Gabriela hosts peace forums

Gabriela supports the on-going peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as they take up fundamental social and economic reforms to address the root causes of the armed struggle in the country.

Gabriela, hosted a series of peace forums in Roxas City and Iloilo City in Western Visayas in light of the on-going peace talks between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the revolutionary movement represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Gabriela is supporting the peace talks because they take up comprehensive reforms that it has long advocated to improve the lives of the majority of the Filipinos such as genuine land reform, economic development through national industrialization, prioritization and improvement of health and education services, creation of decent jobs and gainful wages and advancement of the rights of women and other marginalized sectors of society, among others.

NDFP consultant Concha Araneta-Bocala served as the speaker of the forums aimed at informing the general public of the objectives of the peace talks to urge them to get involved in pushing for fundamental economic and social reforms. The forums were attended by different sectors such as the students, youth groups, transport groups, urban poor communities, church people, people’s organizations and government officials. The holding of the forums is part of the campaign of VOW (Voices of Women) for Justice and Peace, an alliance of different organizations organized by Gabriela to support the peace talks and appeal for the release of all political prisoners.

Concha, 65, is among the twenty two political prisoners released by the Duterte administration as a sign of goodwill to resume the long-stalled peace talks to address the root causes of the armed struggle waged by the revolutionary movement. She was arrested in Iloilo City in August last year. The arrest, however, was illegal since Concha is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the GPH and the NDFP in 1995 to facilitate the peace negotiations. JASIG provides designated peace consultants immunity from arrest and detention.

During her talk, Concha expressed her gratitude to Gabriela for its resolute campaign to demand the release of women political prisoners under Free our Sisters, Free Ourselves, an international campaign against the political persecution and repression of women activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines.

She discussed extensively genuine land reform and national industrialization as the key factors in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.

“Without genuine land reform and national industrialization, there will be no real justice and lasting peace,” said Concha.

She added that the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms will be the focus of the second round of peace talks which will be held in Oslo, Norway. The first round took place in the same place in August which marked the resumption of the formal GRP-NDFP peace negotiations under the Duterte administration. It was concluded with the signing of an indefinite ceasefire agreement between the two parties.

During the discussions, the NDF will present the following proposals: a) carry out agrarian reform and national industrialization; b) advance the rights of exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors of society; c) uphold, protect, defend and promote economic sovereignty; and d) conserve national patrimony and protect the environment.

Concha highlighted the important role of the public in supporting the peace negotiations saying that without public support, the peace talks will never succeed.

“The success of the peace talks will not depend on the negotiating panels but on the people. If the people will not be consulted and informed, the peace talks will surely fail.”

Ibon Foundation, in its statement on peace talks, echoed Concha’s appeal recalling recent rejection in a national referendum of the peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

“…among the lessons to be learned from this is that the people have to be involved in drawing up the details of the peace agreements from the very beginning and that the conduct of the negotiations have to be communicated to them clearly to get their full support.”

In between the forums, Gabriela, together with TWHA country office, conducted an advanced training on advocacy and campaign in Iloilo City. The training was attended by representatives from various organizations that are closely working with the Gabriela Iloilo chapter such as Bayan-Iloilo, Kadamay, Alliance of Health Workers, Anakbayan, Kabataan and Bayan Muna.

“The training will greatly help us especially now that we are tasked to educate the people about the peace talks and advance the goal of pushing for fundamental social and economic reforms,” said one of the participants.