Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have a glad tiding of news coming from the Philippines as the stalled peace talks between government and rebel groups will resume again very soon. A heartwarming news this one is, as Filipinos are now very sick and tired of local wars. It’s time that total peace be achieved very soon.

To recall recent history, Maoist and Muslim insurgencies broke out in the Philippines way back in the early ‘70s. Martial Law, declared in 1972, was instrumental in further swelling the numbers of insurgents, leading at one point to conflicts bordering civil war proportions.

The Maoist New People’s Army, military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP, a ragtag band at its inception, grew to a huge size across the major island groups along the way. Smaller factions split off from the CPP-NPA, it shrank in size in the past decade, yet it continues to be a threat to the central government.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF was a splinter group from the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF. The latter, original Muslim insurgency group agreed to a negotiated peace settlement in the ‘90s yet, so only the MILF eventually pursued the old dream of an independent state for provinces where Muslims have a strong presence. While the MNLF held a secular ideology, the MILF was largely a sectarian, Islamic movement.

Talks between both rebel groups and government stalled during the incumbency of the Gloria Arroyo regime. It was unfortunate and tragic a consequence of failed talks, as battlefronts across the islands continuously experience ambuscades and confrontations between warring forces. Collateral damage had already downsized, but it continues to be a phenomenal consequence of the hot wars.

I just hope that the peace talks won’t be for show, like a zarzuela of sorts. Like most compatriot Filipinos, I have grown tired of the wars though I see legitimacy in the advocacies of the insurgents. I myself am of the opinion that social causes are at an all-time relevance, yet these social causes can be fought for through legal and electoral means.

Filipinas has already urbanized across the decades, and urbanization is proceeding at a rapid pace. 2% of folks are added to urban population every year, while 2% are deducted from rural population during the same period. At 68% urban population today, Filipinos can better be convinced about pursuing social causes and advocacies via the ‘urban way’ of mass movements, civil society, and electoral contests rather than the bloody armed way of the old rural Philippines.

The Maoist Left and other Left groups have already proven the relative success of the ‘electoral way’ to institute structural and economic changes. It may be time now to fold up all rebel groups from the most secularly-oriented groups to the most sectarian-fundamentalist groups. The rugs under our feet are changing and the pace of change is fast, so ideological blocs should be fast enough in retooling themselves and co-directing the compass of change via the ‘urban way’.

Meantime, Norway has committed itself as a 3rd party to the talks with the Maoists, while Malaysia has done the same to the talks with the Muslim rebels. The Filipinos down the ground welcome the peace talks, and wouldn’t squirm at the venues of talks whether these be domestically located or overseas. What matters most is peace talks are resumed and warring parties are holding genuine dialogues.

So far, confidence-building measures were already done by the Aquino regime, with the release of political prisoners from the Left. Not only that, even the political prisoners from the military rebel group Magdalo were also released (the mutiny group is ragtag/no peace talks are necessary between it and government). Development projects in areas covered by Muslim rebels are being scaled up.

A nice beginning for the year 2011 indeed, as the crucible of dialogue pervades among warring camps. Let dialogue be the strategic expression, as conflict folds up and is consigned to historical archives.

[Philippines, 06 February 2011]


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