NDFP rues ‘disconnect’ as AFP kills peasant activist amid fast-tracking of socio-economic reforms pact

NDFP Media Office
Press statement
7 April 2017

“The ink has hardly dried on the documents signifying the advances in talks on agrarian reform, but the military keeps on spilling the blood of farmers.”

Randall Echanis, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) gave this remark as he received word today about the killing by suspected military intelligence elements of a peasant activist in Davao del Norte. The killing took place even as members of the NDFP and GRP RWCs-SER wrapped up their work for the fourth round of formal peace negotiations yesterday.

Sixty-year old Elias Pureza, a member of the Farmers Association of San Isidro was riddled with bullets by six suspected elements of the AFP 60th IB at his residence in Barangay Mamangan, San Isidro, Davao del Norte yesterday, at 8 p.m., Philippine time. It was about an hour before the closing ceremonies for the fourth round of talks held in Noordwijk, The Netherlands yesterday afternoon.

Pureza’s murder demonstrates the urgency of reaching an agreement on much-needed reforms, especially in areas in the countryside embroiled in land disputes, said Echanis.

Negotiations on social and economic reforms are being conducted against a backdrop of mounting killings of peasant leaders and activists. To date, almost 50 farmer-activists have been killed under the Duterte government, about half of them slain since the AFP declared its all-out war policy last February 2.

The RWC-SER of both parties ended the fourth round with a firm consensus on distributing land for free as the “basic principle of genuine agrarian reform.” They also agreed to accelerate the process of concluding the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The RWC-SERs, however, have identified as many as nine contentious provisions in the NDFP and GRP drafts under the section on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development. These are on coverage (of agrarian reform), confiscation, compensation, lease/leaseback and plantations, international agreements/domestic law, political power/implementation mechanisms, land use, private insurance, and terminologies.

The parties intend to resolve these issues in two bilateral meetings and three exchanges of drafts between April 18 and May 20, said Echanis. They hope to be ready to reconcile the NDFP and GRP drafts by the next round which will be held from May 26 to June 2, also in The Netherlands.