Beware the Warhawks; Rabid Terror-Tagging Worsens Armed Conflict

Pilgrims For Peace  Press Statement
19 July 2021

The latest “terrorist” designation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) bodes ill for human rights, democracy and the quest for peace under the Duterte administration. The warhawks are hell-bent on killing peace negotiations and instead pursuing all-out war in the government counterinsurgency program as well as casting a wide net of suppression against all opposition and dissent through state terror as embodied in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

We call attention to how this designation of the NDFP as a “terrorist” organization can only intensify the nefarious red-baiting/ terrorist-tagging by the National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) with dire implications on and further deterioration of the human rights situation and constriction of democratic space in the country.

Such designation directly contravenes a basic tenet of peace advocacy — to address the roots of the armed conflict through earnest peace negotiations. There is no doubt that the Philippines is a struggling democracy with brighter and dimmer eras of nurturing and upholding human rights, justice and peace by addressing the concerns of the toiling majority. The Duterte administration, however, has achieved a level of notoriety with regard to grievous and gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The daily killings by state forces are indicative of policies of state terror. Whether through Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs,” the killings and arrests of activists under dubious and injudicious search warrants, the forcible closure of hundreds of lumad schools, or the regular threats of violence from a President who even threatens to jail those who hesitate to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the militarist Duterte administration disregards and opposes the basic principle that peace is built on justice for it to endure. Furthermore, by designating those who have stepped forward to engage in peace negotiations as “terrorist,” the Duterte administration is blatantly acting against the principle and practice of peacebuilding.

President Duterte, instead, announces a run for Vice-President under the false premise that he can keep at bay accountability for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court as well as through domestic judicial proceedings. It is clear that this government is not interested in building peace, but instead prefers to bloody the streets and fill the jails in a bid to cow the Filipino people and impose a dynastic, authoritarian rule.

The Anti-Terrorism Council may have managed to drive a final nail into the coffin of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks by designating the NDFP as “terrorist,” but as peace advocates, we cannot give up. We look forward to the national elections in 2022 when this anti-peace administration can be terminated and replaced with new leaders who are committed to resolving the roots of the armed conflict through peace negotiations with the NDFP. The peace agenda will be among our top priorities as we campaign and cast our votes. A just peace in our nation depends on it; otherwise, the reign of state terror can only further stoke discontent and fuel dissent among our people.

Indeed, building a just peace is the only way forward!

Rev. Ritchie Masegman, Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace 0928-385-4123