Friday, September 2, 2011

Of Ceasefire and Rheumatism

Almost 25 years ago and that was November 1986, the Occidental Mindoro Provincial Ceasefire Committee (PCC) composed of provincial multi-sectoral representatives formally launched series of meetings and consultations and the first major activity along the goal of getting into the peace process was the holding of an activity at the San Jose Town Plaza. The vent became my first and only encounter with then two of the top New People’s Army (NPA) cadre operating in the whole island of Mindoro, namely (and obviously these are aliases or nom de guerre) Ka Adong and Ka Bambi together with more than half a dozen of other ranking guerillas carrying and slinging high-powered handguns, rifles, grenade launchers and assorted ammos. The supposed ceasefire with local communist forces lasted for about 60 days. The Marxists-Leninists-Maoists armed groups just capitalized the occasion for their show-of-force parading both their potent resources in firepower and manpower. Representatives from the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), the Philippine Army and the Integrated National Police (INP) commands didn‘t show up and it became an all-NPA “roadside show”. Instead, government security forces and their officials sent intelligence operatives and undercover agents to spy on for perceived sympathizers for the reds fighters especially those belonging to student and farmer groups among the crowd. Both the security and the rebel groups accused each other of insincerity. As we all expected, the talks and the ceasefire went puff like a plastic balloon, so to speak. I was a teenager then working as a newsman of our campus paper and my well-oiled knees are still in order.

Now that I am just a year shy from half-century mark and already suffering from rheumatism, though the possibility of outright cessation of hostilities between forces of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) is almost impossible, I believe that peace is our right as a people and peace-building is a responsibility of all and not just those people who carry arms. I, too, believe that the observance of the ceasefire during the peace talks is imperative. The former increases trust and confidence for both parties. This situation is also favorable to the people living in far-flung communities, especially in our case, the Mangyans. The peace process must also be open and transparent and mechanism towards this end must be set by two parties.

Last 25 August 2011, during the National Assembly of Sulong-CARHRIHL Partners held at a fine hotel along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, no less than political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political Reform (IPD) shared with us the prospective and perspectives of the GPH-NDFP peace talks. According to him, “Every conflict has to end and range of courses should be mapped out. It is time now to find middle ground or neither side can win…” In Casiple’s mind, it is now high time for the CPP to go on political reforms by joining the electoral processes. He even added that the Philippine political atmosphere is no longer revolutionary. But is the NDFP, the CPP and the NPA are ready to accept this? Things hang in balance for them: parliamentary struggle or armed struggle? Casiple informed us further that in Nepal, Communist Party members recently won the parliamentary elections.

On the other hand, in a statement dated 20 August 2011 of Fidel Agcaoili, spokesperson of the NDFP negotiating panel accused the GPH in prolonging the peace negotiations through long interruptions and violations of agreements since September 1992 when The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) was signed by both parties. Part of Agcaoili’s statement reads: “The GPH must exercise strong political will in addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It must agree to carry out basic social, economic and political reforms in the country… It should formally reply to the proposal of the NDFP for a round of formal talks in Oslo in September 2011 and to the other offer of the truce and alliance on the basis of the ten-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace or CAIJP.

The success of every peace effort and peace talks lies in the genuine engagement and sincere commitment of both parties. We citizens should claim our voice on the process and stand up and be counted.

Stand up even when we are already rheumatics...

(Photo from OPAPP)

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