Address landlessness and other root causes of the armed conflict to attain just and lasting peace - RMP

Cebu, Philippines- The women and men religious, clergy and lay workers of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) joined the nationwide call for a just and lasting peace as the formal peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front-Philippines (NDFP) set this August 20 nears.  Coinciding with its 47th founding anniversary, the RMP is holding their 28th National Assembly at the LGC Renewal Center in Cebu City, with the theme “Just Peace” and “Land and Peace”. The activity is attended by more than 60 women and men religious, clergy and lay workers from Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao.
RMP urged President Rodrigo Duterte to remain in track for peace, resist the militarist outlook and address the root causes of the armed conflict by engaging in the formal talks where the next substantive agenda is the Socio-Economic Reforms (SER).  It includes mainly the issues of genuine agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization, rights of indigenous people to ancestral lands, protection of the environment, jobs, wages and other basic issues of marginalized sectors both in the countryside and urban centers.
“We commit ourselves to support the call for land and peace! It is a basic right of every Filipino in our country especially the rural poor such as farmers, agricultural workers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples to have an orderly and prosperous life without oppression and exploitation from the few and rich people,” stated by Sr. Francis Añover, National Coordinator of RMP.
“To seriously address the plight of the rural poor, the resumption of the formal peace talks between the NDFP and Duterte government is necessary,” she said.
“The rural poor since under the past regimes to the present remains stuck inlandlessness, hunger and poverty, due to land grabbing and displacement, monopoly control over vast lands of a few hacienderos and big businesses such as Hacienda Luisita, and haciendas in Nueva Ecija and Negros. This is aggravated by neo-liberal government policies such as liberalization and privatization of land that make way for mining operations and expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao and other parts of the country,” stated by Añover.
“It is saddening that despite promises of the Duterte presidency, the poor farmers and Lumad people experiences atrocities from the hands of the military and para-military groups in Mindanao under the continuing counter-insurgency program OplanBayanihan.Lumad schools and communities are still occupied by the military and its para-military groups, that escalates the cases of ‘bakwet’ (evacuees),” added by Añover.
“It is urgent that the welfare of the rural poor, who are common victims of counter-insurgency operations, must be protected.  Hence, we appeal for the resumption of the talks, as well, as the implementation of the human rights agreement signed in 1998,” Añover said.
The church leader is referring to the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) that pushes for the protection of basic rights of civilians or non-combatants in an armed conflict, who are usually the farmers, indigenous people and other rural-based sectors.
RMP reminded that “peace” is not simply silence, absence of war or conflict, but should be based on social justice, equality and democracy.  The church group take inspiration from the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis Evangelii Gaudium (joy of the gospel), his denunciation of an economy of exclusion, idolatry of money, financial system which rules rather than serves, inequality which spawns violence.
“The oppression, exploitation of the poor, the injustice, inequality, these are all the fuels of armed contradiction within a society, these should be addressed and resolved for the attainment of just and lasting peace,” Añover said.  ###