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Virtual Insanity

A few weeks ago, government chief peace negotiator Alex Padilla was quoted in a news report saying Facebook is “pushing rebels into oblivion.” According to him, rebellious young people are now venting their sentiments on Facebook and thus has curtailed the pool of new recruits of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Left alone, he said, the insurgency would eventually die a natural death and the role of the peace talks today is to speed up that process.

These statements expose the government panel’s problematic understanding of the roots of the armed conflict and its flawed framework in entering the peace process. Padilla is living in a Facebook dream if he sincerely believes that the armed insurgency will end soon without addressing the roots of widespread poverty and hunger. Past administrations have mouthed the same predictions and have promised to wipe out insurgency but failed because they refused to even seriously consider implementing much needed socio-economic and political reforms: land reform, national industrialization, among others. Instead, they have continually resorted to cheap propaganda and fascist military oplans.

Padilla should refrain from internet stalking once in a while and read the news to see that poverty among the people is getting deeper. He is fooling himself if he thinks there has been economic growth under the new government. Nothing has changed under Aquino and there is not even a hint that meaningful reforms will be implemented anytime soon or even within his term. Political killings, abductions and human rights violations persist.

His ridiculous claim that Facebook has replaced that taking up of arms because young people can now vent online and that they have now avenues for engaging people is an insult to the revolutionaries and martyrs who fought for freedom and democracy under Martial Law. For Padilla, Edgar Jopson, Lorena Barros, Eman Lacaba, took up arms because they wanted to vent rebellious teenage angst and that they want to connect and “engage” people — something Facebook can now replace. As an activist correctly pointed out: either he has poor understanding of revolution or limited knowledge of Facebook. Or both.

Padilla is in contradiction with the AFP with his claim that university students no longer join the armed insurgency. The military has in fact stepped up its campaigns and “civic” operations and seminars in campuses, saying the students have been the main source of rebel cadres and fighters. In any case, it can be said that many students at present are very much interested in meaningful social change, marked by increasing participation in movements for the right to education and other national issues, using online social media among other channels as tool for organizing.

The main problem with Padilla’s delusions is that he is hoping not for a peace agreement but a surrender of the NDFP. His arrogant threat to withdraw from the negotiations within three years if the rebels won’t agree to the government’s framework is perilous to peace. The Hague Joint Declaration and previous agreements between the GRP and NDFP clarify that the framework of the peace nego is the mutual belief of principles of social justice and democracy and that the aim of the peace negotiations should not be surrender of either of the parties. For the peace process to move forward, there should be willingness to recognize the roots of insurgency and institute reforms.

Instead of spewing senseless PRs, Padilla should get to work and take seriously the peace talks as an opportunity for meanignful change. Many may be unaware of the fact that aside from the formal peace negotiations, the NDFP has put forward a proposal for an express truce through a Concise Agreement for a Just Peace. The government should seriously consider signing this if it is serious in pursuing peace.

Padilla should come back to the reality that he has become out of touch with and pursue meaningful and concrete solutions to the armed insurgency. It would be a shame if the peace talks fail just because the government’s chief negotiator is “in a relationship” with a Facebook fantasy.

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