The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights welcomes and supports the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GPH-NDFP) saying it can “potentially address the root causes  of armed conflict, reduce human rights violations and pave the way for significant socio-economic reforms.”

“The resumption of formal peace talks does not only concern combatants and armed groups such as the AFP and the NPA. It concerns everyone particularly the poor and marginalized who had been battered by decades of oppression, landlessness, unemployment, the lack of accountability amidst the growing wealth of the already wealthy. Yet when the people resist, they are called insurgents, harassed and killed by counter-insurgency operations to protect the governments that has sent people to destitution,” explained Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director.

“It is difficult to have peace, when millions go to sleep hungry and wakes up unsure if they still have jobs to return to, or pass the day alive and healthy,” Arago added.

CTUHR also commends the incoming Duterte administration, which in an unprecedented move, initiated the process even before formally taking office. “We also welcome with high regard Duterte’s commitment to free all political prisoners as a sign of confidence building in the peace negotiations. We are looking forward to their release soon especially as many of them have been in detention for many years already,” Arago said.

As the next peace talks agenda concerns the comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms (CASER), CTUHR is hopeful the talks will paves the way for genuine land reform, creation of national industries that can help generate jobs and  uplift the workers “especially if the talks will result in an agreement to end exploitative policies and practices of contractualization, low wages and pervasive anti-union discrimination.”

Last week, incoming Secretary Jesus Dureza, chief peace negotiator of the GPH panel met with the NDFP for preliminary talks. The two groups signed a joint statement and are looking forward to resume formal talks by third week of July.

CTUHR is a member of Pilgrims of Peace, an ecumenical and people’s network that advocates for the resumption of peace talks. Last June 17, 2016, Pilgrims for Peace organized a forum in response to the positive indications that peace talks will resume under the Duterte presidency.

Rev. Fr. Alforque of Pilgrims for Peace explains in a forum why the importance of the peace talks in the struggle of the farmers and the poor

In the said forum, it was noted that the peace talks have been stalled in the BS Aquino and Arroyo administrations mainly due to the government’s refusal to acknowledge past agreements and maligning of  the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorist groups. “By doing so, the governments of both BS Aquino and Gloria Arroyo also refused to acknowledge that the root causes of armed resistance are landlessness, poverty, inequality and injustice,” Arago averred.

“Instead of pursuing the peace talks, the two administrations of Arroyo and Aquino have targeted through its counter insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya and Oplan Bayanihan, civilian and legal organizations as so-called fronts of the communist armed rebels. This has caused hundreds of cases of human rights atrocities like extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, filing of false charges, detention and militarization in communities,” Arago further explained.

In supporting the incoming Duterte government’s desire  to resolve the origin of the conflict and bring peace to this divided country, CTUHR enjoins particularly the workers and human rights advocates “to play an active  role, in monitoring and supporting every process so that the people will also embrace the initiative as one of its own.”###