Proposals to resume peace talks should start with steps to reopen discussions on CASER – KMP

NEWS RELEASE: April 6, 2018

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today said the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will benefit farmers and rural folks only if both panels continue discussions and eventually approve the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The KMP issued the statement as the peasant group leads a 4-day international fact finding mission in Mindanao beginning today to probe into the alarming cases of peasant killings and other human rights violations in the island.

“CASER should be the starting point of any discussion or proposal to resume the peace negotiations. CASER is the main content of the peace talks. The stalled negotiations should pick up where it left off – discussions on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED),” says Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP.

According to Flores, CASER has outlined major policy shifts that the government should undertake to achieve meaningful social change which are very doable if only the Duterte government is sincere in achieving peace and has the political will to support and implement genuine socioeconomic reforms. The Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms have reached a number of unities unities during the early rounds of the formal talks in 2017 including the principle of free land distribution to the tillers.

However, whatever gains that have resulted from the previous rounds of the talks, according to Flores, “have been squandered by Duterte when he declared Martial Law, boosted the mercenary AFP, and started to build his tyrannical empire. Instead of supporting the pro-people CASER, Duterte safeguarded the interests of landlords and oligarchs.  In fact, the AFP serves as mercenary forces to secure local and foreign investments facilitated by the Duterte regime,” Flores said.

KMP also criticized AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Lorenzana who recently commented that the CASER is unreasonable. “Gen. Lorenzana is obviously one of the main peace spoilers in the government and only wants to continue the AFP’s all-out war and militarization campaign, as is most evident in what is happening now in Mindanao,” Flores said.

Former DAR secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano meanwhile said that “Duterte’s recent overture to resume the peace talks is a welcome development but things are definitely not looking good on the ground, especially as extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations have not waned and there is no sign whatsoever that the AFP will de-escalate its militarization campaign in the countryside. There are already 126 documented victims of political killings as of December 2017; 110 victims are farmers and peasant leaders mostly coming from Mindanao.”

According to KMP, the atrocities against peasant and indigenous communities in Mindanao and other parts of the country are part of government’s counterinsurgency campaign “Oplan Kapayapaan” that tags civilians as members and/or supporters of armed rebel groups are fair game. A total of 71 full battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are operating in Mindanao, of which 41 are focused on counterinsurgency. At least 65% of the AFP’s combat troops are said to be concentrated in Mindanao, where large-scale foreign plantations and mining concessions are to be found.

The unabated militarization and Martial Law itself in Mindanao must be understood as a means for government, big landlords, oligarchs and multinational corporations to further bulldoze their way into the vast lands and resources of the island. This is not the way to genuine development when rural folk are displaced and even killed when they resist. This is not the way to address the roots of the armed conflict. This is not the way to a just and lasting peace,” Mariano said.

Mariano and other prominent progressives, rights defenders and peace advocates, including former congressmen Satur Ocampo and Fernando Hicap, and incumbent representatives of the Makabayan bloc, are currently part of the International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao which is organized by the KMP and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties.

Also joining the 4-day mission are the Asian Peasant Coalition, PAN Asia Pacific, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) Commission 6, Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS), and KARAPATAN.

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