Closing Speech of Gov’t Chief Negotiator Alexander Padilla for the Current Round of GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF Peace Talks

Dear friends, colleagues, good evening.

Tonight concludes a week of hard bargaining between our two Panels, GPH and NDF, and up to the last minute, literally, we were not sure whether we could come to terms enough to move the peace process to another round.

Perhaps the process is weighed down too much by the pain and baggage of the past that will clearly take many more rounds of negotiations to overcome.

The GPH panel is committed to stay the course of peace. The goal of a just and enduring peace has compelled us to come to the table; and to stay at the table.

Our commonalities have propelled the process forward. Our common ground includes an abiding love of country; a commitment to our countrymen and women to still the guns of war so that we, our children and our children’s children, can start afresh and marshal all our resources to build our nation; and a pledge to ourselves to unlearn the language of war and open ourselves to the imperatives of peace.

What difference does a peace settlement make in the life of a country and its people? All the difference in the world. But let me be more modest and ask: what difference does one week make for this and future generations? It is the difference between a door shut tight and windows opening to let fresh air in, dissipating the cobwebs, and reminding us of a time when all of us, across the bargaining table, shared in the vision of a Philippines that is free, fair and sovereign.

Waging war is hard but waging peace is tougher. Last month’s ‘informals’ and the past week’s hard bargaining provide ample proof of the glitches that have snagged negotiations and the turbulence that lies ahead. The path TO peace, the path OF peace is not an easy one. But we have a few things going for us.

Our tour yesterday showed us how the Vikings, those fearsome warriors, ventured far and wide because they stayed the course, how the Vikings, with a healthy streak of pacifism, initiated trade, launched enterprises and founded settlements throughout Europe. The Viking challenge to us is to produce our Knuts and Tures and Ainas and Idas, not after many generations, but to transmute our warmongering and our hawkish tendencies into peace advocacy and activism within OUR generation.

A week ago, we in the GPH panel shared the sense of dread articulated by peace adviser Ging Deles about these talks becoming the end of the beginning, a dead end with both sides unforgiving and, in the process, making losers of us all.

Though we are not certain how this first formal round will end, let me just say that in the past days, we have done the following:

-We have agreed on a joint statement that expresses our common achievements and aspirations;

-We have agreed on a timeframe of 18 months to produce the substantive agreements—on socio-economic reforms, on political and constitutional reforms, and on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, leading to a final political settlement;

-We have reactivated the reciprocal working committees on social and economic reforms which shall soon be consulting with stakeholders;

-We have convened the working groups on political and constitutional reforms or PCR, leading to eventual formation of the reciprocal working group on PCR;

-We have reconvened the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law paving the way for the JMC’s full operations;

-We have undertaken unilateral ceasefires for the duration of the talks, as one of several confidence building measures that facilitated the participation of NDFP consultants Raffy Baylosis, Beth Principe and Randy Echanis in our talks. On the other hand, the NPA has released a former soldiers and two policemen, namely, retired Army Sgt. Mario Veluz, PO3 Jorge Sabatin and PO3 Jervel Tugade, all from Mindanao;

And so, friends and colleagues, tonight finds us on uncertain terrain, on the zigzag path to peace. It will be hard, harder, perhaps, than anything else we have done in our lives to stay the course. Which, in the first place, asks us to keep faith in the process. Are we up to this?

But we have taken the first step. And having taken that first step, are we ready for the next steps until, finally, we shall have signed a peace pact? That will be the easy part. Implementing it will be tougher.

But having spent this week breaking bread, arguing over grammar and syntax, periods and paragraphs, singing karaoke together, we know that comrades in arms can make the best comrades in peace, that is, if they so wish and they so will.

May I therefore say Mabuhay! First to our RNG friends who do their Viking ancestors proud in helping nurture and facilitate this difficult process; second, to the NDFP panel, including Joma and Ka Louie, Julie and Coni, Fidel and Raffy, Nonoy and Danny, and their younger generation, whom, we trust, also believe that what unites us is infinitely stronger and deeper than what divides us. And last, but not least, to the members of our own GHP delegation who have given of their utmost, Filipinos and patriots, above all.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino! Maraming salamat at magandang gabi.#

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