MisOr, Agusan Norte intensify call for peace

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/21 July) – After the Lantad Declaration calling on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to respect human rights and international humanitarian laws last June, the Provincial Peace and Order Councils (PPOC) of Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Norte are now pushing a People’s Manifesto calling on both sides of the 42-year-old armed conflict to talk peace under an environment of cessation of hostilities.

The People’s Manifesto calling for a truce between the GPH and the NDF, umbrella organization of the armed Philippine communists, argue that a cessation of hostilities while the peace process that has prolonged in the last 24 years is ongoing is well within the framework of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARRIHL) which was signed by the GPH, then known as the GRP, and the NDF in 1998.

“The destruction of the people’s abode, farms and other possession should urgently compel the GPH and the NDFP Negotiating Panels to CONTINUE THE PROCESS OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS AND, IN THE MEANTIME, DECLARE A TRUCE by enjoining a ceasefire to all parties in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),” read the People’s Manifesto being pushed for public support by the Misamis Oriental and Agusan Norte PPOC.

The PPOCs of both provinces held a joint meeting last June 19 in Butuan City. Last month, they also had joint meeting in Gingoog City to tackle the petition of the people of Lantad, a former communist stronghold in the 1980s until the early 1990s, asking both the NDFP and the GPH to spare them from any armed encounters.

The NDFP has maintained a stand that cessation of hostilities should be tackled based on the peace negotiation framework contained in the 1992 Hague Declaration which spelled out the substantive agenda in the peace process, namely, 1) Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law;,2) Socio-economic Reforms, 3) Political and Constitutional Reforms, and 4) End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

After 24 years, 40 rounds of peace talks and 13 interruptions due to issues related to questions on sovereignty, immunity of rebel leaders and alleged criminal activities of the rebels, only the first substantive agenda has been forged, the CARHRIHL.

But more that 13 years after the signing of the CARHRIHL, the implementation of the agreement has been smack with controversies with both the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) swapping allegations of violations to the said substantive agreement.

According to lawyer Jaime Crispin Arroyo, legal consultant of the GPH, the loopholes in CARHRIHL implementation is now being plugged. Central to the problem in the agreement, according to Arroyo, is the absence of a joint monitoring guidelines for the CARHRIHL.

GPH Peace Panel member Ednar G. Dayanghirang said that they are proposing a peace monitoring system patterned after the peace monitoring mechanism in the GPH-Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace process.

Dayanghirang said that a truce may be beneficial in pushing forward the peace process, which is now on the second substantive agenda of socio-economic reforms, as sticky issues resulting in armed skirmishes may be diminished.

MindaNews tried to get the side of the NDFP on the proposal but got no reply as of press time.

Agusan del Norte Vice Gov. Enrico Corvera said that through back channels, the People’s Petition for a Ceasefire has reached the NDFP. “Although there has been no official response, but we in Agusan del Norte have noticed a reduction in armed confrontations and aggressive movements between the NPA and government forces,” Corvera told MindaNews.

“This is a good sign, I hope the leadership of the CPP, NPA and NDFP will heed the people’s aspirations,” he added.

The draft Comprehensive Agreement of Socio-economic Reforms (CASER) is on top of the agenda once the GPH and NPDF peace panels meet in Oslo, Norway in September this year.

The draft is now being worked out by the GHP-NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on SER. The RWC-SER work hit some snags in June this year after the NDFP expressed doubts over the sincerity of the GPH, for allegedly reneging on its commitment to facilitate the release of 7-8 political detainees the NDFP claims to be their consultants in the peace process.

Dayanghirang said, however, that RWC-SER work resumed after it was clarified that GPH commitment to release the NDFP peace consultants was meant as a confidence-building measure before the resumption of the full negotiations in September. The counterpart of Dayanghirang in the RWC-SER is Juliet de Lima Sison, wife of CPP founder and chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)