Manila, Feb. 16 – Quezon City resounded with the call for sincerity and transparency in the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Norway, as a civil society movement on Tuesday marched the busy Elliptical Road from Philcoa to QC Memorial Circle, armed with bells, gongs and banners.
Called the “Manindigan para sa Peace Talks” (Stand Up for Peace Talks), the civil society group is composed of peace advocates, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations, and was launched in time for the resumption of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations in Oslo. The negotiations is under the auspices of the Royal Norwegian Government, which has been acting as Third Party Facilitator since 2001.
“We’ve noticed in the past that the peace process doesn’t have much organized support from the civil society,” said Joeven Reyes, executive director of Sulong CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law), one of the groups that joined Manindigan. “This is why we are launching this movement. We want more voices to be heard, and we are united by our call for transparency in the peace talks.”
Sister Arnold Maria Noel, SSps seconded Reyes by saying that transparency should be of utmost importance in the resumption of the peace talks, especially since past negotiations have been burdened by setbacks because they were held without listening to the people’s voices.
“We believe that peace is our right and peace building is the responsibility of all. The resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDF offers an opportunity to come to terms with the country’s best interests and work for peace that had eluded us for so long,” said Sr. Noel.
“We have seen that not much progress can be reported with regards to the compliance of the Philippine government with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines said in a statement.
Also, it said the country has failed to comply with a set of recommendations the UN made on how to prevent torture and other cruel treatment in the country.
The group said that in its alternative report to the UN Committee Against Torture, it indicated the use of torture is widespread in the country.
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) urged the President to certify as urgent the passage of a bill seeking to make enforced disappearance a crime and the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
In a statement, PAHRA said enforced or involuntary disappearances are grave human rights violations that must be criminalized, and that any delay in the passage of a law to that effect would only embolden perpetrators of such acts.