Members from the Philippine Government’s Peace Panel held a press conference at the Pakighinabi Room of the Ateneo de Davao’s Community Center last Tuesday afternoon to discuss the ongoing peace process between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP.
Atty. Antonio Arellano, Atty. Angela Librado, and Atty. Rene Sarmiento from the peace panel were present during the press conference.
Arellano explained the need for clarification about issues relating to the ongoing peace process including the possible release of political detainees within the next few weeks.
“In the past days, there have been a lot of misunderstanding and confusion on some of the news that came out with regards to the releases issue and the ceasefire agreement. I think there is a need for us to clarify this so that eventually the public can be better informed as to what is the real situation as far as the peace talks in relation to the matter of releases and ceasefire agreements are concerned,” he elaborated.
Sarmiento said that the government peace panel is on track with the ongoing peace process as they prepare for the new round of peace talks next month.
“The peace negotiation, the peace talks between the government and NDF are on track. We are looking forward to the holding of the third round of peace talks this third week of January,” he said.
Sarmiento stated his reasons why the ongoing peace process is on the right track. He believed that President Rodrigo Duterte has a strong political will to end the armed conflict. He said that due to the diverse composition of the panel, they can share their insights and expertise to push the process forward. He also said that there is strong support from the Royal Norwegian Government and the Filipino community who helped in the said process.
Sarmiento highlighted a stakeholders’ consultation at the Ateneo de Manila University’s College of Law where they presented a common outline between the NDF and the Philippine government where guests from the government, academe, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the indigenous people’s community participated. The said consultation also served as preparation for the resumption of the peace talks next month.
Librado explained about what happened in the first two rounds of peace talks which began last August.
“Ang nangyari sa dalawang rounds of talks ay pinagusapan natin sa first round of resumption; ano ba ang dapat pag-usapan, sa pangalawa; pinagusapan natin yung mga common outlines. Maraming may iba na nagtataka kung bakit nagdidiscuss lang tayo ng outlines. This is not as functional as it seemed to be because the discussion of the outlines will actually accelerate the process of drafting the documents,” she said.
She also said that in previous peace talks from previous administrations, both parties from the national government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP submitted their respective drafts without further dialogues from either side. Thus, both panels decided to unify their outlines and from their outlines, they will form dialogues and negotiations for the content of the said peace agreement.
Members from the government peace panel also discussed about other important issues related to the ongoing peace process including a possible bilateral ceasefire between government and the communist rebels to end decades of hostilities peacefully.
They also discussed the possible release of political prisoners as President Duterte is committed to do so. Regarding this, they explained that there will be legal and judicial processes and procedures needed as well as possible political settlements needed to ensure the release of the political detainees.
They also explained that there are reforms that may be needed during the next round of peace negotiations.
“The reforms that the NDF are actually raising have been major reforms for addressing which will be persuasive in entering into a political settlement. The principles behind these reforms are actually within the constitutional principles that we have already. They can be done under the existing constitutional principles. But assuming that we can agree on these reforms during the talks, we have to convert these agreements into programs so that these agreements or reforms can be realized on the ground (which are) implementable programs,” Arellano said.
“To implement these programs, you would need two major actions; one is legislative action, you have to convert these programs into laws because without conversion into laws, these programs cannot be implemented. The other one would be constitutional action. There may be some programs which would need constitutional amendments or constitutional revision,” Arellano added.
They also called on the general public to support the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
“That is why we have to inform the public that we have to work together here, the GRP and the NDF together, we have to work for this structural and societal reforms. And how could the public help? They have to prepare themselves for the 2019 (senatorial and legislative) elections. Why? (It’s) because we will be electing new members of Congress. We (need) to have the right people carrying these programs during that election because without the correct membership in Congress, the implementation of the programs would be very difficult. That’s why this is a democratic and parliamentary process of attaining these substantial societal changes. The public here is crucial because sovereignty resides on the people. The people can do it,” Arellano added.