PEACETALK: “To negotiate for the people, with the people and through the people” Antonio B. Arellano

(Opening statement of Government peace panel member Atty. Antonio B. Arellano at the media roundtable on Addressing Marginalization: The Indigenous Peoples and the Peace Process between Government and the National Democratic Front,” held at the Pinnacle Hotel in Davao City on 28 September 2016)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 September) — In the formulation of its submissions, on the substantive issues appertaining to social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, particularly affecting the interest and concerns of the Indigenous People, the GRP Panel will be guided accordingly by the following substantive and process principles enshrined in the following documents and agreements:

1. 1987 Philippine Constitution, Art. XIi, Section 5: “The state, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being.”

2. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 or the IPRA Law which addresses particularly the right to ancestral lands and their right to self- governance noting its slow and ineffective implementation but recognizing that when fully and truly implemented, the law will provide. “a crucial component to secure IP’s chances to participate in national development”.

3. The GRP-NDFP previous Peace Negotiations bilateral and binding Agreements, reaffirmed in the resumption of the negotiations last August 22-26 at Oslo, Norway which provide the operational principles and legal parameters governing the negotiations process and the implementation of agreements, particularly, the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law or CAHRIHL which affirms that ” the principle of human rights and the principles of International Humanitarian Law are universally applicable” and which in Part III, Article 25 thereof particularly affirms “the existing rights of the minority communities in the Philippines to autonomy, to their ancestral lands and the natural resources in these lands, to engage in and benefit from affirmative action, to their participation and representation in the economic, political and social life and institutions, and to cultural and all around development.”

As earlier presented, its been 30 long, tedious and costly years, in terms of loss in lives, liberty and property, since efforts were made to end the 49 years of armed conflict which efforts led to over 40 rounds of stalled negotiations spanning the administration of five Presidencies.

The efforts to forge a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict and to attain a just and lasting peace nonetheless produced some substantive agreements on basic principles more specially those covered under the comprehensive agreement on human rights and the international humanitarian law.

Today, we are again accorded another historical opportunity to move forward on our shared quest for peace, justice and development of people under a new administration — the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte who in all sincerity and deep conviction calls on all of us to participate actively in this historic collective quest which he articulated last July 25, 2016 in his first State of the Nation Address: “We will strive to have a permanent and lasting Peace before my term ends. That is my goal. that is my dream.”

The GRP Peace Panel negotiates across the small table to attain this goal, to realize this dream.

It is still in its second round of talks where it hopes to forge a joint agreement on the principles and coverage of the comprehensive agreements on SER (Socio-Economic Reforms), PCR (Political and Constitutional Refroms) and EHDF (End of Hostilities, Disposition of Forces0, the specifics of the GRP part of the proposal will still to be determined and formulated in the bigger table through a democratic and representative peoples participation and interactive consultations.

In sum, the GRP Panel’s guiding negotiation principle is ” to negotiate for the people, with the people and through the people.”

Let us all help President Duterte achieve his goal and realize his dream by making it our goal, our dream. [Lawyer Antonio B. Arellano, member of the government peace panel, was one of three Davao City lawyers jailed by the Marcos dictatorship from May 1985 until Cory Aquino assumed the Presidency in February 1986. Under martial law, Arellano was Secretary-General of BAYAN-Mindanao, chaired the Concerned Lawyers Union of Mindanao (COLUMN) and was a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). He retired as Regional Prosecutor of Southern Mindanao in 2015]