Hopes are high for just peace in the Philippines as local and global activists commemorate the signing of The Hague Joint Declaration with renewed calls for asserting the Filipino people’s demands.
On September 1, 1992, The Hague Joint Declaration, a framework agreement, was signed by the emissaries of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). It opened formal peace negotiations to resolve the armed conflict with the common goal of attaining just and lasting peace.
“We are happy that both panels resumed talks on August 22-26, 2016 in Oslo, Norway and reaffirmed past agreements including The Hague Joint Declaration,” co-convenor of the global peace platform JustPeacePH Peter Murphy said.
The latest talks agreed on six points: reaffirmation of previously signed agreements, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, acceleration of the peace negotiations, releases of political prisoners, amnesty proclamation and ceasefire.
JustPeacePH said that The Hague Joint Declaration clearly spells out that peace negotiations must be “in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice.”
“We need to see this on the ground. Almost a quarter of a century after the Declaration, even with a Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in place, we still see continuing rights violations especially by state and para-military forces,” Murphy, Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), said.
“Ironically it was also on September 1 last year that Dionel Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog sa mga Sumusunod (MAPASU), Emerito Samarca, school administrator of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), and Lumad leader Juvello “Bello” Sinzo were killed by the Magahat-Bagani para-military group,” he added.
He also cited an ocular visit made just last August 24, 2016 by 268 government and people’s representatives to 11 communities in the municipalities of Lianga and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur documenting that houses, schools and farms were further damaged as military camps remain in the middle of Km. 9 and in the school grounds in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, site of the September 1 Lianga massacre.
These military camps have already been documented by the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) held in October 26-30, 2015 but the continuing army presence contradicts the expected back-to-barracks disposition of military forces following the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by GRP President Rodrigo Duterte starting midnight of August 21, 2016.
More than 2,000 Manobo Lumad evacuees in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur are set for the four-hour 110-km. trek to return to their homes on September 2. They want the Magahat-Bagani para-military group disbanded and demanded the pull-out of the military from their communities.
Just the other day (August 30), some 500 Lumad evacuees picketed in front of the military headquarters in Tandag City demanding Col. Isidro Purisima of the 402nd Brigade to call back his troops and put an end to the occupation of their homes.
Meanwhile a two-year-old child, Charwin Armas, died at an evacuation camp in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon also in Mindanao. He was among the 150 Tighawanon-Manobo Lumad tribe from Cawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon who fled their homes on August 1, 2016. They, in turn, evacuated after Alde Salusad, a known paramilitary group leader, open fired at the community, injuring a pregnant woman and five other children.