Now is the time to reimagine pursuit of peace
After nearly four decades, we have come to the sad admission that our collective efforts and the citizens’ peace missions that we had undertaken with others through the years have to a large extent fallen on deaf ears.
We have failed miserably to convey a more compelling message to members of both negotiating panels of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that a permanent cessation of hostilities through a negotiated political settlement was imperative to end a fratricidal war that has been waged “in the name of the people.”
What both sides have failed to grasp, however, is that we have a potential “peace team” of millions of Filipinos who aspire to live in a country at peace, and whose energies we can unleash to turn a new leaf as a people.
In the aftermath of the People Power experience and in the succeeding decades, proposed citizens’ peace agenda that had been laboriously crafted by concerted assemblies of peace advocates in the National Peace Conference and the Waging Peace gatherings were regularly conveyed to both conflict parties, insisting that the time to build a just and lasting peace had come.
But years, no, decades, have passed and we remain trapped in a seemingly unending war.
Today, our country confronts a vicious contagion that threatens in the long run to break down our fragile health system. At the same time, we face an uncertain future where the livelihoods of numerous people have either been lost or endangered, pushing more people into poverty and hunger.
However, this terrible situation likewise presents a rare chance like never before to focus singly and wholly on addressing our people’s health concerns and our common aspirations to reduce both poverty and inequality in our midst. It offers us an “opportune moment” to heal the wounds of war.
Fellow citizens, we do not think that another opportunity such as this can present itself in our lifetime. It is a historic moment to show wisdom and courage in the pursuit of a durable peace that our people fully deserve.
The way we respond to our challenges today will define us and our country. It will demonstrate who we truly are, and who the Filipino can be.
History will be a harsh judge if we fail to take up this immense responsibility to dismantle the apparatus of war and begin to build a different mindset at this late hour.
Now, indeed, is the time to rewrite a different story, turn the page, and never turn back.
Former Sen. Bobby Tañada and Prof. Ed Garcia
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