“What do you do when the warring parties have left the negotiating table?” was the question on every participant’s mind during a capacity building workshop and writeshop conducted by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the Center for Peace Education at Miriam College and Balay Mindanaw, between August 5th and 9th, 2019 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
In 2018, the Philippine government announced the termination of its negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), after repeated failed attempts to come to an agreement over the past 33 years. The armed conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government of the Philippines has spanned over five decades, devastating rural regions across the country and resulting in large numbers of internally displaced persons, loss of lives, damage to property, widespread insecurity, martial law declared by Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the widespread violation of human rights.
Prior to the announcement of the termination of peace negotiations with CPP-NPA-NDF, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 70, which calls for “localized peace talks” between local government units and the local command structures of the CPP-NPA-NDF.” This is now the government’s primary approach to eradicate insurgency beginning in local communities.
A peace worker based in Mindanao says Executive Order 70 is a one-sided attempt at a peace process led by the government with very limited—if any—support and ownership from the CPP-NPA-NDF, which still calls for the resumption of official peace negotiations. The CPP-NPA-NDF leadership has vocalized misgivings and opposition to Executive Order 70, describing it as a “cynical ploy by the Duterte administration to divide, conquer, and delegitimize” and a “worn-out psywar tactic to project victory to conceal the continuing failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suppress the people’s resistance and stem the steady growth of the NPA.” With the warring parties at odds over the approach and methodology which the peace process should adopt, the armed conflict continues with bleak prospects for ceasefire.
Local people should co-lead efforts in addressing the root causes of conflict
The capacity building workshop and writeshop (writing workshop) organized by GNWP aimed to increase collective understanding and ownership amongst local populations in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur, of the concrete actions necessary to address the root causes of the conflict and contribute to the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace. Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur are home to large populations of Lumad (indigenous) people who are experiencing ongoing violence and insecurity as a result of the protracted conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government. The frequent skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDF have displaced over 3500 people in Lianga, Surigao del Sur since 2015.
The Lumad people’s education, properties, and security have been endangered because of violent confrontation between the CPP-NDF-NPA and the Philippine Army. Strong, organized groups of local women, Lumad, LGBTQIA+, youth, and other marginalized and vulnerable groups are essential in changing the militaristic narrative in which the armed conflict and peace process has been framed.
The capacity building workshop focused on analyzing the root causes of the conflict and designing initiatives to address them and bolster conflict resilience efforts in barangays (local communities). The participants stressed the importance of meeting the needs of women IDPs (internally displaced persons) through the establishment of women-friendly-spaces in evacuation centers and economic empowerment programs.
The writeshop (writing workshop) empowered local women in civil society, government, and the security sector to develop and advocate for gender-sensitive and inclusive local legislation and policies that support sustainable peace process at all levels. Provisions from the National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, and the Magna Carta of Women were integrated into Barangay Development Plans, the Municipal Executive Legislative Agenda, and Local and Municipal Gender and Development Codes. Furthermore, ordinances and resolutions advocating for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the only agreement signed by the warring parties, were also drafted.
Local women from Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Lianga, Surigao del Sur will lead advocacy campaigns to ensure that these draft ordinances and resolutions are officially adopted and effectively implemented.
The capacity building workshop and writeshop in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao are part of a four-year project supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation aimed at building sustainable peace in the Philippines. A key component of this project is the enhancement of capacities of local women and other historically marginalized groups to meaningfully participate in the ongoing peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front and local implementation of the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.