July 20, 2017
The people demand the peace talks to continue because there is an urgent need to address the roots of the armed conflict. There is need for fundamental socio-economic reforms.
The fighting is not being carried out by one side alone. The AFP, under Martial Law, has carried out military campaigns against communities not even related to the conflict in Marawi. There have been attacks on schools, displacement of civilians, extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and other violations. The AFP has not stopped its all-out war against the revolutionary forces. Even the latest temporary cessation of armed offensives in Mindanao offered by the NDF last June 19, at the height of the Marawi crisis, was not reciprocated by the AFP. The fighting in Mindanao has since raged on.
The point of the peace talks is to find a way for the fighting to stop by agreeing on and implementing basic reforms. Thus, insisting that the fighting stop before even the talks on reforms can proceed goes against the very nature of the talks. It puts the cart before the horse, so to speak.
More than the NPA attacks, it is Martial Law which has created the most negative effect on the talks. The President says that ML is not intended against the NPA. However, the AFP has from the onset, used ML against the NPA. How could there be no fighting if such is the case? How can Martial Law not be a factor in the peace talks?
What is at stake here is the prospect of a just peace. This is bigger than the ceasefire issue which we know to be always unstable if there are no basic reforms. As we have observed since last year, even when there was a ceasefire in place, military operations against civilian communities continued. The best way to secure peace is to move forward with the substantive agenda.
The SONA is fast approaching. When the President speaks on Monday, it will be against the backdrop of the war in Marawi, Martial Law in Mindanao, an uncertain peace process with the NDFP, and thousands protesting outside Congress against the anti-national and anti-people policies of the regime. ###