STATEMENT: Continue the peace talks, struggle for people’s rights!

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The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the widest and oldest alliance of tertiary student publications in the Asia-Pacific, is one with the Filipino people in calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to continue pursuing the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

We believe that there had been significant progress in the past three rounds of talks. Both parties surpassed earlier expectations. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was reaffirmed. They have also reached a common understanding on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), where free land distribution to farmers and genuine agrarian reform had been discussed.

Hence, for the past three decades of engaging into the peace negotiations, the NDFP and GRP have made historic strides, which the Duterte administration should not just throw away.

We also call on the Duterte administration to reconsider his order to arrest all NDFP peace consultants, which blatantly bypasses the Joint Agreement on Safety & Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Yesterday, February 6, NDFP Consultant Ariel Arbitrario was illegally arrested in Davao City. This was despite of showing his JASIG ID, which supposed to extend to immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution, interrogation, or any other similar punitive actions.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa’s statement that there have been “pending warrants” for the NDF consultants is void because all issued cases were only trumped-up charges. There should not therefore be retaliation in behalf of the GRP.

Also, the Duterte administration should not close its doors to peace talks, in spite of the lifted unilateral ceasefire in both parties. In fact, there had been no conclusive events for the past months of ceasefire, especially in the GRP’s part. Militarization, in the guise of community operation for peace and development (COPD), perpetuated.

Lastly, sabotaging peace talks would also sabotage the people’s interests. We firmly stand that it is the majority of the Filipino masses – peasantry, workers, national minorities, professionals and youths, who will gravely suffer if the root of armed conflict cannot be resolved.

It has been a universal truth that armed struggle is only an aftermath of the lack of land to till, decent jobs with living wages, and free and quality education, which is if not addressed, will only be of benefit of the ruling class and of the United States.

More than ever, it is always upon the Filipino people to persistently forward for a just and lasting peace.###

garlits.anja@mailxu.com sau_179