to protect their own families and communities. “Hopefully, with the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the status quo which they have described as unacceptable will indeed be changed. The challenge for the Moros will be how to bring in meaningful changes in the lives of ordinary people; how to set up a government that will be protective, responsible and accountable to human rights. The challenge now is how we can introduce new politics into this new political entity for the Bangsamoro”, Cocoy Tulawie said.

Cocoy Tulawie is currently detained at the Davao City Jail due to malicious and fabricated charges against him by the Governor of Sulu. International human rights organizations from all over the world are rallying behind Cocoy Tulawie describing his situation as a classic example of criminalization of human rights defender in order to silence and cripple his human rights work.

BAWGBUG commits to conduct at least 15 community-based and sectoral consultations order to enflesh concrete proposals and recommendations on relevant human rights provisions for the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Results of the consultations will be submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission before end of January 2014. (Mashod Salic, December 21, 2013).

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[From the web] The CHRP-IDP Project -idpproject.wordpress.com

The CHRP-IDP Project.

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) is in the forefront of laying down foundation of a human rights culture and a mechanism for the protection of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  Currently, it has developed the CHRP Project on Internally Displaced Persons (CHRP-IDP Project) envisioned to set up a rights-based protection mechanism for peoples and communities displaced by armed conflict and natural calamities.

CHR logo

On its initial phase the project is deemed necessary to focus on displacement due to armed confrontations and in Mindanao,geographically.

The reason being Mindanao is a witness to decades-long internal conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Bangsa-Moro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BMIFF), the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) and factions of these groups.  It is the homeland of various Indigenous Peoples (IPs) whose last recourse against development aggression and incursion of multi-national corporations into their ancestral domain are the use of “bagani forces” (tribal warriors) for defense.  It is also the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation) territory of 13 ethno linguistic tribes with salient cultural practice of “redo” (clan wars).  All of these are impetus to the violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of peoples and communities that lead to situations and phenomenon of massive internal displacement.

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[Press Release] Teachers appeal for peace in Zamboanga -TDC

Teachers appeal for peace in Zamboanga


The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) expresses their sentiments amidst the on-going armed confrontation in Zamboanga and other parts of the country.

“Innocent civilians, especially helpless children suffer most in every armed conflict.” Said Benjo Basas the group’s national chairperson.

The group reacted on the escalating conflict in Zamboanga City which is now on its fifth day since a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members attempted to seize the city last Monday allegedly in accordance with Nur Misuari’s declaration of Bangsamoro independence few weeks ago. Authorities confirmed that the fighting has now spilled over to Lamitan City in nearby island province of Basilan.

“Classes are suspended in affected areas and schools often suffer heavy casualties after the fighting. In a conduct of war, schools and children should be spared and civilians should not be used as human shields.” Basas continued.

Basas said that aside from Zamboanga and Basilan, schools are also affected in Central Mindanao especially in Cotabato and Maguindanao where fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) against the AFP and their former comrades in the MILF erupted because of some leaders’ opposition to peace talks with the government.

The group said there were also reports of air strike and strafing in New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Sagada, Mountain Province late last month were the military forces are allegedly stationed in a school. “Sagada is declared as peace zone, thus, government forces and the rebels should refrain from entering Sagada and engaged in fighting in the area.” Basas added.

“We call on all parties to resolve this issue through a peaceful and sincere dialogue. The MNLF should give peace agreement a chance.” Basas said. “A military solution may not be the best option at this time.”

As to the conflict between the government and the NPA, Basas said, “We ask the government and the rebels to give priority to peace negotiation as an option and not armed confrontation. The people in the countryside and the nation suffered much from this four decade-old conflict. We want lasting peace.” Basas ended.

Last September 2, members of the TDC joined hundreds of peace advocates in a caravan from Quezon Memorial Circle to Plaza Miranda in Manila to call for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF). September is declared as peace month. #
Reference: Benjo Basas, National Chairperson 0920-5740241/3853437


September 13, 2013

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[Statement] Call for sobriety, dialogue, not armed action -Mindanao CSO

Mindanao CSOs Statement
Zamboanga Stand-off
September 9, 2013

Call for sobriety, dialogue, not armed action

Mindanao PeaceWeaver

We, the undersigned civil society groups, express our deepest expressions of concern, prayers and support for the innocent civilians caught in the ongoing crossfire between elements associated with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and government security forces in Zamboanga City that unfolded before us this Monday, September 9. We also likewise extend our deep condolences to the families of the armed actors themselves – the police, military authorities, and MNLF fighters felled during the incident.

WE HOPE AND PRAY that this matter is resolved quickly, justly and peaceably, and that equanimity prevails in the restoration of peace and order in Zamboanga City and its surrounds. We express pity for the growing thousands of displaced evacuees now streaming into safe havens in Zamboanga, wherever they can find them. We call on all concerned to avoid knee-jerk reactions that only feed into the distrust and discord we all want to avoid. We encourage all involved to explore dialogue in resolving whatever differences and grievances they may bear.

WE ARE SADDENED that such a provocative event happened on the eve of the slated and historic 10-day talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This will be the longest ever continuous meeting in the history of these talks and deserves our utmost support. Nevertheless we also expect that there will always be those displeased with the promising progress of these talks who will try to stop or derail such gains for their own aims and ends. We challenge all stakeholders not to be drawn into such diversions. Instead, let us learn from such events and stay our course of peace, strong and resolute in our shared vision of a more united and progressing Bangsamoro benefiting all.

WE APPEAL to all involved in making peace work in our beleaguered region to patiently and consistently find ways in establishing structured opportunities towards meaningful inclusion of other stakeholders in the peace process. The ongoing standoff in Zamboanga City between the MNLF and the government forces may indicate “imperfections” in the peace process, but there are legitimate issues that need to be addressed with a sense of just finality in the seemingly complicated peace process of the MNLF with the government. But we still denounce the very act of resorting to an armed action just to send its message across at the risk of lives, limbs, and security of innocent citizens.

WE REMAIN ENCOURAGED that despite this event, both the GPH and the MILF have expressed trust, confidence and support heading into the 40th round of these exploratory talks. This is the spirit that we believe should be engendered not only in the nascent Bangsamoro but through-out the country as well. Let us continue to support dialogue as a primary tool for peace building. Let us not allow the guns to drown out the voices we need to hear, the ones who call for peace. These are the voices that truly speak for us, driving our singular struggle, quest and vision for true and lasting peace in Mindanao.
WE SERIOUSLY APPEAL IN CALLING FOR DIALOGUE and THE IMMEDIATE DECLARATION OF HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE in the conflict-affected barangays in Zamboanga City to address the two-day standoff.

Specifically, we urge H.E. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, MNLF Chair Nur Misuari, Mayor Isabelle Climaco, Sec Teresita Deles, and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to heed the following calls :

1. We call for an immediate stop to the firefight and a prompt and orderly redeployment of forces – both the MNLF and the AFP to address the alarming evacuee situation;

2. We urge both parties to immediately delineate a humanitarian corridor where civilians and injured combatants may be safely assisted with their humanitarian needs;

3. Generate public support towards broad humanitarian action by allowing full access and the entry of humanitarian groups to complement existing efforts of the local government, Department Social Welfare and Development, and civil society in Zamboanga City;

4. We call for both parties to dialogue and allow for sufficient space for peaceful negotiations to take place;

5. We strongly recommend that those who are responsible for the deaths, destruction of properties and other human rights violations will be held fully accountable;

6. We appeal to the Philippine Government and its Office on the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to translate its policy in addressing the fate of the MNLF peace process and their legitimate issues;

7. Lastly, we call for the intervention of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in resolving this issue, sustaining the role they have long-fulfilled in ensuring the hopes for peace in Mindanao.

Declare a Zamboanga City-wide ceasefire now! Spare the civilians from armed hostilities! No to armed action and militarization in Zamboanga City!



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[Resources] Living in the Shadows -balayph.net

Living in the Shadows


Another study of Balay, this time in collaboration with the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has been published. The study looks at the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and armed conflict in NPA areas. You can download the research using the link at the end of this page. Below is a brief description of the research.

In recent years, much of the attention paid to internal displacement in Mindanao has focused on central and Western Mindanao. This displacement is primarily the result of prolonged conflict between Muslim rebels groups – in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and the government. The conflict, often described as a contestation between groups of indigenous people, known as the Bangsamoro, and non-native newcomers to the region, has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people in the last four decades and displaced millions. Progress towards a final resolution of this conflict appears on track.

However, no comparable progress has been made towards ending the 46-year old conflict between the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Peace talks continue to be mired by half-hearted efforts on both sides and a perception that neither party is willing to make concessions. The government’s security forces and the NPA continue to clash regularly, in particular in Eastern and Northern Mindanao where the conflict exacts a heavy toll on the mainly indigenous civilian population. Unlike the Bangsamoro conflict, the NPA insurgency attracts little attention, despite being one of the longest running conflicts in the world and despite its ongoing impact on the civilian population. This is partly due to the fact that most of the violence and most of the suffering caused to civilians, including regular displacements, take place in remote areas and remain under-reported. The armed conflict is not the only displacement threat indigenous people in Mindanao – commonly referred to as Lumad – are exposed to. Their land and human rights are also under attack as outsiders seek to exploit their abundant natural resources: Mindanao is thought to hold the country’s largest reserves of nickel, copper and gold.Resistance to natural resource extraction projects is sometimes met with violence. Many indigenous people are forcibly evicted, particularly those who lack ancestral land titles or other proof of ownership of land and resources. Tension and conflict over land access and management add another dimension to the violence and may be fuelling the armed conflict and increasing NPA recruitments.

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[Statement] Be calm and critical: Justice must be served! -LMK on the Series of Bombings in Mindanao

Be calm and critical: Justice must be served!
Liga ng Makabagong Kabataan Statement on the Series of Bombings in Mindanao

Justice must be served to the victims of the series of bombings in Mindanao the past months and the recent one in Cotabato City on August 5, 2013 killing 9 and injured 25 more!

We strongly denounce any attack to civilian population of whatever purposes it may. We believe that this is an orchestrated and there are groups of people behind these. We should not allow these trouble-makers to win in their agenda to spread fear, panic and hatred among us.

To the families, friends and relatives of the victims of these bombings we express our Solidarity and Sympathy.

We call on authorities to maximize all efforts available without jeopardizing due process to bring before the law those culprits and behind of these bombings. We call the attention of the authorities while in pursuit for justice not to curtail human rights and due process. Thus, we reiterate that militarist and militarization would never be an effective response to this.

We also call on the peace loving communities to cooperate in bringing the suspects before justice and importantly safeguard the victories of the peace processes in the region while continue to demand for an inclusive process.

We call on the tri-people and all social sections to be more critical and united amidst these threats. Our unity is our strength and our foundation against all evils who wanted to divide us and propagate hatred.

At the same time, we demand to revolutionary organizations and fronts to join the whole population and bring justice for the victims.

We also denounce any military intervention from foreign troops. It will only add more tension and justification for the further foreign interference in our local affairs.

To those responsible groups, stop this coward and evil works or you shall suffer the struck of justice in the hands of any circumstances.

Liga ng Makabagong Kabataan
Mindanao, Philippines
7 August 2013

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[Statement] A Postscript to the Wealth Sharing Deal -Mindanao CSOs

A Postscript to the Wealth Sharing Deal

We, Mindanao civil society groups, sighed with relief when the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally signed the Annex on the Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing Agreement last Sunday, July 14, 2013. Some would say it’s historic but not as euphoric as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsa-moro (FAB) . Some likened it to giving birth complete with labor pains and all, since after the FAB signing, it took almost nine months of conceiving, reviewing, and even changing the mode of negotiations midstream before it was delivered as one of the crucial consensus agreements in the GPH-MILF peace process .

That momentous midnight should be appreciated in the light of how the two Parties, H.E. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Chair Murad Ebrahim, their respective panels led by Chair Miriam Ferrer and Chair Mohagher Iqbal, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and their cohorts – rolled up their sleeves to hurdle the process and arrive at a breakthrough.

They deserve to be congratulated as they continue to offer the olive branch.

They deserve to be affirmed not only by our accolades. They deserve the Filipinos’ respect when they collectively exude as sincere peacemakers and shine the brightest at the darkest hour of the negotiations; when commitment to the peace writ large mattered most more than their respective interest and agenda – this is indeed, dialogue at its finest. They deserve our standing ovation in delivering for the Bangsamoro people and the country as a whole.

Negotiating for peace, after all, is a product of an incremental process – of standing by on agreed principles, maintaining the climate of trust, and widening the consensus agenda. Hence, the Annex on Wealth Sharing agreement is but one of the milestones to remind us of the cleared path behind us and the rugged road that lies before us while we search for solutions to the Bangsamoro question.

As we hold close to our hearts and ideals the significance of the month of July – in the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadhan, and the upcoming 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Aquino – we, the Mindanao CSOs and our partner stakeholders and communities, earnestly appeal to all key actors the following :

1. For President PNoy to consistently standby your Social Contract with the Filipino People and translate the specific provision on Peace and Order #14 into reality. (On Peace and Order : 14. From a disjointed, short-sighted Mindanao policy that merely reacts to events and incidents to one that seeks a broadly supported just peace and will redress decades of neglect of the Moro and other peoples of Mindanao).

2. For the incoming 16th Congress to believe in the outcomes of the peace process and deliver for the Bangsamoro :
• internalize the urgency of the Bangsamoro Basic Law as a priority legislative agenda;
• appreciate that a politically-negotiated settlement will redound to an empowered region which will serve as an impetus for development, positively affecting the surrounding areas of the core territory of the Bangsamoro and beyond;
• convince their constituents to build on the ownership of ALL in this transformation happening in Philippine society- at the very heart of Mindanao;

3. For the public to engage in a constant dialogue to understand the essence of self-governance and its positive implications to the over-all nation-building of the country; that it’s not about the “other” getting what you have, but it’s about living together – sharing responsibility of building stable and resilient communities.

4. For the media to appreciate the primacy of “peace reportage” and mainstream the peace process in the public agenda. That media practitioners should be “agents of an informed public” in the peace process instead of “agents of misinformation”.

5. For the GPH and MILF peace panels and the mechanisms in the over-all peace architecture of the Bangsamoro to :
• Stay on course and maintain a time-bound peace table. Our direst plea is NOT to allow a “protracted negotiations” mode since this increases vulnerability of the process from negativity and consequently erodes trust and support.
• Continue to make the process inclusive and transparent. Only structured opportunities for public participation will ensure a more durable and lasting peace.
• Ensure that the bottom lines of civil society and the grassroots will be part of the agenda and consensus agreements of both Parties.
• Allow space for the voices of the un/underrepresented sectors within or adjacent to the core territory (i.e. indigenous peoples, women) to be heard and reflected in the upcoming signed agreements and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The health of a peace negotiations built on trust and consensus on the substantive agenda will always serve as basis of our “sense of urgency” battle cry which goes beyond the deadline issue. As you carry out agreeing on the remaining Annexes on Power-Sharing and Normalization and the final agreement, our two-pronged essential project now is making the Bangsamoro an imperative in the public and policy agenda and encouraging the public to own and extend support to this transformative process.

We, the Mindanao CSOs, guarantee our steadfast commitment in seeing through the process even beyond the final agreement to be reached by both Parties – until the full establishment of the Bangsamoro government.

Thus, we pledge our share of olive branch.
Signed :

Agong Peace Network
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
Lanao Peace Partners
Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (MINCODE)
Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW)
Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)
Peacebuilders Community, Inc
People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation (People’s CART)

On the State of the Nation Address (SONA)2013
July 22, 2013

Contact Persons:

Guiamel Alim, Chair, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) & Lead Convenor, Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW); Contact # 09177247579
Gus Miclat, Executive Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) & Secretary-General Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW); Contact # 09177013099

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[Featured article] Terminated Peace Talks, Intensified Armed Conflict: What is to be done? By Soliman M. Santos, Jr.

Terminated Peace Talks, Intensified Armed Conflict: What is to be done?
By Soliman M. Santos, Jr.
Naga City, 27 May 2013
(55th birth anniversary of the late Jesse M. Robredo)


For all intents and purposes, the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as we have known it over the years since 1992, have effectively come to an end, at least under the current Aquino administration which still has three years left in its term. Well, that is just as well. Late last year, I had already personally gone on record through a 10-page article saying that it was better to just drop the charade of peace talks that were going nowhere due to their extremely tactical dynamics. In the ensuing blame game that is still part of those counter-productive dynamics, the GPH is being blamed by the NDFP for unceremoniously terminating the talks purportedly to seek a “new approach” thereto. But under the circumstances, the GPH can be given some credit for this bold, if belated, move of dropping the charade even at the propaganda/public image risk of being blamed as responsible for terminating the talks.

But really, this peace process should no longer, even if it still could, continue to be conducted “in the old way” (to use revolutionary situation phraseology) that has made it a process of “perpetual division between the Parties.” The test of the pudding is in the eating, and the taste of the pudding has for the most part been bitter, sour and stale. A break or real vacation from this status of belligerency (or strategic stalemate), as it were, in negotiations should prove salutary in the medium to long term, if it becomes an occasion for all concerned to take serious pause and rethink things.

New Realities

The end of the peace negotiations as we have known it is the key new reality now in the GPH-NDFP front of more war than peace at least under the coming three-year second half of the Aquino administration. NDFP Chief Political Consultant and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader Prof. Jose Maria Sison has already said, “its three remaining years is not too long to let pass,” in the context of waiting for a new administration to resume peace talks with, as is usual for new administrations. The better in the meantime for the NDFP to ramp up the armed struggle with full focus and with a view to gain a position of strength for whatever future negotiations or eventuality. Here are a few more specific realities on this front that have bearing on what is to be done for the peace process factoring in these realities:

— “Intensified tactical offensives by the New People’s Army (NPA)”: this was already indicated by Sison and is being indicated by incidents on the ground. The presidential spokesperson has dismissed this as “It’s nothing new” but there are actually some foreboding new directives in the CPP Statement on the 44th Anniversary of the NPA (29 March 2013) like “building guerrilla theaters [that] bring together the power of three to four guerrilla fronts that can reach brigade strength,” “advanc[ing] wave upon wave from the existing guerrilla fronts to create new guerrilla fronts,” and “field[ing] strike forces to intensify the tactical offensives.” GPH Negotiating Panel chair Usec. Alexander A. Padilla, for his part, says that there is no GPH plan for an “all-out war” (recall then President Corazon Aquino’s “unleashing the sword of total war” against the NPA after the collapse of the peace talks in 1987). The NDFP however expects that the GPH is “now unencumbered in waging its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression.” The CPP-NPA itself, even before this latest breakdown, has always felt unencumbered to “carry out the [five-year] plan to advance from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”

— Though this sounds like stating the obvious, there will definitely be no general ceasefire, as the CPP-NPA-NDFP does not want it (this is what is “nothing new”).

— On the other hand, the GPH wants a ceasefire or truce to be in place in any further peace talks due to an overriding concern to lower the level of, if not end, the violence on the ground.

— But there will be no return to both the “regular track” and the “special track” of the peace talks, as the GPH will have none of that anymore. Precisely, it seeks a still undefined “new approach” but there are serious doubts that one can be found that is mutually acceptable with the NDFP which is asserting the “old way” of the peace talks. The “new approach” of the GPH may thus develop, if at all, into something outside the peace talks, at least the formal peace negotiations between Negotiating Panels.

— The only significant prior peace agreement left that is still mutually acceptable is the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), but not its problematic propaganda-prone and stalemate-prone Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) mechanism. That is far as the GPH is concerned. The GPH will definitely no longer go by the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration, which was the long-time framework agreement for the “regular track,” as well as by the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which has occasioned the main recent non-substantive stumbling block issue of the GPH non-release of remaining claimed NDFP consultants who are still detained.

— The NDFP “continues to assert the validity and binding nature of [all] the previously forged joint documents” and will resume formal peace negotiations only “on the basis of upholding, respecting and implementing previously signed agreements.” For the CPP, these agreements represent no less than its correct strategy and tactics as well as gains in the peace negotiations. Since the GPH will definitely no longer go by the framework Hague Joint Declaration, among others, then there will likely be no resumption of formal peace negotiations under the Aquino administration.

[It might be noted here parenthetically that framework agreements are not written in stone and can change, as they have, at particular junctures of the peace process. The best local example of this is the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) where there have been at least three framework agreements: the 1998 General Framework of Agreement of Intent, the 2001 Tripoli Agreement on Peace, and the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). The problem is that this is not an acceptable model for the NDFP which predictably derides that peace process as “U.S.-backed” since 2008 and also lately its once tactical ally, the MILF, for entering into the FAB as “capitulation to the Manila government.”]

— The GPH has broached the possibility of pursuing “localized peace talks.” This could be still national-level peace talks with the local or in-country actual leadership of the CPP or, more feasibly in the GPH view, local-level peace talks from the regional level down though the scope of such talks are not yet clear. The CPP leadership has already shot this down, saying that “Not a single unit of the NPA, committee of the CPP or organs of the NDFP will fall for the Aquino trap of ‘localized peace talks’… Only the NDFP Negotiating Panel is authorized to engage the reactionary government in peace negotiations.”
Our Urgent Tasks

This article is addressed to the GPH, the NDFP, the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) Third Party Facilitator and civil society peace advocates. While we agree that a “new approach” or a new way is needed in the GPH-NDFP peace process (which is not just formal peace negotiations), we are not here outlining certain tasks and imperatives as necessarily part of or inputs for the kind of “new approach” that the GPH seeks. Our standpoint is not that of the GPH or, for that matter, of the NDFP in adversarial relations with each other, rather ours is the standpoint of an independent civil society peace advocate who supports peace processes for the resolution of armed conflicts. So, to a large extent, this article is addressed to similarly oriented peace advocates on what is to be done. While focused now on more scaled down and doable tasks in the current situation that will likely extend throughout the second half of the Aquino administration, there are definitely implications for beyond that. Much of what follows has been said by us before but these are now reframed under the current situation that has emerged:

1. FOCUS ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN CONCERNS ARISING FROM INTENSIFIED ARMED HOSTILITIES. This is the obvious no-brainer most urgent task that is not only a most felt need but is also, believe it or not, of common or mutual desire and interest of both the GPH and NDFP. This arises from the emerging intensification of the armed conflict, the continuing absence of a ceasefire, and the remaining mutual acceptability of the CARHRIHL as a term of reference. The CARHRIHL, as the first and likely only substantive agreement between the GPH and NDFP, or more broadly, respect for human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL), may be “the only game in town” on the GPH-NDFP front, but it certainly better than “playing our charade” of peace talks of “perpetual division.” It is also the next best thing to a ceasefire in terms of lowering the level of violence on the ground and thus saving some lives.

This most urgent task may be done both inside and outside the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, as it may also be done at the national and local levels. Inside the GPH-NDFP peace process, while the substantive negotiations are in suspended animation (many will say “it’s nothing new” anyway), the Parties or Negotiating Panels may consider devoting some useful time to instead working on the implementation of the CARHRIHL. But one challenge to them here is whether they (esp. the NDFP) can work together beyond the problematic propaganda-prone and stalemate-prone JMC mechanism which the GPH will apparently no longer go by. Only by working together can they possibly (though this is no assurance that they can) sort out honest differences of interpretation even regarding the mutually acceptable CARHRIHL, notably when it comes to the use of landmines. But for God’s sake, let not this “only game in town” that is the CARHRIHL become another “document of perpetual division between the Parties.” Both Parties can of course, at the very least, each unilaterally implement the CARHRIHL as they respectively interpret it, including by bringing their respective justice systems to bear on HR and IHL violations. Let it be a contest, if it must be, on which is the more effective government in repressing HR and IHL violations.

Let them not forget that the CARHRIHL itself goes beyond CARHRIHL by its reference to “the principles and standards embodied in international instruments on human rights” (Part III, Article 1), to “generally accepted principles and standards of international humanitarian law” (Part IV, Article 1), to “the full scope of human rights, including civil political, economic, social and cultural rights” (Part II, Article 3), and to “universally applicable principles and standards of human rights and of international humanitarian law… embodied in the instruments signed by the Philippines and deemed to be mutually applicable and acceptable by both Parties” (Part II, Article 4). Indeed, respect for HR and IHL is not limited by what is specifically provided for by the CARHRIHL, esp. on the part of the GPH which has its own HR and IHL treaty obligations and as well as its own HR- and IHL-related national laws. We have already written on how the CARHRIHL can be maximized through its treaty connection that makes available to the Parties “the best that has been created by humanity” (to again use revolutionary phraseology) in terms of HR and IHL.

In fact, come to think of it, the CARHRIHL provision that “The parties shall uphold, protect and promote the full scope of human rights…” can become the basis for further agreements on socio-economic reforms and political-constitutional reforms even without reference to The Hague Joint Declaration and the 1995 Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs). We have also already written on a rights-based approach (RBA) to the peace talks, particularly when it comes to socio-economic and political reforms which address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace. We there cited the 2004 masteral thesis of now Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commissioner Atty. Jose Manuel S. Mamauag on a RBA as tool in evaluating the socio-political dimension of the GRP-MILF peace process. The RBA has started to be used for development and for governance; why not as a framework for the whole peace process and a peace settlement?

The previous work and drafts on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and on a Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) need not be laid to waste as these can probably still be made use of but possibly reframed under a RBA though not necessarily in comprehensive agreement form. But we may be getting too far ahead of ourselves at this present juncture. As we said, the minimum focus for now should just be better implementation of the CARHRIHL, whether the Parties work on this together (which still remains to be seen) or separately. Either way, any progress on this would/should help build confidence for whatever future substantive negotiations.

HR and IHL are ultimately too important to be left at the mercy of the JMC mechanism or even of the warring Parties themselves, esp. at the national level. We have to break out of the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations, and all concerned, not just the two warring Parties, have to find new and better ways of civilian protection. For one, the CPP-NPA-NDFP national leadership should no longer discourage or prohibit its local commands from local-level talks that would more expeditiously and effectively address humanitarian concerns arising from armed hostilities at that level, as distinguished from “localized peace talks” that would purport to address national issues that are beyond and therefore cannot really be fully addressed at that level. This kind of local-level talks should no longer be proscribed by that leadership as necessarily a counter-insurgency trap to pacify, divide and induce the capitulation of the revolutionary forces.

Relatedly, local-level talks initiated by conflict-affected local communities, inc. their local officials (like the late long-time and exemplary Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo once did), that seek respect for their own genuine declarations of their communities as “peace zones” that are off-limits to armed hostilities, should not be treated as necessarily a counter-insurgency measure to cramp or limit the areas for NPA tactical offensives. The whole countryside is vast enough for that, as the annual CPP and NPA anniversary statements never fail to point out.

Civil society peace groups like notably Sulong CARHRIHL (Advance CARHRIHL) have tried to make CARHRIHL work even without the stalemated JMC mechanism, albeit Sulong CARHRIHL has focused mainly on work at the local community level, where after all the work is most needed. But of course the broad work of advancing HR and IHL is not limited to and by the CARHRIHL. The broad array of IHL (and also HR) advocates, inc. the Civil Society Initiatives for International Humanitarian Law (CSI-IHL), who had gathered around the first National Summit on IHL in 2009 have significantly since then taken on and stepped up the work to address the relevant main challenges of: [1] humanitarian intervention especially during massive internal displacement due to armed hostilities; [2] education, information and communications on IHL (and HR); and [3] monitoring, investigation and prosecution of IHL (and HR) violations in the context of the armed conflict.

In terms of exploring alternative institutional mechanisms for that last most difficult challenge of monitoring/investigation of and accountability for IHL (and HR) violations, the 2009 IHL Summit for one called on the CHR to develop its own complementary or fallback mechanism to the JMC. It is good that an independent constitutional commission mandated for human rights concerns, with nationwide offices, and with international links, is giving attention also to the related but distinct field of IHL and to HR-IHL violations not only of the state armed forces but also of non-state armed groups. Seeking rebel accountability is a special challenge in itself due to various conceptual and practical reasons, including their having “no permanent address.”

The work of upholding respect for HR and IHL in the context of the GPH-NDFP armed conflict may be well below the ideal and the high policy level of a negotiated political settlement. But aside from its more immediate value of civilian protection, HR-IHL work has a long-term strategic value and direction of laying better ground (and lowering the costs and antagonism) for a negotiated political settlement when the requisite political will and also paradigm shifts on both sides come about, hopefully sooner rather than later.

2. CONDUCT PURPOSIVE KEY REFORM WORK OUTSIDE THE PEACE TALKS BUT WELL INFORMED BY IT. Both the GPH and the NDFP actually agree that the “pursuit of social, economic and political reforms” are “aimed at addressing the root causes of internal armed conflicts.” For the GPH, this is the first of its “Six Paths to Peace” framework which also has “peaceful negotiated settlement with the different rebel groups” as its third path and “addressing concerns arising from continuing armed hostilities” as its fourth path – the latter being relevant to our first urgent task above. Indeed, the comprehensive peace process is broader than just peace negotiations. Socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms are thus the core of the substantive agenda of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations – and we can say this with or without the framework Hague Joint Declaration. But such reforms can and should be pursued even outside the peace talks because the reforms are of value also outside that context. They are undertaken for their own sake because they “serve the people” (to again use revolutionary phraseology). If the peace talks can benefit from inputs provided by reform work, inc. research, then so too can reform work outside the peace talks benefit from inputs that may be drawn from its own accumulated work and documents.

Let it be clear that the motivation for this second urgent task should not be the often expressed intent, even among avowed peace advocates, of making the CPP-NPA-NDFP “irrelevant.” Such a disdainful or counter-insurgency attitude does not do justice or give due credit to some of the just causes of the armed struggle, even as the viability of this form of struggle has become questionable, to say the least, after 44 years since 1969 and at the cost of more than 120,000 lives. The Philippine Human Development Report 2005: Peace, Human Security and Human Development in the Philippines said it well:

The human development perspective instead chooses to take insurgencies and armed conflicts seriously as mirrors to society. To be sure, mirrors may be distorted to a greater or to a lesser extent: ideologies and pet theories may exaggerate certain objectionable features and details and hide others. Dealing with them squarely, however, will always provide an opportunity for the current system to peer closely at itself and discover at least some of its defects.

The valuable contributions to the national agenda of the causes espoused by the various insurgencies are undeniable. The critique of the overweening influence of foreign powers (particularly the U.S.) in the country’s political life was provided primarily by the Left movement, a national debate that finally led to the removal of U.S. bases in the country. The decades-old socialist and communist advocacy for land redistribution culminated ultimately in the government’s several agrarian reform programs….

In many ways, the insurgencies have helped Filipinos and their governments realize how they ought to build a more just, more democratic society…

Thus, among the recommendations in the Philippine Human Development Report 2005 to “place the existing peace efforts on a sounder footing and lead to a solution to the conflict” are to “institute reforms in parallel” to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, to “undertake key reforms alongside and outside formal peace talks,” and to “undertake human development investments (in education, health, safe water, electricity and economic provisions) for their own sake.” The key reforms referred to here are [1] electoral and governance reforms and [2] security sector reform (SSR). Instead of seeking to comprehensively cover socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms within a limited time frame of say three years, the idea is to focus first on a few choice issues of particular importance. The said two key reform areas are particularly important for the resolution of the armed conflict because of their relevance to the resort to armed struggle. Also, SSR relates much to the above-discussed now first urgent task of focusing on HR-IHL concerns esp. vis-à-vis counter-insurgency strategy.

Electoral and military reforms in particular clash with key NDFP orthodoxies or doctrines which are at the very heart of the national-democratic revolution. Elections clash with the NDFP view of armed struggle as the main form of struggle for social and political change, and so might confuse or deceive the people. The military in the NDFP’s view is the main coercive instrument of the state which is to be smashed, not reformed or improved as such. As for good governance, the NDFP can be expected to again play the game of “two governments” and ask which good governance is being referred to: that of the reactionary GPH or that of the revolutionary People’s Democratic Government?

Yet, in the NDF’s 1990 agenda for the peace talks (though this was before the 1992 split in the CPP, after which the “reaffirmed” line became harder), there were in fact talking points for electoral and military reforms. These included electoral reforms allowing a fair chance for parties of the lower and middle classes, and also mechanisms to ensure fair and free elections. For military reforms, there were removal of U.S. control over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the reorganization, reorientation and reduction of the AFP.

Off-hand, there appear to be more mismatches than matches between the NDFP and GRP sides of the reform agenda. In the GRP 2003 Draft Final Peace Accord, among the listed electoral reforms are: amended party-list, local sectoral representation, anti-dynasty, anti-turncoatism, strengthened multi-party system, political finance regulation, full automation, and Comelec reform. While the security sector reforms include: civilian supremacy measures like civil society participation in national security policy making; and a compact, efficient, responsive and modern AFP engaged in non-combat roles for nation-building.

Electoral reforms are of particularly currency now in view of the just concluded 2013 mid-term national and local elections, and then the scheduled barangay elections later this year. There is also the recent Supreme Court decision in the Atong Paglaum case on the party-list system with implications on the electoral chances of party-list groups representing marginalized and underrepresented sectors, including those that are the traditional mass base of the Left. Apart from in the party-list system, the candidates of the nat-dem Left have generally not fared well in electoral struggle, which can be an alternative form of political struggle.

On the other hand, the regular election campaign periods have rather become occasions for the CPP-NPA-NDFP to assert its underground governmental authority over election campaigning in its claimed territories, with implications adverse to fair and free elections, if not the freedom of suffrage itself. It may thus be fair to pose to the CPP-NPA-NDFP whether its “permit to campaign” policy and practice is also subject to electoral reform through the peace talks?

As for socio-economic reforms, we already mentioned above that the previous work and drafts on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) need not be laid to waste as these can probably still be made use of but possibly reframed under a RBA though not necessarily in comprehensive agreement form. Following the mode of focusing first on a few choice issues of particular importance, given a limited time frame like three years, the obvious choice socio-economic issue is land reform. This may as well be a third key reform area, along with electoral reform and SSR. In CPP-NPA-NDFP theory, the land problem of the peasantry is the main issue of the national-democratic revolution, and that has to be because the peasantry is the main force of this revolution. This armed revolution’s crucial spearhead, the NPA, is a mainly peasant army and one of its key tasks is revolutionary land reform. To what extent can the peasant gains of revolutionary land reform be recognized and preserved as legitimate or legitimized land reform?

But of course revolutionary land reform is not the only progressive land reform initiative. Going back to the RBA, there are agrarian reform workers outside the peace talks who are pushing for “rights-based asset (land) reform, founded on the idea of social justice,” given the even more limited time frame until June 2014 of the government’s extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to distribute still over one million hectares of “CARP-able” private landholdings. There is thus a sense of urgency for this asset reform that somehow parallels the need for a similar sense of urgency on the GPH-NDFP front (while there is already such a sense of urgency on the GPH-MILF peace front) for the last three years of the Aquino administration). “In the final analysis, any effort to advance political reforms, no matter how eloquently stated, will become pure lip service in absence of an effective asset reform program.” It may thus be fair to also pose to the CPP-NPA-NDFP whether these efforts and gains of other progressive land reform initiatives like those in the Bondoc Peninsula can be respected and not be impeded by it for being necessarily political rivals in land reform or in serving the peasantry? Can this, or some aspects of this, be the subject of local-level talks in Bondoc Peninsula?

The breaking news from the Colombian peace process of a breakthrough interim agreement on land reform and rural development validates this as a key reform area that can become a crucial stepping stone or building block for the whole process. This is made relevant by the essential similarities between the Colombian and Philippine societies and revolutions, both led by foundationally Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties. Hopefully, there will be no derision this time of the Colombian peace process as “U.S.-backed” and of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for its “capitulation to the Bogota government.” It is also just as well timely that there has in the past few years been a quiet Philippines-Colombia civil society peace advocacy exchange program under the auspices of Conciliation Resources, which is an international NGO member of the International Contact Group (ICG) supporting the GPH-MILF peace process. Could a NDFP-FARC peace process exchange program perhaps also be developed?

One important angle with all these three key reform areas – electoral reform, SSR, and land reform — is that there are several relevant ongoing civil society reform initiatives as well as academe-based policy study and research groups in each of these key reform areas, just like on HR-IHL concerns, that can also be engaged in moving the peace process forward.

3. GET BACK WITH MORE AND PROPER ATTENTION TO THE SMALL PEACE PROCESSES. The GPH-NDFP peace process, the relatively successful (so far) GPH-MILF peace process and the implementation-problematic GPH-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) peace process are the acknowledged big peace processes, because of the bigger rebel groups, the bigger geographical areas and the bigger issues involved. It is natural for the GPH to give more attention to these than to the small peace processes involving smaller rebel groups: the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (RPM-P) and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPM-M).

The likely extended break in the GPH-NDFP peace talks for the three remaining years of the Aquino administration should be taken as an opportunity to get back with more and proper attention to the small peace processes. In general terms, there are two reasons for this: (1) If things are not moving in the big and more difficult peace processes, why not go for what can move and get done in the small and presumably easier peace processes?; and (2) If you cannot do well in the small peace processes, how much more in the big peace processes? The CPLA, RPM-P and RPM-M are all relevant to the NDFP since they originated from this as breakaway factions that had split due to differing views on society, political programs, strategy and tactics – which are also all relevant to the peace process.

Of these other, smaller peace processes, the most promising appears to be that with the RPM-M because of its innovative community-based approach. What is significant about the small peace process with the RPM-M is its effective combination of peace negotiations and public consultations:

It has a radically different approach from that of the big top-level peace negotiations in that it does not involve complex peace negotiations. Rather, a local peace and development agenda that will have an immediate impact on the ground will be formulated by the concerned communities and tribes in Mindanao through participatory local consultations to identify problems and needs as well as responses there which could take the form of projects. Such empowered and sustainable communities are the real foundation of peace. The process itself will allow these communities to win small victories and build peace by themselves. The final political settlement is important but the communities need not wait for this. Building peace for them is here and now. This community-level process continues to be pursued independent of the panel-level talks and despite the latter’s delay. Still, the RPM-M peace process is also getting back on the latter track which is still needed for a final resolution to the conflict.

If there is a need for models of authentic dialogue with the communities, here is one in Mindanao which also has the merit of upholding the equal importance of peace negotiations with rebel groups. If the idea is to bring the peace talks back to the public, there is a potential here for developing an effective combination of public consultations and peace negotiations, pursuant to the relatively new strategy of public participation in peacemaking. The RPM-M articulates this in this way: “A community-based and people-centered peace negotiation among revolutionary groups with the government should be an insurance for achieving a sustained and genuine political settlement… The people should be seen as active participants and the principal stakeholders in any political settlement between the revolutionary groups and the government…. And hence, the participation of the masses and the corresponding development of the political consciousness in all levels (and in all stages) of the peace process would ensure the substantive democratic content…”

Active and even direct participation of the people and communities in the peace process does not make the rebel/revolutionary groups superfluous because the latter, as the RPM-M says, are also “included as among the legitimate stakeholders” and should not be isolated from their respective mass bases or constituencies. In addition, there is the pertinent analysis and approaches that these groups may contribute to the mutual problem-solving that is of the essence of peace negotiations. In the case of the RPM-M, it has adopted a multi-form struggle but gives paramount importance to peace-building and development work at this time because of the adverse effect of the war situation on the tri-peoples of Mindanao. At some point too, a convergence must be found among the several peace processes relevant to Mindanao, starting of course with those involving the MILF and the MNLF, but eventually co-relating on common aspects with the peace processes on the Communist front – whether on the minimum matter of “addressing concerns arising from the continuing armed hostilities” or on more substantive issues like the Lumad Question.

Also, because of the RPM-M’s Mindanao tri-people orientation, there is a good prospect that the panel-level talks becoming a vehicle for lumad concerns that can check-and-balance, as it were, the implications of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations on the interests of the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the territory of a new Bangsamoro autonomous political entity. This peace process which has been referred to as “the other peace process” (presumably in relation to either that with the NDFP or that with the MILF) thus deserves some special attention, with good prospects for some deliverables, inc. in substantive agreements, before the close of the Aquino administration. Unfortunately, on the contrary, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under this administration has early on after its assumption to office in 2010, for some unclear reason, downgraded this process out even of its list of peace processes with rebel groups. The OPAPP should rectify this error and reinstate the peace process with the RPM-M back into its horizon. On the other hand, the RPM-M would do good to send “formal notice” of its readiness to resume, so that there are no excuses or misreading of signals.

As regards the other small peace processes with the CPLA and the RPM-P, and even with the big peace process with the MNLF, the OPAPP has tended to go for closure programs of socio-economic projects in exchange for disarmament and demobilization (in effect, DDR or Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) even without any really substantive agreements on the causes these several rebel groups respectively articulate or represent, except in the case of the MNLF wherein there was a substantive Final Peace Agreement on Moro autonomy in 1996. There do not appear to be substantive agreements on Cordillera autonomy along lines advocated by the CPLA, or on aspects of the socialist or workers’ agenda represented by the RPM-P. Why then the seeming hurry for closure of the peace processes with the CPLA and RPM-P as if to just be able to close these chapters as completed and accomplished peace processes? Of course, it takes two to tango here. If the rebel group concerned considers it already a closure, then the GPH or OPAPP, and even peace advocates, cannot be “holier than thou.” But they risk repeating the mistakes of the history of DDR when it is not situated in a more comprehensive peace process or settlement that purposively addresses the substantive causes of their struggle.

Perhaps, it is just as well that the peace process with the RPM-M had been unceremoniously suspended (God forbid that it was discontinued) before it might have gone into similar closure mode. As we said at the outset, albeit in the context of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, sometimes a break or extended vacation from negotiations can be salutary, IF it becomes an occasion for all concerned to take serious pause and rethink things. This pause-taking and rethinking becomes all the more imperative when seeking a “new approach” as regards the GPH-NDFP peace front. This search is of concern not just to one or both of the Parties but ultimately to all those who have a stake in the resolution of the armed conflict, under a favorable climate for peace negotiations, leading to the attainment of a just and lasting peace. Amen.

SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR. has been a long-time Bicolano human rights and IHL lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer, whose initial engagement with the peace process was in Bicol with the first GRP-NDFP nationwide ceasefire in 1986. He is presently Presiding Judge of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur and Acting Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balatan, Camarines Sur.

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sign petiton2 smallPhoto by TFDP

[In the news] Aquino tells Norway, CPP-NDF: Time for peace talks to move forward -GMA News

Aquino tells Norway, CPP-NDF: Time for peace talks to move forward
GMA News
February 24, 2013

gmanewsonlinePresident Benigno Aquino III has relayed to the Norwegian government, the mediator in peace talks with the National Democratic Front, that it is time to have peace efforts with communist rebels move forward.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Saturday Aquino stressed this during a courtesy call by representatives of the Norwegian government, who included peace process facilitators, last Friday.

“The president talked about his resolve to move the peace process forward,” Valte said on government-run dzRB radio Saturday.

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[In the news] After the war: Untold stories from women in Mindanao -GMA News

After the war: Untold stories from women in Mindanao
Carmela G. LAPEÑA, GMA News
February 17, 2013

gmanewsonlineForced to flee during the all-out war in Mindanao, Maimona Musa Didatu-Bayan and her family struggled for almost a decade to rebuild their lives. Her story is just one of those from millions of women whose voices are left unheard as they are portrayed merely as victims of war.

Maimona lived in a far-flung area in Maguindanao province, but were forced to leave their home when former President Joseph Estrada declared the all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000. “Masakit pero we have to prefer to leave our locality kay sa matamaan kami ng bomba,” she said during “Huntahan, Balitaan at Kapayapaan: A Dialogue with Media and Mindanao Women on the Peace Process” held on February 4.

Carrying what they could, Maimona’s family fled. Her aunt, who was pregnant with twins, gave birth in a tunnel, while all around them the bombing continued. The twins did not survive.

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[In the news] GPH, MILF peace panels return to KL to work on annexes -MindaNews.com

GPH, MILF peace panels return to KL to work on annexes
By Carolyn O. Arguillas, MindaNews.com
January 20 2013

MindaNewsDAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 January) — The government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels are returning to Kuala Lumpur this week to resume negotiations on the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

In a press statement released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said this week’s negotations, scheduled to begin Monday, are “crucial” as both panels hope to finish the unresolved issues on Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, Normalization and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

It will be the third time the panels are meeting to complete the annexes.

Both panels were supposed to have finished the annexes before the end of the 2012, in accordance with the FAB which was signed on October 15, 2012 in Malacanang.

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[Statement] Strong rights, no remedy -AHRC

Asian Human Rights Commission

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2012

PHILIPPINES: Strong rights, no remedy

Asian Human Rights CommissionThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released its 15-page report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines this year. The report, titled “Strong rights, no remedy,” gave detailed analysis on the absence, if not lack of adequate remedy and redress to any forms of violation of rights in the country’s system of justice. The report is written in seven sections and each section gives analyses of the important events which took place this year, and by examining old cases and new cases it has documented, it evaluates what impact it has had on protection of rights.

The discourse on protection of rights, or the lack of it, in the Philippines has been very challenging in recent past. There is a strong perception–domestically and internationally–of the governments political will to protect rights. But whether their public statements and policy of protection of rights are translated into reality to the daily lives of the people who suffer have been questionable. There are rights, like freedom from torture, with no legal remedy in the past, now they have; perpetrators of gross human rights violations, like former president Gloria Arroyo and the military generals during her term, who could not be prosecuted in the past, are now being prosecuted.

The government has been engaged in legislating and ratifying domestic and international human rights treaties respectively, but in practice none of those accused of torture have been punished. Events and developments like this have resulted to renewed confidence on the government. By examining empirical cases, it is clear that there is a fundamental breakdown in the country’s system of protection as described below.

Convicted chief justice & the court judges
This section examines the impact of the conviction of Renato Corona, former chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC) in an impeachment trial for his non-disclosure of his assets, on the discourse of judicial accountability and corruption amongst the judges in the lower courts all over the country. Corona’s conviction has restored the confidence of the public on the executive and legislative for exercising their role as co-equal branches in safeguarding corrupt practices and abuses.

But Corona could be impeached and punished; however, in practice judges in lower courts subordinate to him breached due process rules and fundamental principles of fair trial as they exercise of their duty daily. Judges ignoring orders by the SC, admitting evidence taken by way of forced confession and torture, conniving with prosecutors in fabricating charges against human rights and political activists, delaying trial of cases, and others subverting due process is very common. They were never punished.

Old and new cases: no arrest, remedy
This section explains why the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty, and Security of Persons, which President Benigno Aquino III, is doomed to fail. This body, with a fresh mandate to investigate old and new cases, only repeats the ritual of creating task forces and special investigation bodies.

The inability and failure of similar special task forces before, notably the Task Force 211 in November 2007, to ensure that its prosecution based on the special investigation they earlier had conducted would result to conviction, identification of the accused and conclusion of cases, questions the competence and credibility to this new ‘super body’. Also, the inability of the authorities to arrest former General Jovito Palparan and his accomplices for the enforced disappearance of activists despite the increases reward money for his arrest clearly illustrates that even if court issues arrest orders, perpetrators would not arrested.

If Palparan and other powerful and influential politicians, who had been identified as masterminding targeted attacks of human rights and political activists in high profile case could not be arrested despite being known in the country, it means the possibility of prosecuting perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and disappearances where the perpetrators are not identified–like the death squad in Davao City–is non-existent. Thus, the recommendation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to hold local officials accountable in Davao City would be meaningless.

Cycle of rights violations: massacre, killings, torture & disappearance
As expected, massacres and other forms of horrible violations happened this year, too. But these cases are no different to earlier documented cases that remain unresolved. If the perpetrators in the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, after three years of trial, are still unpunished and other perpetrators remain at large, it would not be surprising that the massacre that documented this year, notably that of Capion family in October 18 in Tampakan, South Cotabato, would not be resolved, too.

One of the complainants in the case of the Maguindanao massacre, Myrna Reblando, widow of journalist Alejandro ‘Bong’ Reblando, had to leave the country for lack of adequate protection. Not only her that is being targeted, there have been potential witnesses who had been killed before they could testify, families of the victims offered bribe, if not being continuously being the object of threats and harassment with the deliberate intent for them to withdraw their complaint. They have no protection.

No remedy, redress: they be Filipinos or not
In the past, there are probabilities of prompt and effective intervention when foreign governments and their people take action from abroad on human rights issues. In this section it explains that even in cases of foreign nationals, Wilhelm Geertman and Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio who were murdered on July 3, 2012 and October 17, 2011 in the country respectively, perpetrators are either unpunished or unidentified.

Wilhelm and Fr. Fausto had lived and worked for decades with the poor and vulnerable communities. If cases of these persons, who has representation from their foreign governments and pressures from their own people back home had not resulted to adequate remedy, will cases of Filipinos in their own country have? This section demonstrates numerous cases without remedies regardless of the identity and personal background of the victims. No remedy be they Filipino or not.

Prospects in the emerging justice system: Bangsamoro political entity
The signing of agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government on “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” offers prospects of peace and building of democratic institutions that would address the aspirations of the struggle of the Muslims in the south. The real challenge is how to build institutions of justice that would address the grievance of the Muslims who are often the usual suspects in terrorist activities after decades of subjugation.

This section draws the old experience on how cases of torture, arbitrary detention and fabrication of charges, had been committed with the operation of justice system—the police, prosecutors and judiciary. These lessons should be learned. Thus, it is important that fair trial and due process is to be fundamental values in this emerging justice institution in the proposed political entity if this agreement for political settlement on the Mindanao question is to survive.

Rights in the Philippines: on paper, not in practice
This section explains that by its legislation of domestic law and ratifying international human rights treaties, the government succeeded in making it appear on paper that not only it has ‘political will’ it is also a ‘champion of human rights.’ The perception it has created and ‘diplomatic victory’ is has obtained in doing so, has changed the landscaped of human rights discourse into becoming even more difficult. The government’s records is being reviewed, not how in reality it afforded or not afforded remedy to violations of rights, but how many domestic laws, human rights treaties it has signed; and public statements of its government officials reaffirming protection of rights.

In conclusion, it is clear that without changes as to how the institutions of justice – police, prosecution and the judiciary – operate to ensure adequate protection of rights, there is no possibility that rights on paper would have remedy. If the very fabric of the system of protection of rights is flawed, no rights would have the possibility of obtaining any remedies.

This report is available at

Read this statement online

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

December 11, 2012

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[In the news] Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012 -MindaNews.com

Peace Forum kicks off Mindanao Week of Peace 2012
By Frencie Carreon
November 26 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/25 November)– A multi-sectoral peace forum on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), dubbed as the “roadmap to peace” in Mindanao, was held here Saturday to kick off this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace, which is set on November 29 to December 5.

Leading the discussion for the Mindanao Peace Forum was lawyer Johaira Wahab, a legal adviser to the peace panel of the Government of the Philippines. She represented government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, who was recently appointed as Supreme Court Associate Justice.

With the full endorsement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), this year’s celebration carries the theme ‘Love of God and Love of Neighbor, A Challenge for Mindanao.”

Read full article @ www.mindanews.com

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[Press Release] The Asia Foundation Launched Report on “Gender and Conflict in Mindanao”

The Asia Foundation Launched Report on “Gender and Conflict in Mindanao
New book examines women’s roles as mediators and peace advocates

Last week, a historic peace Framework Agreement was signed between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The agreement seeks to end the separatist insurgency the rebel group has waged for decades in the Southern Philippines, home of one of the world’s longest-running violent conflicts. In this troubled area, a new book examines the dynamics of gender and armed conflict in the Southern Philippines, primarily the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Asia Foundation (TAF) last Friday launched a timely and insightful book, “Gender and Conflict in Mindanao,” which examines the complex gender dynamics of conflict by looking at the Philippines as a case study.

Prior to this report, little research has been done on the nature or extent of conflict-related psychological distress in Mindanao, and how it impacts on how women and men function socially, and how it could be addressed effectively. Co-written by Leslie Dwyer, Assistant Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution of the George Mason University, and Rufa Cagoco-Guiam, Director of the Institute of Peace and Development of the Mindanao State University – General Santos City, the book reports on women’s roles as mediators between warring clans, and as peace advocates in the rural communities in Mindanao. The book was launched to the development community, media, national government agencies, and civil society organizations last October 19, 2012 in Makati City.

In August 2010, the Foundation commissioned a study to examine the dynamics of gender and conflict in Mindanao. The study focused on the various transformative processes that take place during and after armed conflict, especially those that have serious implications on the traditional roles of men and women in grassroots communities. A field-based research and a literature review were conducted to identify the challenges and opportunities for women and men in community and national peace building.

In this report, Dwyer and Cagoco-Guiam discussed among other things – the psychosocial impacts of armed conflict on men: its implications on their mobility, and eventually, their educational attainment. The book also discusses the importance of pushing for mobile livelihood that strengthens communities and non-traditional programs both for men in women in areas vulnerable to armed conflict. Lastly, the book illustrates the need to intensify efforts in training and supporting women as mediators of community conflicts.

Background on “Gender and Conflict in Mindanao Report”

• In Chapter I, the book initially gives an introduction on gender and conflict zones, and then provides a backgrounder in Chapter II on the conflict situation in Mindanao: geographic and ethnic profile, a brief history of Mindanao’s long-running conflict, and an initial profile of gender dynamics in the conflict zone.
• Chapter III then illustrates the impact of the conflict on women, and on gender dynamics in Mindanao discussing some issues on gender and mobility, displacement, economic burdens, young women and girls, psychosocial effects, and the nexus of gender role transformations and cultural values.
• After tackling women’s roles in peace building in Chapter IV, it then discusses in Chapter V how to make assistance “more gender sensitive” including the need to strengthen women’s civil society to play a more influential role in peace negotiations and conflict resolution. Chapter V also reports on the importance of enhancing gender and conflict policy and ensuring its grassroots relevance – building on women’s strengths as community conflict resolvers; strengthening holistic approaches to conflict, and strengthening the knowledge base on gender and conflict in Mindanao.
• For its conclusion, the book emphasizes the transformative potentials of gender analysis– incorporating women’s experiences and capacities and acknowledging complexity and making space for difficult conversations to address gender issues. The report argues that programming is more effective when comprehensive gender analysis is utilized and that such an approach can be transformative in societies trying to emerge from conflict.

The study was funded through The Asia Foundation’s annual US Congressional appropriation, and with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. In the Philippines, The Asia Foundation’s programs on conflict are funded by AusAID, DFID, USAID, and the World Bank.

About The Asia Foundation in the Philippines

Since 1954, The Asia Foundation’s programs in the Philippines have been strengthening good governance and economic development. The Foundation has supported programs in Mindanao for more than 30 years through its assistance to local governments, the private sector, and non- government organizations to work toward peace and prosperity in the southern Philippines.

About The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation supports Asian initiatives to improve governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, the environment, and regional cooperation. Drawing on nearly 60 years of experience in Asia, the Foundation collaborates with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research.

With 17 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, DC, and its headquarters in San Francisco, the Foundation addresses these issues on both a country and regional level. In 2011, the Foundation provided more than $97 million in program support and distributed nearly one million books and journals valued at over $41 million.
For more information, please visit: http://www.asiafoundation.org.

Media Contact:
Steven Rood, Ph. D. Country Representative
The Asia Foundation
Tel. +63 (2) 851-1466

[People] Peace and the peace process This is just a pit-stop; the race is not yet won by Dr. Renato Mabunga

Renato Mabunga. Photo from CMA-Phils.

Peace and the peace process
This is just a pit-stop; the race is not yet won
by Dr. Renato Mabunga

Renato Mabunga. Photo from CMA-Phils.

Renato Mabunga. File photo from CMA-Phils.

The landmark signing of an initial peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has reinvigorated hopes of a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

The framework peace deal lays the foundations for a “just peace” that should be guided by human values and international standards of good governance, human rights and the dignity of peoples and communities.

The peace deal is supposed to aim at the full development of a nation, nay of a community, guaranteed by the supreme sovereignty of the people.

What can be observed in the “framework agreement” signed by government and rebel peace negotiators this month is the truthful reference to the pains and aspirations of the people of Mindanao and its adjacent islands.

Unfortunately, only well-intentioned individuals, the wounded and those who empathize with the people of Mindanao can fully appreciate, without equivocation, the agreement. It comes out devoid of pretension and political subtlety.

People in Mindanao (and even outsiders), however, should understand that peace is not a political compromise between conflicting parties. Political compromises connote the satisfaction of vested interests of opposing camps.

Read full article @ www.ucanews.com

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[Press Release] UN Human Rights Committee review revealed “several areas of deficit” in the Philippine human rights records

UN Human Rights Committee review revealed “several areas of deficit” in the Philippine human rights records

Geneva 15 – 16 October 2012. The United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded the examination of the fourth periodic report of the Philippines on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This review took place on 15 and 16 October 2012 in Geneva and was attended by a dozen Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from the Philippines that submitted several reports.

On October 16, the Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Zonke Majodina, concluded the dialogue on the state of human rights in the Philippines. She referred to positive developments that took place since the previous examination in 2003, including the recent adoption of the Framework Agreement between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the 2009 anti-torture act.

The Human Rights Committee remained concerned about many difficulties faced by the State. The Chair noted “several areas of deficit” in the implementation of the ICCPR. She expressed the need for clarification on the status of the ICCPR in domestic law, whether it was regarded as binding or only persuasive authority, and she expressed concern about the absence of existing measures to implement the Committee’s views under its individual communications procedure.

The Committee noted the continuing occurrence of extra-judicial killings and the high rate of enforced disappearances; the poor results of investigations and the lack of prosecution, including the slow progress in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre. The Committee is concerned about the role of the private armed and the military auxiliary groups as well as the high number of loose weapons in circulation in the country.

In addition, the Committee is alarmed by the problem of overcrowding in prisons in Philippines, a matter that was already raised by the Committee during the last review, but which has not been addressed to-date. With regard to torture, the Government did not provide any statistics to substantiate its claim that torture is not prevalent.

With regard to women’s rights, the Chairperson said the Committee is deeply concerned about the “sharia laws and their impact on women”. The Committee was also alarmed that reproductive rights are still not guaranteed, that access to contraception is highly restricted, and that abortion without exception is criminalized. According to the State Delegation, the maternal mortality ratio has increased by a quarter from 2006 and 2010.

The Committee welcomed the landmark AngLadlad ruling of the Supreme Court that allowed an LGBT party to participate in the election but stressed that more needs to be done due to the continuing absence of anti-discrimination legislation, presence of a vague public scandal law, and anti-LGBT prejudice by military and election officials. The State delegation responded by noting persistent, “prejudices against LGBTs.”

The Human Rights Committee will make its recommendations public at the end of its session, on 1st November 2012.

Background information:
The archived webcast of the Philippines review can be seen at treatybodywebcast.org.
• NGO reports on the Philippines
4th State Report on Philippines

Contacts in Philippines:
– Rose Trajano – PAHRA – pahra@philippinehumanrights.org
– Ricardo Sunga – TFDP – tfdp.1974@gmail.com
– Ging Cristobal – IGLHRC – gcristobal@iglhrc.org
– Jonas Bagas – TLF Share – jonasbagas@gmail.com
– Marie Hilao-Enriquez – KARAPATAN – karapatan.pid2@gmail.com
Contacts in Geneva:
– Stuart Halford – Center for Reproductive Rights & SRI – stuart.geneva@sri-crr.org
– Asger Kjaerum – IRCT – akj@irct.org
– Patrick Mutzenberg – CCPR-Centre – pmutzenberg@ccprcentre.org

[Press Release] Davao Citizens’ Signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement -IID

Davao Citizens’ Signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

Davao City – In time for the signing of the Framework Agreement by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the Malacañan Palace, Davao-based Peace networks and various groups conduct their own Citizens’ Signing of the Framework Agreement to welcome and support the historic Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The Citizens’ Signing of the Framework Agreement is the highlight of the “Davao, Duyog sa Kalinaw!”

activity to be held at the Freedom Park, Roxas Avenue, Davao City on 15 October 2012.

The convenors celebrate this milestone in the 15-year-old GPH-MILF peace negotiations not as the end of the process but rather, the beginning of more challenges ahead. The Framework Agreement sets out the mutually agreed upon principles to guide both Peace Panels and put things in perspective as both thresh out the details in the substantive agenda of the talks.

The symbolic Citizens’ signing of the framework agreement is a clear message on Citizen Participation in the peace process. The convenors believe that a sustained engagement on matters of peace and right to self-determination will generate a groundswell of informed public support to the peace talks– even for those outside the zones of conflict.

At the same time, the group commits to remaining active and vigilant especially in monitoring the succeeding interim agreements and actual implementation of what comes next. Such mechanisms guaranteeing transparency and participation of all sectors especially covered in the core Bangsamoro territory should be soon installed. Monitoring the peace process and continuing education at the community level are among the tasks civil society organizations commit themselves to doing, in building the constituency supporting the peace process.

Activity organizers: Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW), Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (MINCODE), United Youth for Peace and Development- Davao Region Chapter (UNYPAD), Agong Peace Network, Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Generation Peace Youth Network- Davao chapter (GENPEACE) and Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka- Mindanao (PAKISAMA). #

IID is the Secretariat of Mindanao Peace Weavers

IID is an advocacy and solidarity institution promoting peace, conflict prevention, democratization and right to self-determination in Southeast Asia. Our focus areas include Mindanao, Burma, Timor-Leste, South Thailand, Aceh and West Papua.

Press Release
15 October 2012

Contact persons:

Lyndee Prieto, Email: lyndeeprieto@yahoo.com; Mobile: 0917-724-7579
Rich de los Santos, Email: rich.delossantos84@gmail.com; Mobile: 0927.644.6524

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[Statement] Onward with the fight for right-to-self determination, peace, justice and democracy in Mindanao! -PLM

Onward with the fight for right-to-self determination, peace, justice and democracy in Mindanao!

Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), a national political party of the marginalized sectors, welcomes the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement as a roadmap for peace in Mindanao. The agreement is also the first step to end the centuries-old oppression of the Moro people in Mindanao.

Sonny Melencio, chairman of PLM, said, “The signing of the agreement is just the first step towards peace. But to ensure that the fighting in Mindanao will really come to an end, the government has to ensure that the agreement is implemented at every step, and that democracy, based on people’s participation, is enhanced in the Bangsamoro government that will replace the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao).

“We expect the agreement to attract resistance at every step, especially those coming from the Rightist forces in government, and from the trapos who continuously oppose the right to self-determination of the Moro people.”

Melencio identified the possible contention in the formation of the Transitory Commission which will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Other contentious issues involve the expansion of the present geographical area of ARMM to include more municipalities, barangays and cities in Mindanao. There is also a contention on adding new territories through a resolution of local government unit or a petition by at least 10% of qualified voters in a respective area.

“The main concern of PLM, however, is to ensure that the Bangsamoro agreement will also enhance the rights and representation of the poor and marginalized sections of the Moro people. In this regard, we are supporting the call for a ministerial form of Bangsamoro government that will have representation based on parties and not on personalities.

“This is to ensure that the ushering of peace in Mindanao, and the economic construction that will commence, will redound to the benefit of the many and not just a few clans and corporations, especially foreign ones,” Melencio added.

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