Militarized government behind widespread human rights violations: upholding civilian governance and respect for democratic rights essential in addressing roots of the GRP-NDFP armed conflict

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Pilgrims for Peace
Press Statement
30 November 2021

Last week’s meeting between military leadership and presidential hopeful VP Leni Robredo caused quite a stir with VP Leni appearing to walk-back her campaign commitment to abolish the National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). In a bid to win-over military leaders, VP Leni expressed her support to ending the communist insurgency in the Philippines through the so-called “Whole of Nation Approach.” As peace advocates, we urge VP Leni to engage dialogues and study further how to address the roots of the armed conflict in the country.

Executive Order 70, which created the NTF-ELCAC, is a militarist construct to further embed and capacitate military leadership and maneuvering of the civilian government. The onslaught of human rights violations like Red-tagging, harassment, fabricated charges and arrests, extra-judicial killings, and forced and fake surrenders are a natural outgrowth of placing militarist war-hawks at the helm of governance. Their tentacles into essentially every department of government have severely restricted democratic space, while inversely encouraging the commission of unbridled violations of human rights with impunity as well as fostering the questionable and unchecked use of funds for supposed intelligence/“peace and development” operations throughout the country.

The unraveling of the peace process under the Duterte administration has resulted in more violence on the ground even as the roots of the armed conflict—poverty, landlessness, inaccessibility to services and inequitable distribution of resources—continue to worsen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate VP Leni’s desire to bring relief and development in real and tangible ways, especially in far-flung and under-served communities; however, militarizing “peace (and development)” is an out-and-out oxymoron. Whenever those who are exploited, marginalized and under-served are further oppressed through militarization and threats of violations of their democratic and political rights, they may seem to be silenced or assuaged by infusions of funds through the military or local government unit, but historically, the most oppressed are only further compelled to resistance.

Instead of continuing the militarist bent of the bloody and brutal Duterte administration, VP Leni is encouraged to dialogue with peace advocates, civil libertarians, and victims of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law to understand their objections to the military led or heavily influenced “Whole of Nation Approach.”

By studying the previously flourishing Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) (that were unilaterally terminated by the Duterte administration), we believe that VP Leni will affirm the importance of resuming peace negotiations. This will include pursuing robust reforms and service delivery to address the roots of the armed conflict as well as promoting democracy, human rights, and international humanitarian law. We have faith that VP Leni will grasp the wisdom of maintaining the Armed Forces of the Philippines to their military function in securing the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory, without allowing them to monopolize and dominate the civilian government. VP Leni Robredo will need to pivot the government out of its current penchant for strong-armed violence and the impunity that enables it, by rescinding EO70 and repressive laws that give basis to the militarist framework and methods in resolving the armed conflict, including the “Whole of Nation Approach” that dovetails the entire government machinery for this purpose.

VP Leni Robredo’s run for the presidency frames her as a capable leader who unites opposition to pervasive authoritarianism, corruption, and a scourge of state violence and violations of democratic and human rights. Her peace platform should prioritize Peace Talks towards a negotiated political settlement that upholds previously signed agreements between the GRP and the NDFP, notably The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. VP Leni Robredo can synergize active participation and competent leadership in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through peace negotiations. In this way, she would truly demonstrate her deep commitment to building a just and enduring peace for the Filipino people.

Signed by:
Most Rev. Gerardo Alminaza, D.D. Bishop, Diocese of San Carlos, Roman Catholic Church

Most Rev. Rhee Timbang, Obispo Maximo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI)

Bp. Reuel Marigza, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

Bp. Melzar Labuntog, Chair, Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan)

Bp. Felixberto Calang, Main Convenor, Sowing the Seeds of Peace-Mindanao

Sr. Ma. Liza Ruedas, Daughters of Charity (DC)

Fr. Wilfredo Dulay, Missionary Disciples of Jesus (MDJ)

Sr. Mary Aida Casambre, Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS)

Rev. Frank Hernando, Executive Secretary, Office of the General Secretary, UCCP

Rev. Homar Distajo, Executive Secretary, Laity and Local Church Development Ministry, UCCP

Rev. Dr. Lizette Tapia, Association of Women in Theology (AWIT)

Rev. Irma Balaba, Promotion of Church People’s Response

Kej Andres, Student Christian Movement

Rev. Ritchie Masegman, Spokesperson, Pilgrims for Peace

Reference: Pilgrims for Peace FBPage: @PilgrimsForPeacePH +63-928-385-4123

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