Pilgrims for Peace
16 September 2021
Released from detention in August of 2016, NDFP Peace Consultant Loida Magpatoc was full of exuberance for the rejuvenated GRP-NDFP peace talks and the work she would undertake with the peace negotiations. Protected under the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees (JASIG) and a spirit of goodwill between the two parties, NDFP Peace Consultants were speakers at various peace gatherings and shared their concerns and knowledge on how to address the roots of the armed conflict to build a justice and lasting peace in the Philippines. As a peace consultant well versed in peasant issues, land reform, and indigenous peoples’ concerns as well as a member of the Reciprocal Working Committee for Social and Economic Reforms, Loida was especially busy.
Unfortunately, the good work being undertaken in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations was undermined by ‘peace spoilers’ within the Duterte government. From hopeful discussions on the free distribution of land to poor farmers and other needed socio-economic reforms and even discussions on Duterte’s hopes for federalism, the militarists instead stirred up paramilitary attacks and committed human rights violations, as they ballyhooed the drums of war. Duterte followed suit as he threatened to bomb lumad schools and eventually declared Martial Law in Mindanao.
Efforts to overcome the obstacles to peace negotiations have been fraught with disappointments. State violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have exacerbated already difficult situations. Vicious threats and destructive attacks against farmers, indigenous peoples and workers impeded democratic space and hampered peacebuilding. Not only did Duterte unilaterally terminate the GRP-NDFP peace talks, but the killings of NDFP peace consultants laid bare that Duterte and his militarist spoilers are more interested in spilling blood than in building peace.
Photos of COVID-19-infirm and elderly Loida Magpatoc now detained at the Quezon Police Station, Bukidnon raise serious concerns for her health and well-being. As peace advocates, we urge the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to assure proper care and treatment for Loida, as she is a JASIG-holder who was working diligently on peace negotiations until Duterte’s unilateral termination of the peace talks.
We also call on human rights advocates and humanitarian organizations to check on her health and general condition. Given the brazen human rights violations, militarization and martial law in Mindanao, Loida had little choice but to seek refuge alongside the people of Mindanao.
Duterte seems to have a penchant for breaking commitments, whether in peace negotiations or in his constitutional mandate to ensure respect for the human rights of every Filipino. With the investigation of the International Criminal Court closing in, Duterte might want to rethink his wanton disregard for peace and human rights. The day draws near when he and his henchmen will have to answer for their brazen violations. This will be a relief to many, but especially for us peace advocates, who long to see the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations back on track and a just peace on the horizon.
Rev. Ritchie Masegman, Convenor
Pilgrims for Peace