Thirty-five years ago, the Filipino people were hailed by the world for successfully ousting a self-declared Constitutional Authoritarian through a bloodless revolution. Indeed, the four-day massing up of people to force then strongman President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to step down from office.
Many Filipinos still hang on to the romantic belief that finally, the Filipino people became united for a common cause of setting up a democratic and people-oriented government and that people empowerment will reign from that glorious day - February 25, 1986.
In December 1988, students from the University of the Philippines System (UP) initiated the Di-Yes for Peace campaign in its Diliman, Los Banos and Manila campuses to call for the permanent cessation of armed hostilities between the government and three major armed revolutionary groups - the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Prof Nur Misuari; the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan-Soldiers of the Filipino People-Young Officers Union (RAM-SFP-YOU) led by erstwhile Colonel Gregorio B. Honasan; and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
In December 1992, the UP Board of Regents, adopted a resolution "Declaring All UP Campuses a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality". It resolved that "UP shall offer its campus as a possible venue open and multilateral peace talks between the government and all armed revolutionary groups and serve as mediating institution in peace talks". It further resolved that "UP recognize and support the DiYES FOR PEACE campaign and all its objectives, both within the university and nationwide."
Then UP President Jose V. Abueva informed then President Fidel V. Ramos about the initiative. UP then silently participated in the negotiations between the government the MNLF as well as the RAM-SFP-YOU. Eventually, final peace agreements with these armed revolutionary groups were entered into by the government. Unfortunately, the CPP-NPA-NDF consistently rejected the proposition of holding the peace talks here with a Filipino third-party mediating group.
For his part, Ramos embraced the campaign as expressed in his message for his Brothers and Sisters in Alpha Phi Omega (APO), "I hope that it will bring the Filipino people into the center stage of the comprehensive peace process."
In 1996, the 4th National Summit on Peace and Order adopted the strategy, "Establish the framework for peace negotiations through the national implementation of the Di-Yes for Peace - Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan campaign" as one of the strategies to "Eradicate the insurgency problem by addressing its root causes."
The campaign was silently implemented nationwide through a Memorandum of Undertaking among the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); the Department of Education (DepEd); the Philippine Postal Corporation (PhilPost); the Office of the Press Secretary - Philippine Information Agency (OPS-PIA); the Office of the Press Secretary - National Printing Office (OPS-NPO); the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP); the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP); the Alpha Phi Omega Philippines, Inc (APO) and the Organizer, Yes for Peace.
After having engaged and documented the responses of more than eleven million Filipinos, 10 years and older, Yes for Peace was recognized by the EDSA People Power Commission as the "Makabagong Anyo ng People Power" during the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution.
To reach out to schools in conflict areas, the campaign sought the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2018. The AFP and the PNP that are constitutionally mandated to serve and protect the people readily threw in their support.
Unfortunately, barely six days after the AFP gave its support, Representative France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) badgered and succeeded in forcing DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones into suspending the implementation of Yes for Peace in public and private elementary and high schools.
Undeterred, the campaign moved on until it was incorporated in the National Action Plan of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict submitted by National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. and approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Following Secretary Esperon's guidance for the refinement of the messages and mechanics of the campaign independent of the activities of the NTF-ELCAC to maintain non-government initiated but government supported nature of the campaign, the consensus-building questions of the campaign were reformulated. The question to support call for the conduct of open and participatory peace talks here in the Philippines was laid to rest.
Ernesto Angeles Alcanzare, Organizer of Yes for Peace - Bayanihan ng Bayan and now Chief Executive Officer of Yes for Peace, Incorporated declared, "We had no choice. It became apparent that the CPP-NPA-NDF will never agree to the resumption of peace talks here in the Philippines, the documented call of millions of Filipinos and the President's firm stand on the issue notwithstanding."
Moreover, the mechanics of the campaign shifted from gathering the responses of Filipinos, 10 years and older, from to DepEd to the Local Government Units and Barangays through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
However, mobilizing the pro-active involvement and collective participation of the people in nation building towards peace, progress and prosperity remains to be the cornerstone of the Yes for Peace campaign.
Inspired by the words of current UP President Danilo L. Concepcion in a message for the campaign, "UP will likewise remain a committed partner in building on these gains that keep us united despite diversity, strong despite adversity, and resilient despite calamity...", the organizers of Yes for Peace decided that it would be best to call for the people's support from the bastion of academic freedom to commemorate the fifth year of its recognition as the "Makabagong Anyo ng Yes for Peace."
An open invitation to come and visit the Oblation Park in UP Diliman in Quezon City from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 25, 2021, was made through various social media platforms.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Commissioner Yusoph J. Mando, concurrent Spokesperson of Yes for Peace, for his part said, "Just like the four days during the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, no formal program is planned. The activity will simply be an informal free-wheeling and no holds barred IATF-compliant gathering of like-minded Filipinos willing to contribute to ending the internal armed conflicts of Filipinos against Filipinos in the name of the Filipino people." (PIA NCR)