"Think of communities, victims in peace nego"
With the resumption of peace talks, the fourth negotiations between the Philippine Government (GRP) and the country’s communist group is set to continue April 1.
A network of civil society organization and rights groups expresses relief and lauds the peace panels of the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for agreeing to get back to table.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) as well emphasizes that while the network "are happy that a light of hope glints as the GRP-NDFP peace table is back on track, both parties this time must also consider prioritizing bilateral ceasefire."
"We are relieved that the wind has changed in favor of just and lasting peace. But the fact that attacks, encounters, and deadly firefights are still happening in communities still keeps us all awake at night," Yoly Esguerra, the national coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) said.
Esguerra also highlighted that they call on both parties to put the victims of the conflict at the center of the negotiation
"The discussion of what needs to be set-out in the future is important, which is why we celebrate that this peace table is back and functional. This time, however, both parties must consider that listening and giving space and justice to the victims of long-standing war should should not be a separate agenda," she added.
SHACKLED. Representatives from communities and development organizations, in solidarity with PMPI staff charged with cyberlibel by Hinatuan Mining Corp., express their support to protect the environment against extractive industries and to uphold the rights of environment and rights defenders in Taguig, Feb 15. In a statement, PMPI calls for justice for the communities hosts to mining operations to serve as lens as the country mulls the DENR's decision to close down 23 mining operations in the Philippines. Further, PMPI welcomes the decision of the DENR Secretary Gina Lopezto suspend 75 MPSAs in the country in favor of the threatened watersheds of communities hosts to these mining agreements.
The State Must Also Exact Accountability from Miners
Ensure the Protection of Environment and Defenders’ Rights
Communities long grieving the vast destruction brought by mining operation in their communities have just seen the light of hope again.
For the first time in history, a government Secretary cared about the water the communities drink over the earnings mining operations may bring in to the government coffers.
On February 14, Sec. Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scrapped 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) across the country that are within the watershed system.
This is an even greater gift to Filipinos. We, environment and rights defenders, collectively as Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) are delighted that the order coming from the government has been responsive to the needs of the people and of the environment.
Not only Closure and Suspension, Demand Accountability from Miners
As we rejoice over this DENR decision, we hope and pray that the order of closure, cancellation and suspension will be implemented in due time as demanded by justice: justice for areas ravaged by the ill effects of mining operations must be at core of this resolution as the nation mulls the cancellation and closure of these extractive activities.
THE PATH TOWARDS GENUINE PEACE SHOULD NOT BE DECIDED
BY ONE PERSON OR ONE GROUP ALONE
Go back to the Negotiating Table
Enter into a Bilateral Ceasefire
Listen to Victims of War and other Peace stakeholders in the Negotiation Process
Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte during his late-night press-con this week withdrew from the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) and expressed wrath over the “unrealistic demands of the NDFP and its purported ceasefire violations.”
In rage, he swore to "drop all the bombs" in areas where the New People's Army (NPA) operate. Months before, the President swore that he will work towards peace during his term. Now, he shook his head saying peace may not come in this generation.
This reaction from the President, however, is a response to the sudden public announcement by the communist group of its withdrawal of the unilateral ceasefire due to alleged "massive violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)” and the reneging of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) of its promise to release all the political prisoners.
The round of talk in Rome brought so much promise and hope that this peace talks is going in the right direction. Thus, we were shocked that after a successful signing of the guidelines for Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and guidelines for the negotiation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reform (CASER) and Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR), the news of withdrawing ceasefire and disengaging from peace talks followed.
We, from the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), a faith-based network of peace and development civil society organizations, now ask both parties: how important is "peace" for you? Should peace be in peril because the immediate demands are not met? Should we believe that the goodwill and trust shown by both parties are only part of their respective strategies employed to achieve separate political agenda?
We strongly urge both parties to reconsider their positions and to go back to the dialogue table. Trust-building issues should not deter peace talks from proceeding.
While the economic and political agenda can provide a framework to effect just and lasting peace, we ask that you bring to the center of the dialogue table first and foremost the needs of victims of the long-standing war: thousands of men, women, and children who perished in non-stop battle; innumerable families who lost their home and land; countless children who were unable to find their schools and playground; communities who have grown weary and traumatized to the sounds of guns and bombs; unending numbers of victims that were tortured and killed by both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA.
Come back to peace table. Enter into bilateral ceasefire.
Peace for all of these people and communities need to be heard. As both parties profess to be the voice and representative of people, we heed you to listen to the voice of the victims of the armed conflict. Address their immediate need while working on the institutional agenda. We ask that a listening process, a transitional justice and reconciliation process be undertaken in conflict-affected communities and make it as integral part of the talks.
We ask for appeal for more openness, trust, and transparency in the dialogue. We dream of dialogue tables that are inclusive, ensuring participation of various stakeholders from the communities, the NGOs, church, academe and even business, AFTER ALL WE ALL ARE YOUR PEOPLE who will eventually benefit or suffer from the outcome of the agreements you both will enter into.
The result of the mining audits are finally out! The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) declared the closure of twenty-three (23) mining firms, suspension of five, and deferral of one.
For these 28 communities directly impacted by mining, the announcement from the DENR Secretary is a reason for celebration. The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., (PMPI) rejoices with all the mining affected communities, especially our partners in the Island of Homonhon that after years of struggle, a glimmer of hope has finally arrived. The fear that the remaining patches of forest and vegetation will be totally destroyed will diminish.
PMPI commends the action of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to protect the country’s natural resources. We hope that rehabilitation of the mining affected communities that prioritizes the well-being and needs of people over economic gains will be pursued. We hope that those responsible for the destruction and desecration of our lands shall be held accountable.
We are pleased that the verdict is out!
We now call for the immediate implementation of these orders. The communities and environmental defenders cannot afford to be complacent, until we hear that these mining companies have complied with the DENR suspension and cancellation order.
We now call for rehabilitation of the mine remnants. Mining companies, especially those ordered for closure, should be obliged by the government to start rehabilitation works. We hope that the gaping pits, dead water tributaries, and barren soils will not be simply abandoned and left to the suffering host communities, just like in Marinduque.
The Marcopper operations in Marinduque has stopped, but the people continue to suffer from its impact both human and environmental. We call on Secretary Lopez to take the lead in demanding accountability from these companies. Do not leave the battle for rehabilitation to the people of Marinduque alone. The same holds true for Rapu-rapu.
We are happy that the verdict is out!
But we hope and pray that more mining audits will be conducted and more mining companies will be held accountable. We reiterate our plea to Secretary Lopez to look into the plight of Manicani Island. To declare all small island ecosystem as ‘no-go’ zones for mining. We look forward to a total ban of SMI in Tampakan, South Cotabato, given its magnitude, and that it can become our worst environmental nightmare if it pushes through.
We also appeal to Secretary Lopez to hear the voices of our communities in Kibungan, Benguet expressing their strong opposition against any activity that will alter the physical and ecological makeup of the environment that is giving them life and livelihood. Communities like these are the government’s allies in ensuring the preservation and conservation of the few remaining forest covers we have in the Philippines.
We rejoice that the verdict is out!
And we salute DENR Secretary Gina Lopez for this fearless action. No DENR Secretary has ever achieved this feat. We will continue to engage and be with her in areas of shared vision. We will be vigilant so that the entire DENR machinery follow her lead as this ailing and old structure of DENR has been lacking the political will to protect the natural resources for a long while now. We will keep careful watch over mining companies who are ready to overturn this order. We will forever be vigilant. The fight for the protection of environment and respect for all creation should become our WAY OF LIFE. In this case the modern mantra "There is no Forever" is not true.
The PMPI is a network of development organizations, environmental and rights groups, civil society organizations (CSO) people’s organizations (POs), church/faith-based groups, and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany based in Aachen, Germany.
Lowering the Age of Criminal Liability is CRIMINAL in Nature
(RA 7610 declared the State to provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development including child labor and its worst forms.)
We are overly dismayed that a plenary session is being held for one of the most outrageous law in the Philippine history. For lack of better ideas on how to curb criminality, our law makers are now going to legally process a bill that will label children as young as nine (9) year olds as criminals.
Their argument: children used by criminals go scot-free because of the special protection accorded to them. Supposedly, this is intended for the good of our nation.
We, a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace and faith-based institutions, call our lawmakers to wake up and see sense. For wanting something "good" for our nation, we seemingly became automatons, troubleshooters in worst sense that we're only too ready to shoot even our own children.
What is good for our nation are children who are well cared for: those who can go to school, who have roofs over their heads, can eat healthy food, and who have adults who are capable of providing guidance whenever they are lost.
So we ask for what reasons should those elders in the congress would want to prosecute and kill our lost children? If children are lost is it not because we, the elders, have erred?
This bill in itself is a crime because it violates the spirit of laws protecting children including, for example Republic Act 7610, that declares the state shall provide special protection to children from all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development including child labor and its worst forms.
If this bill aims to deter the criminals, who are using children in their dirty work, we may only end up punishing the children but not the older accomplices.
What is needed is a solid social welfare plan for poor families prioritizing children's education and meeting their basic needs. The more viable solution to prevent children from committing petty crimes is to get these families out of poverty.
To our elected leaders of the land, we believe that you have children, nephews and nieces, and younger siblings of your own
. Do we aim to be a nation who would line-up our children in need of parental care and guidance with hardened criminals? How will we be able to sleep at night knowing that these young ones, needing parental care and love are languishing in jail, facing a bleak future, threatened by abuse of violence, and worse, even death, because of our decision.
Shouldn't we look for and return to the flock, even just one lost sheep in a herd, just like our Lord Jesus do? To aid these lost children to grow as law-abiding citizen, our nation's hope, over choosing to throw them in jail for what their young minds cannot fully understand yet. We were all children once. We know the answer.