Tuesday, 27 September 2016. The All-Out-Peace network representatives had a meeting with Sec. Hernani Agsalud Braganza — panel member of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) supervising the Reciprocal Working Committee on Ceasefire). USec. Braganza was accompanied by Atty. Antonio Arellano (GRP panel member), Lt.Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero (Commanding Officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP), and Maj.Gen. Rafael Valencia (Commanding Officer, 10th Infantry Division, AFP). The meeting was about the civil society’s proposed ceasefire mechanism in the Peace Process between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Earlier, representatives of various civil society organizations met to listen to each other and to strategize how CSOs might contribute towards an effective ceasefire mechanism on the ground. We reviewed our experience with the unarmed, civilian-based ceasefire-watch and monitoring mechanics in the conflict between the GRP and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The All Out Peace Network eventually submitted the following document to both the GRP and NDFP Peace Negotiating Panels.
THE CEASEFIRE IMPERATIVE
Civil Society Statement to the Resumption of the GPH-NDFP Formal Talks
August 20, 2016
After a six-year impasse, the June meeting in Oslo signaled a renewed commitment and gave an overwhelming fresh mandate towards talking peace between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Communist party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army/National Democratic Front (NDFP).
And despite the aborted unilateral ceasefire declarations and the recent heated tussle of positions in social media by the principals, no one yet is throwing the proverbial ‘towel’ – in fact, formal talks will resume days from now with the released NDFP consultants joining the table.
Thus, we, from the civil society, fully support this dialogue momentum and appeal to both parties in conflict to stay the course in recalibrating the talks. And the ‘litmus test’ at the moment is putting into effect the ‘ceasefire imperative’.
We then collectively declare the following principles and perspectives :
- That ceasefire is a crucial step to provide a ‘breathing space’ so that negotiations can proceed to discuss the other substantive agenda in the political settlement, while other attendant issues as a result of the armed conflict can now fully be addressed such as internal displacement and rehabilitation of conflict affected areas;
- That the peace advocates and international actors who also form part of the peace constituency will be able to do peacebuilding and conflict prevention when guided by a stable ceasefire agreement. We believe that an international third party will lend credence to the process, and guarantee security of the survivors and communities-at-risk;
- That the counter insurgency program of the government and the military for many years, focused on the indigenous communities. In the same vein, the communist revolution has also been indigenized. The armed conflict virtually turned their ancestral domains as staging ground with IPs as ‘victims of war and violence’. The ‘tribal defense system’ was corrupted as manifested by forced displacements and recruitment by either army or NPA as auxiliary force, intelligence asset or trail guide;
- That the IPs are at the core in the armed conflict but they still remain ‘invisible’ in the peace process. Hence, their voice needs to be heard, and their presence needs to be felt to meaningfully participate in realizing the change agenda.
A key civil society agenda is the continuing call for inclusivity and community participation in the peace process. Therefore, we respectfully submit the following recommendations for your consideration:
1. MOBILIZE support towards a more sustainable, jointly-declared ceasefire in the long-run. In the immediate term, panels should clarify the modalities of an “interim ceasefire agreement”.The ceasefire should be community-based and respects existing governance and leadership structures for it to be locally owned. Civil society monitoring will draw mandate from the voices, issues and needs of civilians (non-combatants) and amplify other protection issues in the ceasefire milieu;
2. ADDRESS the issue on ‘representation’ and participation (in terms of concept and process) in the talksespecially for the civil society, IPs and other vulnerable sectors including women and children. While in the midst of an armed conflict situation, we appeal for the full enforcement of civilian protection, recognition of the IP rights over their ancestral domains, and the promotion of “better, protected communities”;
3. URGE the OPAPP, GPH and NDFP panels to institutionalize public participation processesin building consensus around the substantive agenda. We are only able to broaden the peace constituency when the Civilian Agenda is consistently integrated and mechanisms for civilian engagement are made accessible.
4. INTEGRATE a Dialogue Spacein engaging the horizontal and vertical dimensions of conflict in both formal and informal peace processes. Promote a “healing process” that should start in the conflict-affected communities and ancestral domains with the end view of ‘restoring the relationships’ damaged by war;
5. RECOGNIZE the IP participation in the peace process and support their symbolic call for an “IP-Declared Community-based Ceasefire” in relation to the armed conflict between the government and the CPP/NDF/NPA, with the following elements:
- Declare all Ancestral Domains, Lumad communities outside of ADs, and adjacent areas, as peace (de-militarized) zones. These can be translated into the following possible conditions : cessation of armed hostilities, cease recruitment of IPs by the state, non-state armed actors, and demilitarization/repositioning of armed actors/pull out of armed presence in the ADs and near civilian population;
- Address the crisis on extra-judicial killings (EJKs) especially being inflicted against Lumad leaders and guarantee the safety and security of those IPs who are already under surveillance by, and those in the Order of Battle (O.B.) of, both the New Peoples Army and Armed Forced of the Philippines;
- Develop an “indigenized” ceasefire monitoring wherein IPs act as their own ‘monitors’in their ADs, settle conflict and manage security issues by themselves. That all ceasefire modalities and implementing mechanisms of the GPH-NDFP should recognize the IP cultural processes and the tribal justice system.
- Create a parallel Lumad-lead task force for the safe return and rehabilitation of indigenous IDPcommunities in affected areas, while bearing in mind to strengthen the governance structure of the IPs and integrate the indigenous perspectives in the recovery and development programs.
- Support the proposition of an IP Peace Table (IP peace process)as the main vehicle in realizing all these recommendations and key platform for the meaningful participation of IPs in the peace process.
We believe that legitimacy is forged from below. Hence, we, from the civil society and our respective community partners in the conflict-affected communities, will continue to accompany the peace process – in both its high and ebb tides – towards sustaining peace and transforming the future.
The All-Out-Peace Network is being coordinated by the Initiatives for International Dialogue.
We, at PeaceBuilders Community, thank Gus Miclat and Lyndee Prieto for their leadership in this endeavor.
News story referring to this photo: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/