After several Presidents and decades of attempted peace negotiations, there’s a renewed hope for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
Organizers of this peace tour believe that current negotiations would prosper under President Duterte’s administration.
“Well, we are hopeful that these talks will continue and come up with a resolutions and agreements,” said Yves Nibungco, from the New Jersey Solidarity Committee.
The peace tour is an effort to raise awareness in the US about the ongoing peace negotiations in the Philippines, between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government.
An armed conflict between the two began in the 1960’s.
The communist party of the Philippines and The New People’s army, or CPP-NPA, waged war against feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism, and the US presence in Mindanao.
Then President Marcos pursued the CPP-NPA group, as peace and order problems eventually declaring martial law in 1972 in an attempt to crush the problem.
Since 1986 under president Corazon Aquino’s government, peace talks came and eventually fell apart.
After several Presidential attempts, NDF and the Philippine government are back on the negotiation table, with new signs of hope.
“So yung mga senyales na yan yung openness nung kasalukuyang adminstrasyon na talagang lagpasan yung mga naganap dati, bukas sila na pag-usapan at bigyan ng solusyon ayon sa kanilang mga paniniwala at gust talagang making ano,” said Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the peace panel.
Lumads, the indigenous people of Mindanao believe, the talks can succeed by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict — such as stopping the militarization of Mindanao, either by Philippine or US military.
“Aside from militarization, andyan yung killing, around 18 indigenous people during the time of duterte has been killed out of 47 yung kabuuan nung progressive,” said Dulphing Ogan. “Mga lumad at katutubo.”
Part of their demand is to rid Mindanao of the presence of US forces who has listed the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant, Joma Sison, as terrorists.
“He also promised to pull out US troops in the Philippines, and this coming May they will be continuing military exercises between the Philippines and US military, so it is a big challenge to the Duterte administration and how it can make good its words,” said human rights defender Cristina Labay.
“Sa katunayan medyo nakakalito, medyo pabago-bago yung sinasabi pa gang kaharap eh ganito, pag iba naman ang kaharap iba,” said Olalia. “Ang sukatan diyan hindi kungano ang sinasabi kung hindi ano yung ginagawa.”
Peace advocates believe that social and economic reforms — including land reforms — are crucial in this new round of peace talks in Mindanao.
President Duterte understands that the major root cause of the armed conflict is poverty.
They are hoping that he will make good on his campaign promise of change — resolving the historical and structural income inequalities in the Philippines.