Marikina leads efforts to promote gov't talks with communist rebels
MANILA, Philippines – Marikina City, home to negotiators from both sides of the peace talks between government and communist rebels, is leading efforts to promote the peace process that aims to end Asia's longest running communist insurgency.
On Saturday, November 5, the city government and the Rotary Club of Marikina Hilltop hosted the forum, "Breaking the Bondage of Conflict." They invited negotiators from both panels to share the status of talks being conducted in Norway, the third party facilitator of the peace talks.
"A local venue, a local entity should champion the promotion of the peace talks in the Philippines," said Viktor Varua of Rotary Club of Marikina Hilltop. "Does it really have to be foreign country like Norway that will promote peace?"
The forum was organized after the city council passed a resolution supporting the formal talks that resumed in August, after years of impasse.
The resolution recognizes that a peace deal with communist rebels will not only end the war between the two camps, but will also address social issues such as poverty, hunger, landlessness, job insecurity, and environmental plunder, among other issues. The peace process aims to institute social, economic, and political reforms.
The government's chief negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and National Democratic Front (NDF) panel member Benito Tiamzon – both Marikina residents – presented successes and challenges in the peace talks. They were joined by government negotiator Hernani Braganza and NDF consultants Wilma Tiamzon and Adel Silva.
A challenge to the youth
Bello highlighted the unprecedented agreement during the first round of talks, leading both the military and the New People's Army (NPA) to declare separate unilateral ceasefires.
But Bello lamented how the achievement may be underappreciated. He challenged the youth to be more politically aware and use social media for good causes.
Braganza stressed that that the peace process needs public support, and cited the lesson drawn from the failure of the administraiton of former president Benigno Aquino III to pass the Bangsamoro law.
The law that would have created a Bangsamoro region that will implement the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, faced opposition in Congress following public outrage over the death of elite cops inside MILF territory in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
Fresh college graduate Ric Dagdagan, 20, said he learned a lot at the forum. "It helped us understand the conflicts in our country," said Dagdagan
"Yung iba kasi mas aware pa sila sa elections sa US kaysa sa nangyayari sa bansa (Others know more about the US elections than what's happening in the country)," he added.
How about EJK?
During the open forum, 18-year-old Christian Tabucanor expressed concerns that extrajudicial killings might be creating a culture of fear that would keep the youth from being more politically engaged. He mentioned how minors have become victims of the government's war on drugs.
Bello said there is no reason to fear and blamed the extrajudicial killings to "media spin."
Nearly 4,000 deaths have been linked to the government's war on drugs. Tabucanor told Rappler he thinks there should be equal focus on the peace process and the "contemporary problem" of extrajudicial killings.
The two panels said they are committed to the peace process even as they failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will set common rules for the military and the NPA.
Tiamzon also reminded the government panel about its commitment to release over 400 "political prisoners" as a necessary incentive to a bilateral ceasefire agreement. – Rappler.com