Church Leaders appeal to President for Peace Talks on the 30th anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration, GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a network of church leaders officially designated by four religious federations – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), Conference of Major Superiors of the Philippines (CMSP formerly known as AMRSP) and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., “to reconstitute the GRP Peace Panel and resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, respecting the work and upholding the agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships.”

Sending their appeal to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration, a fundamental, framework agreement that set the agenda for peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines(GRP) and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines(NDFP), peace advocates noted four important points of the declaration:

  • Formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP shall be held to resolve the armed conflict.
  • The common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
  • Such negotiations shall take place after the parties have reached tentative agreements on substantive issues in the agreed agenda through the reciprocal working committees to be separately organized by the GRP and the NDF.
  • The holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.

PEPP urged that through negotiations under this framework agreement “the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the other remaining substantive agendas – political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces – a more wide-ranging and all-inclusive range of rights will be respected.”

Urging President Marcos to recognize that his predecessors’ all-out-war policy “failed to resolve the decades-old armed conflict despite the investment of huge resources and personnel better spent on poverty alleviation and sustainable development”, the peace advocates appealed for the president to reconsider the administration’s approach to peace.

“Every administration, including that of your father, intensified its respective counter-insurgency program aimed at defeating the communist rebellion. Despite the massive campaigns implemented by these administrations to end this armed conflict, it has continued to rage particularly in the countryside causing internal displacement in the most vulnerable communities. This long running conflict only mirrors how deeply embedded are its roots in social injustice. Can there be peace without justice and meaningful change in the lives of the majority of our people who continue to wallow in poverty and misery?” the PEPP said.

The church leaders pointed out that one administration stood out among others, “Former President Fidel V. Ramos, ironically one of the generals under your father and also his cousin, laid the foundations of peace initiatives with various armed groups including that between the GRP and NDFP,” the PEPP said.

In the Senate on August 30, 2022, Senator Loren Legarda also mentioned the legacy of peace of the late President Ramos and expressed her hope for peace negotiations to be revived, “so that the common goal of the leaders of our country, whether we are elected in the Senate, or even working with the grassroots organizations deemed subversive or Left by government but not really proven, can work together towards more equity, peace, and authentic, real reforms in the countryside.”

Likewise, a Pulse Asia Survey conducted on June 24 to 27, 2022, indicated that promoting peace is number eight in the top 10 most urgent issues that Filipinos want the Marcos Jr. administration to prioritize.

Advocating for formal peace talks at the national level as the roots of the armed conflict in the country—which include poverty, landlessness, inaccessibility to services and inequitable distribution of resources—demand a comprehensive and systemic response, the PEPP urged both parties to return to the negotiating table. They said that peace negotiations hold “the potential to mitigate the human rights violations and the loss of lives consequent to this armed conflict.”

“We are committed to work together for the common advocacy of achieving a just and enduring peace in our country,” the group said. ##