CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Peace and war are not happy bedfellows

ROME (SE): The populist Rodrigo Duterte rode to victory in the May 2016 Philippine presidential polls on the back of two big issues, drugs and the peace process in Mindanao, promising to fix up both in a period of about 100 days.

However, as after six months he is no closer to denting the drug trade or rescuing the peace process, which is stumbling towards disaster, it is emerging that the two campaigns may be destroying each other.

As members of the government peace panel and the National Democratic Front of the Communist Party of The Philippines convened in Rome for their third meeting on January 19, delegates from the Democratic Front pointed out that gross violations of human rights by the government could well spell an end to the temporary ceasefire that has had a tenuous hold in Mindanao.

In addition, it has complained that the government has violated the ceasefire on several occasions, which may force the Communist Party to abandon its commitment to holding its fire.

UCAN reported a negotiator from the Democratic Front, Fidel Agcaoili, as saying, “The peace talks should be a robust forum for bringing forward the needs of the poor, oppressed, marginalised and exploited… The prospect of forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement has grown dim.”

He added that innocent people have died in the Philippine government war against illegal drugs, which he attributed to brutal, reckless and indiscriminate methods employed by the police.

Agcaoili said the president, Rodrigo Duterte, should shift his priority from the anti-narcotics war to solving the problem of poverty through social and economic reforms.

The talks in Rome are to focus on drafting an agreement aimed at addressing socio-economic reforms. The head of the government panel, Silvestre Bello, said his team would seek to turn the temporary cessation of hostilities into a more durable negotiated truce.

Bello explained that the ceasefire declared by both parties in August last year afforded people tangible dividends, given the lowering of the level of violence on the ground.

But Pilgrims for Peace, an ecumenical alliance of Church leaders, says that the climate of impunity that exists can only be addressed if those who violate human rights can be made accountable.

“This is essential, as the impunity that plagues our nation fosters threats, harassment and violations of human rights in marginalised and exploited communities,” Ramil Aguilar, a spokesperson for the group, commented.

It seems that peace and war cannot sleep well in the same bed.

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