Achieving real peace

The system is abusing the word “peace” while refusing to take the
necessary steps to make it real

“Peace negotiations, not all-out war,” was the theme of a forum
that I and some workmates attended recently. It was organized by the Philippine
Ecumenical Peace Platform, Pilgrims for Peace, and Kapayapaan (Movement for a
just and lasting peace). Bishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro discussed the
rise and fall of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), while Dr. Judy Taguiwalo narrated
the state of human rights “in the time of monsters”.

Also shared were messages from other peace advocates that
criticized the Duterte administration’s authoritarianism: The anti-drug
offensive has killed tens of thousands mostly poor. Martial law in Mindanao has
entailed upped rights violations in the country’s so-called food basket, and
over one hundred thousand Maranaos are still unable to return home to their
pulverized city. Executive Order 70 (EO70) has institutionalized even more
rights violations such as state-sponsored killings, arrests on trumped up
charges, forced evacuation and bombing of communities, harassment, and
vilification against the basic sectors, activists and rights defenders.

The case of Negros island where farmers and their supporters from
the ranks of lawyers and local government are being massacred by state forces
by virtue of their Oplan Sauron was underscored. This is in line with
Memorandum Order 32, under which additional police and military forces were
deployed in Negros, Bicol and Samar “to suppress lawless violence and acts of
terror.” According to Bishop Gerard Alimasa, the killings must stop and peace
talks should be held instead.

Addressing the roots of conflict

The bishop was calling to choose a platform of dialogue over a
military approach. An arena of proposals and unity building no matter how
difficult, dialoguing can yield various parties’ commitment to common
aspirations. The peace talks in the Philippines aimed to resolve the roots of
armed conflict by forging agreements between government and the NDFP on the substantive
agenda of human rights, social and economic reforms, and political and
constitutional reforms. It was through this that the Comprehensive Agreement on
Respect for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was crafted and signed
towards 1998.

But the current administration chose to end the peace negotiations
late last year, right when an agreement on social and economic reforms was
about to be forged. The comprehensive reforms include agrarian reform and rural
development, national industrialization, upholding the rights of all working
and indigenous people, environmental protection and economic independence. It
was like throwing a chance for painstakingly formed solutions to the country’s
social and economic problems out of the window – for what?

War and deception

After unilaterally terminating the national-level peace talks
tackling comprehensive social and economic reforms, government directed all of
its agencies to execute their respective EO70-abiding plans supposedly in order
to “end all insurgency”. It now boasts of endeavoring towards “inclusive peace
and development” by delivering social services straight to the communities or
on a local level.

But poverty and inequality will persist as long as government’s
neoliberal, “free market” national policy is not reoriented – this includes a
regressive tax system, liberalization of agriculture and manufacturing,
privatization and deregulation of public utilities and goods, commercialization
of services, labor flexibilization, and unequal economic ties with other
countries.  There are still 66 million
Filipinos living on Php125 or less per day; majority of consumers have to pay
consumption taxes and are subject to user fees for water, electricity, and even
education, health and shelter; the share of agriculture in the economy is down
to 8% and falling; manufacturing is mostly foreign-controlled;
contractualization remains rampant. Yet the oligarchs are getting richer no
end, and government plans to allow foreigners to fully own the country’s resources,
services, and utilities through Charter change.

Meanwhile, led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and
the Philippine National Police (PNP), government will also be “negotiating
peace” with so-called local dissidents.

But it continues to target marginalized sectors, activists, and
advocates, with an array of attacks ranging from vilification and harassment to
outright killings.

Indeed, no amount of packaging can conceal the fact that
state-perpetrated attacks on rights asserters continue to escalate since
President Duterte assumed office. Over 260 mostly peasants and indigenous
people have been extrajudicially killed, over 500 imprisoned on trumped-up
charges, and almost 380,000 forcibly evacuated from their resource-rich or
profit-potential abodes. These are on top of the 27,000 reportedly executed
under the anti-drug war.

Sugar-coating this bloody “peace and development” drive attempts
to make acceptable government’s continuation and intensification of a failed business-biased
framework. On the contrary however, all the deception, violence, and
aggravation of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment, will only further
stir social unrest. And drive up the volume of voices calling for a genuinely
just and lasting peace.

Just peace now

I added my voice to this call through this composition, published
by the League of Authors of Public Interest Songs (LAPIS) in 2016,  which tries to express this:

Kapayapaan, Ngayon Na// O bayan
kay tagal mo nang naghihinagpis/ Problema ng kahirapan kay tagal nang tinitiis/
Dukha’t mayaman lumalaki ang agwat/ Nasaan ang sinasabing pag-angat?// Walang
lupa walang bahay walang trabaho/ Walang pambayad sa eskwela, walang benepisyo/
Kultura’t kabuhayan, sinaklot na ng dayuhan/ Dayong isip, dayong produkto at

Chorus / Kung posible ba’t hindi gawin ang nararapat para sa
bayan?/ Sa lahat ng pagkakataon, dapat lamang tumugon/ tayo na ang tutugon/
Kapayapaan, ngayon na

Lupa sa magsasaka, sahod na sapat/ Pagkain at tahanan, edukasyon
at kalusugan/ Pangarap na mamamaya’y bumabangon/ Makitang bayan ay totoong
sumusulong (Chorus) //

malayang gumawa ng tama/ Kalikasang inaaruga at sandigan sa pag-unlad/ Bayang
may respeto sa buhay/ Bayang busog at nagpapanday (Chorus)

Photo by Janess Ellao / Bulatlat

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