By MELCHRIS CAYETANO
With additional research by James Buates and Kaila Marie Alforte
Graphics by Arvin James Luna
MANILA — It’s been three years since Xandra Bisenio’s father, Rey Casambre, was arrested and detained on bogus charges. The agony of his family seems endless.
Casambre is a consultant in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). For decades, he has advocated for peace based on justice, serving as executive director of the Philippine Peace Center. His arrest follows a series of threats and attacks on peace consultants, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral end to peace talks.
This unilateral breakdown of the peace talks has since halted negotiations on social and economic reforms, the second agenda of talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP. This would have included free distribution of land to farmers, just a salary and better working conditions for ordinary people, to name a few.
But instead of addressing them, people like Casambre were put behind bars. Others have forcibly disappeared and been killed under the current administration.
With election season on, Bisenio said she was highly critical of statements by presidential candidates on how they plan to address the roots of armed conflict in the country and resume peace talks. peace.
Lily: Chronology | Attacks on peace consultants during the Duterte administration
“I’ve told Tatay’s story so many times, but I always ask myself the same questions: how can the system prove that Tatay was a terrorist when he only taught and built units for peace based on justice. Why is the government so afraid of people like him to do this? Bisenio said Bulatlat in an interview.
The position of the presidents on the peace process
For Bisenio, herself an activist, candidates for the presidency must both have real plans to solve the social and economic difficulties of the people and commit to honoring the agreements previously signed for the good of the people.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator, and his running mate Sara Duterte, President Duterte’s daughter, do not want to resume peace talks, saying “there is nothing to say but deal with them.” as enemies because they are fighting us”. , and as such, we must defend ourselves. This only shows the militaristic approach of the tandem and ignores the roots of the armed conflict.
In 2019, Mayor Sara Duterte called for Davao City to be excluded from the national government’s Christmas ceasefire and whether she ultimately decided to resume formal talks.
While most of the candidates have so far expressed their willingness to resume peace talks, they plan to pursue “localized peace talks”.
This refers to the Philippine government speaking directly to members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. However, the NDFP has long asserted that the issues involved are national in scope and that the 1986 peace talks showed that localized talks are only used for psychological and intelligence warfare operations against the people.
Peace talks are also traditionally held abroad or in places mutually acceptable to both parties, as the experience of other countries throughout history shows (i.e. peace talks Russian-Ukrainians in Turkey, the Colombian peace process in Havana, Cuba). In the Philippine experience, the country’s peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were facilitated by the Malaysian government.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, the author of the controversial anti-terrorism law, said he was pushing for localized talks because there are peculiarities in conditions at the community level. He also said that Jose Maria Sison, founding president of the Communist Party of the Philippines, should not be allowed to negotiate.
Lacson said these localized talks will be coupled with development programs, and went on to express support for the National Task Force to End Local Armed Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which has notoriously scarred activists and those who criticize the Duterte administration. NTF-ELCAC development programs were also flagged by the Audit Commission in 2021.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo has said she wants to take different approaches to resuming peace talks, which will also include localized talks and incentives for villages with the Peace Fund. development of Barangay.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who served as an observer during the 2016 peace talks, said he was also open to the resumption of peace talks.
Labor leader Leody De Guzman has so far been the most consistent in his handling of the armed conflict, acknowledging social injustices as the root cause.
De Guzman said he wanted to focus more on the demands of the NPA, saying that “our citizens wanted land reform, and it was agreed, but it was not implemented. We should implement this.
Senator Manny Pacquiao thinks the same. In an interview, he said: “For me, those who took up arms because of poverty, their needs were not met and they had no choice but to take up arms for justice. “. His running mate Lito Atienza has yet to make a statement regarding the peace talks.
Fight continues to resume talks
Before the Duterte administration unilaterally ended the peace talks, Bisenio noted the unprecedented path the parties were taking, particularly in the aspects of free land distribution and the eventual signing of the Global Lands Agreement. social and economic reforms (CASER). She said this is where the next presidential candidate should frame his peace agenda.
But with the anti-terrorism law in place, Bisenio said it would be difficult to have a conducive atmosphere for peace talks to resume. Last year, the Anti-Terrorism Council, with its unbridled and sweeping powers, designated Casambre and other detained peace consultants as terrorists.
He also named the CPP and the NPA as terrorist groups.
Lily: Members of the Counter-Terrorism Council and their backgrounds
Lily: The “undue delegation of power” of the Anti-Terrorism Council called into question
“When Duterte signed the anti-terrorism law at the start of the pandemic, he just proved that this administration is nothing but pure evil and that it can, and will attack anyone” , Bisenio said.
Only the presidential candidates, Vice President Robredo, Senator Pacquiao, trade unionist De Guzman and their respective running mates expressed their critical position on the anti-terrorism law.
Lily: Why the presidents’ position on the anti-terrorism law is an election issue
Bisenio said, “The attacks on peace advocates show that the current Duterte administration has no interest in meeting people’s needs and solving the socio-economic problems we face. It doesn’t care about its people, and it’s clear that big business bears the brunt of facilitating profit taking – and at the expense of the people. People will resist as long as their basic rights are taken away and demands are not met. (JJE, RVO)