We all want peace. Who doesn’t? Hence, the newly signed agreement to renew the peace talks between the Philippine Government (PG) and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is most welcome. Yet, before we go over the top with high hopes for peace, some sobering truths need facing.
Achieving peace is like attaining heaven. We all want heaven but nobody wants to die to get there this minute. In like manner, much as we want peace we are seldom willing to make the sacrifices needed to achieve it here and now.
Democracy is a system based on trust. Peace in a democracy can be obtained only in an atmosphere of mutual trust. Peace and prosperity go together when the government delivers the services equitably to all as they have been trusted to do.
That is one side of the equation. The other is that citizens can also be trusted to abide by the country’s laws and pay its taxes. Disrupt the balance of the equation and you have a breakdown in law and order and its consequence of massive poverty. Moreover, when trust is gone, the temptation to violence becomes less resistible for people who have their backs to the wall.
This is where one can have doubts about the talks attaining the peace this country needs. We have an insurgency because a group has given up on trusting the government. And after fifty some years of warring against this group, the government has also learned not to trust not just this violent group but all who are peacefully critical of it.
The peace talks will definitely happen in an atmosphere of mistrust. Mutual trust must, therefore, first be re-established, with convincing action-proofs of justice, if the talks are to move in any meaningful direction at all. There simply cannot be peace in the country without justice, without it first becoming the binding element in our socio-economic structure.
Consequently, it is the government that must first establish itself as an entity that can be trusted to rule justly. For instance, the amnesty offered to rebels does not preclude punishment for crimes committed. So what about government personalities who violated the rights of persons who oppose the government on ideological grounds? Will the government prove trust by also penalizing these people?
The insurgency is a reaction to government’s failure to establish a just and fair society. Government broke the bond of trust first and must therefore reestablish it for any peace talks to be viable.
Yet this is not to say the other side does not have any obligation to show they can be trusted. They must also prove that approaching the peace talks table is not a mere tactical move designed to gain them an opportunity to reorganize for a more effective conduct of their protracted armed struggle.
How the two entities show and prove they can trust each other is the big question. On it hinges the success of the peace talks. These will go nowhere without mutual trust.