November 15, 2023
BANGKOK, Thailand—A global conference on counterinsurgency and peace in the Philippines urged the Philippine government to initiate genuine steps towards building a just and lasting peace by first addressing the root causes of armed conflict in the country.
In a conference themed “The Peace We Want,” the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) gathered over 120 delegates representing 30 organizations across the globe last November 7 to 9 to discuss the impacts of the continuing counterinsurgency war and violations of international humanitarian law in the Philippines under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.
ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy said that a just and lasting peace in the Philippines remains the coalition’s foremost objective and is an integral part of its commitment and solidarity with the Filipino people.
“And so we urge the Philippine government to honor the past objective and agenda of the peace process which is to address the root causes of continuing armed conflict in the country – landlessness, joblessness, and crushing poverty,” Murphy said.
The peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was cancelled by former President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2017, a process which has not been resumed by Marcos Jr., the first president to do so since 1986.
In her speech at the conference, NDFP Negotiating Panel Member Coni Ledesma blamed the GRP for cancelling the scheduled fifth round of formal talks in June 2017 which was set to approve an “interim peace agreement” that included a deal on free land distribution among the poorest of farmers.
“The GRP has used many excuses to cancel or suspend or terminate the talks when progress is made on socio-economic reforms. Just before [former President Rodrigo] Duterte terminated the talks in 2017, the working groups on both the GRP and the NDFP agreed on free distribution of land. This was a big breakthrough. And then the termination, which has been going until now,” Ledesma said.
She added that the GRP must demonstrate the political will to recognize, face and accept the basic problems in the Philippines and agree to work with the NDFP to start solving these problems.
In his own message to the conference, Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairperson and former GRP Negotiating Panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III said the 2016-2017 negotiations with the NDFP “were so close in signing an interim peace agreement.”
“In order for us to achieve peace in our country, we should not be signing peace agreements alone but we should be addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” Bello said.
“It is therefore incumbent upon the government to eradicate what breeds insurgency and discontent. Doing so will sow the seeds of peace,” he added.
Since the suspension of the peace talks in 2017, the Duterte government designated the NDFP as a terrorist organization through the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council and Anti-Terrorism Act. Dozens of NDFP consultants have been tortured and killed while convalescing or as war captives of the Philippine military, in direct violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).
In its approved General Program of Action for 2024 to 2027, ICHRP said it shall continue to inform its members and allies worldwide on the Filipino people’s aspirations for a just and lasting peace, self-determination and national sovereignty.
For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301