Author Archives: Philippine Peace Center

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

Peace Advocates to VP Leni: NTF-ELCAC and EO 70 are beyond Repair

Usapang Peace Talks
28 November 2021

Although Vice President Leni Robredo’s continued engagement with the public to tackle topics related to the ongoing communist insurgency and the quest to achieve a just and lasting peace has to be acknowledged, her recent comments about the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are rather disheartening. Her remarks made on 26 November 2021, before an audience of military officials, that express support for the NTF-ELCAC’s mandate mark a surprising turnaround considering her earlier stance, which sought the agency’s abolition. ACT for PEACE, an alliance of peace advocates in the academe, hopes that the vice president would revisit her previous pronouncements because the NTF-ELCAC and Executive Order (EO) No. 70, which gives the agency its mandate, are beyond repair and need to be junked, not simply because of the carelessness of a rotten few within the institution but more importantly due to the culture of murderous impunity embedded in their very core.

The NTF-ELCAC’s mandate does not and cannot allow the agency, or any replacement institution for that matter, to implement a campaign that will address the roots of the armed conflict. The nature of EO 70 enables the militarization of the bureaucracy, instrumentalizing both civilian-led executive departments and state security forces in an all-out campaign against everyone it considers a threat, without discriminating between armed combatants and civilians. The spree of red tagging is just the tip of the iceberg; the spate of unjust arrests, sham displays of “rebel returnees,” and extrajudicial killings rationalized as part of its anti-insurgency campaign, coupled with the misuse of gargantuan public funds parked in various agencies, should already be more than enough proof to show the NTF-ELCAC’s irreparable ruthlessness. And yet despite its all-encompassing nature, it has practically zero accountability to the public.

Speaking of accountability, perhaps the vice president might want to ask the NTF-ELCAC to account for the billions of pesos allocated to its sham anti-poverty projects. Its vaunted Barangay Development Program (BDP) does not address the roots of the insurgency at all because of its localized nature. It unnecessarily duplicates a lot of the tasks of existing departments and programs (as pointed out by Robredo in an earlier statement) and is nothing but a justification to funnel money to local government units favored by the current regime, such as Davao City. Rather than discuss the BDP with the military establishment, why not ask the stakeholders directly affected by the government’s anti-insurgency campaign if billions of taxpayers’ money are used to address their concerns: Is the BDP being mobilized to prevent mining companies from laying waste to the ancestral lands of the lumad, or to alleviate the plight of landless farm workers in the haciendas of Negros, or to prevent the displacement of the Tumandok as a result of megaprojects in Iloilo? Or is the BDP used by the NTF-ELCAC to finance the harassment of these already marginalized communities?

Robredo does not have to fight alone if she decides to take a tougher stance against the NTF-ELCAC because she has the backing of different sectors and progressive forces. Opposition senators have proposed slashing its 2022 budget by as much as P24 billion. Various groups and individuals (including candidates in the upcoming elections) have called for its abolition. The heads of the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University, and University of Santo Tomas have even issued a joint statement early this year to denounce the malicious antics of former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Antonio Parlade Jr. As peace advocates in the academe, the members of ACT for PEACE are confident in our belief that the vice president does not want an atmosphere of fear and surveillance to prevail in our schools and universities, where so-called subversive books are being pulled out and students and teachers are being harassed simply because they are vocal in expressing their views about socioeconomic and political issues. Rather than call for a reform of the agency, we hope she chooses to lend her support to the call for the resumption of the formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.#

Michael D. Pante
Lead Convenor, ACT for Peace

Ecumenical peace group raises concern over ‘escalating violence’ in Mindanao

The peace group appealed to the government “to stop aerial bombings as these result to massive destruction and collateral damage”

Jose Torres Jr. November 8, 2021

Ecumenical Church leaders leaders hold a peace forum to warn against what they described as the “escalating atmosphere of fear and uncertainty” in the country. They called on the government to resume peace talks with communist rebel on Sept. 12, 2019. (File photo by Jire Carreon)

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) has raised “concern and alarm” over what it described as the “escalation of violence” in the wake of the killing of rebel leader Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos in the southern Philippines.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed that Madlos was killed in an encounter with government forces on October 29, but leftist groups said the rebel leader was killed in an ambush while on his way to the city.

The military said Madlos was a top ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed group, the New People’s Army.

A military statement described Madlos as the “top most wanted NPA commander in the country.”

Following Madlos’ death, the Philippine military began bombing operations in areas in the hinterlands of the province of Bukidnon where communist rebels are believed to be hiding.

In a statement on November 8, PEPP said the bombings began on October 30, and after a temporary halt, started again on the evening of November 2.

“Bombs rained through the night causing fires and trauma to the communities that inhabit the area,” read the PEPP statement signed by Catholic and Protestant Church leaders.

The peace group appealed to the government “to stop aerial bombings as these result to massive destruction and collateral damage.”

“The bombing of communities is almost always indiscriminate, and the victims are more often non-combatants and innocent civilians,” it said.

“[It] goes against provisions in International Humanitarian Law and has long-term implications for the traumatized communities,” read the statement signed by Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, Protestant Bishop Rex Reyes Jr., Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Dr. Aldrein Penamora of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan, and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

They said the escalation of the armed conflict goes against the February 2021 UN Security Council resolution calling on member states to support a “sustained humanitarian pause” to local conflicts, to ensure people caught in conflict have access to lifesaving vaccinations and treatments.

“In light of this, we reiterate our appeal to the government to heed the call of the international community to prioritize the country’s healing instead of further escalating the armed conflict,” read the group’s statement.

The group said it “remains firm in its conviction that lasting peace in our nation will not be won by the power of war, but by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict through formal peace talks.”

The Church leaders reiterated their call for the Philippine government and the communist rebels “to return to the negotiating table and stop the escalation of violence in Mindanao and throughout the Philippines.”

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Peace advocates raise concern on the welfare of detained NDFP Peace Consultant Loida Magpatoc

Pilgrims for Peace
16 September 2021
Press Statement

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

NDFP National Council Responds to ATC Resolution No. 21

NDFP National Council
Press Statement
July 21, 2021

We hereby assert that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is the revolutionary united front of patriotic and democratic forces of the Filipino people fighting for their national and social liberation against foreign domination and the local exploiting classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists.

We have represented all the aforesaid forces, the organs of the people’s government and the broad masses of the people in peace negotiations with the reactionary Government of the Philippines (GRP) with the mediation and facilitation by foreign governments.

The NDFP is dedicated to arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people for full national independence and genuine democracy. We are a co-belligerent force in the civil war with the GRP and we have the status of belligerency in accordance with international law. The NDFP and the GRP are co-signers of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. It is completely mendacious and malicious of the GRP to malign the NDFP as a “terrorist” organization.

We hereby condemn the act of the Anti-Terrorism Council in issuing its Resolution No. 21 designating the NDFP as a “terrorist” organization and to signal the escalation of acts of state terrorism against the allied organizations in the NDFP and their respective officers and members.

Going by its arbitrary rule of guilt by association, without any fair judicial process within its own legal system to determine culpability, the ATC considers as communist and terrorist all the noncommunist organizations within the NDFP, including the Christians for National Liberation and the Catholic and Philippine Independent Church priests, Protestant pastors, nuns, deacons and other religious people.

We expect that the terrorist attacks by the Duterte fascist gang will escalate and will also target legal sociaactivists, human rights defenders, critics and oppositionists who will be arbitrarily tagged as NDFP members and associates.

We have already seen how the armed minions of Duterte have murdered so many NDFP consultants, such as Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, couple Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, couple Antonio Cabanatan and Florenda Yap, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan.

They have manufactured trumped up charges and planted firearms and explosives to arrest and imprison the following NDFP consultants: Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Rey Casambre, Renante Gamara, Ferdinand Castillo, among others.

The ATC Resolution is in line with Duterte’s policy and campaign of all-out war to enable his fascist scheme against the people and amplifies previous issuances, such as Proclamation No. 370, Proclamation No. 374, Executive Order No. 70 and the so-called Anti-Terror Law of 2020.

The Duterte regime and the ATC are maliciously trying to prejudice and preempt the petitions filed before the GRP Supreme Court. These petitions are already scheduled for decision in the months to come. The Court has to decide the issues on the violation of constitutional and democratic principles and rights.

Duterte is hell-bent on preventing negotiations for the duration of the final months of his term of office and possibly for as long as his daughter and he can stay in power after rigging the 2021 elections and using martial law to counter the anticipated people’s uprising.

The broad masses of the people have no choice but to intensify all forms of revolutionary struggle, especially armed struggle, in order to defend national sovereignty, their democratic rights and well-being against the Duterte regime of treason, tyranny, mass murder, plunder and mass deception.

The NDFP has continued to keep in place its Negotiating Panel with the hope that the Duterte regime would eventually be ousted from power and that a post-Duterte administration is willing to resume the peace negotiations for a just and lasting peace.

National Council
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

On the ATC Resolution Designating NDF as Terrorist

Press Statement by Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
July 20, 2021

The ATC Resolution No. 21 designating the NDFP as a terrorist organization is clearly intended to achieve the following:

1.  to close further every possibility of resuming the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at least for the duration that Duterte is in power,
2.  to harass, silence, arrest or even kill the NDFP consultants and resource persons and others involved in the peace negotiations and target even the broad range of peace advocates, critics and oppositionists,
3.  to allow Duterte to control and rig the 2022 elections, stay in power together with Sara and prevent his arrest for crimes against humanity on the prospective warrant that may be issued by the International Criminal Court,
4.  to pave a wider path for the Duterte regime to declare martial law and impose a fascist dictatorship on the people either before the anticipated 2022 elections or after this is rigged in order to preempt the 1986 type of people’s uprising.

The diabolical purpose of the Duterte regime in designating the NDFP as terrorist cannot be understated because this has been preceded by the murder of NDFP consultants committed so flagrantly by Duterte death squads.
The NDFP consultants who have been murdered by this evil regime include : Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, the Topacio couple, the Cabanatan couple, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan.

Others have been arrested and imprisoned on trumped up charges by planting firearms and explosives. The victims include Adelberto Silva, Rey Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, Renante Gamara, Ferdinand Castillo and others.

The tyrant Duterte is clearly on the path of undertaking a series of foul actions to defeat extrajudicially the petitions before the Supreme Court against the unconstitutional and antidemocratic provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The designation itself is at war with basic principles of international humanitarian law on the legitimate status, rights and character of national liberation movements.

The holding and rigging of the 2022 elections do not necessarily prevent the Dutertes from the use of martial law to preempt the highly probable people’s uprising similar to that which overthrew Marcos in 1986.

In any case, the armed revolution will benefit greatly from the people’s opprobrium of the fraudulent elections and the rapidly worsening socio-economic crisis and pandemic. Duterte will be swallowed by his own crimes.


A Needless Nail on the Coffin of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

By Julieta Lima
Interim Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
July 19, 2021 Press Statement

The Anti-Terrorism Council Resolution No. 21 designating the NDFP as a terrorist organization, is an anti-peace act. The Duterte regime is once again demonstrating its penchant for state terrorism and its abject stupidity and delusion that it can stop the people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace.

Consequent to Proclamations 360 and 374, and Executive Order No. 70 and the Anti-Terror Act of 2020, ATC Resolution No. 21 seeks further to ensure that no peace negotiations would take place for the duration of the Duterte presidency and to give Duterte all the advantages of staying in power with his daughter Sara as his stooge.

Duterte pretended to be for peace negotiations for a short while in 2016 and early 2017 while he was maliciously on the way of launching an all-out war and sabotaging the peace negotiations.

ATC Resolution No. 21 is calculated to arrest and kill those tagged as beng associated with the NDFP and also targets all dissenters whom the regime accuse as belonging to the NDFP.

It is a big waste for Duterte to throw away all that have been achieved in the prolonged and arduous peace negotiations, which has run on and off through the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph, Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino, Jr.

These negotiations have forged the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and have done substantial work on the most important parts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economomic Reforms, i.e., Agraian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development.

But I am optimistic that the people will prevail and will eventually put Duterte out of power as they did with Marcos and that they would put to power a president who would be willing to resume the peace negotiations for a just and lasting peace.

As I write this statement I am also finalizing my speech for a webinar in Australia on The Quest for Just Peace in the Philippines in the Midst of Raging Civil War where I shall be discussing the NDFP Draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms. The NDFP version of CASER is a clear and shining proof against the allegations of the real terrorists, Duterte and his ilk.

People’s interest and support for the Filipino people’s achievement of a just and lasting peace is so high that there is hardly a week that we in the negotiating panel do not receive invitations to speak on the subject. This has kept us busier than when there were ongoing peace negotiations.


A Call to Celebrate the International Day of Peace

Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform
September 19, 2021

Peace as a Sacred Right of People

On September 21, the whole world will observe the annual International Day of Peace. Forty years ago, in 1981, the United Nations issued the “declaration on the right to peace” which affirmed peace as a sacred right of all people and a primary prerequisite for the material wellbeing, development and the progress of countries. The UN also underscores that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each state.

In the Philippines, September 21 is also the anniversary of the imposition of Martial Law during the time of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Human rights were trampled on during this time were many were victimized and killed and the armed conflict between the government and the New People’s Army (NPA) also heightened.

In 2001, the UN General Assembly has declared September 21 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World

This year, the theme for the International Day of Peace is “Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World” . The theme underscores the need for the global community to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, “to think creatively and collectively about how to help everyone recover better, how to build resilience, and how to transform our world into one that is more equal, more just, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and healthier”. It also calls for all people to make peace with nature especially at this time of worsening impacts of climate change.

According to the UN, by April 2021, over 687 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 100 countries have not received a single dose. The Philippines is one of the countries that are hardest hit by the pandemic, and the underprivileged and marginalized groups are the most that suffer. The vaccine rollout in the country is also quite slow.

For the International Day of Peace this year, the UN also wants us to direct our attention to people who are caught in conflict because they are especially vulnerable in terms of lack of access to healthcare. In February 2021 the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for Member States to support a “sustained humanitarian pause” to local conflicts, to ensure people caught in conflict have access to lifesaving vaccinations and treatments. This is in line with the urgent appeal for a global ceasefire by Secretary-General António Guterres issued last March 23rd 2020, so that the world can focus together on defeating COVID-19 .

The Call for Resumption of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations is a Call for Healing

Today, the quest for peace in relation to the decades-old armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has become elusive again. Since last year, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has closed its door to principled peace negotiations with the NDFP. The government first rejected the results of the backchannel talks that Sec. Silvestre Bello had commenced with his NDFP counterparts in December 2019 to restart the peace negotiations after unilaterally terminating the peace talks in 2017. Then, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 became a law which led to the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) lately designating the NDFP as a terrorist group. This effectively buried years of laborious and painstaking agreements and gradual steps toward peace. This is really sad since September 1, is also the 29th anniversary of the Hague Joint Declaration which is the foundational document and framework that paved the way for the peace talks between the said parties.

With the breakdown of the peace negotiations, significant increases in armed encounters between the AFP and the NPA have been recorded and there were many recorded violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Even in the midst of a debilitating health crisis.

Various sectors, even lawmakers are calling on the government to focus its attention and resources on the fight against COVID-19 instead of further intensifying its counter-insurgency campaign. These calls came on the heels of the proposed 2022 budget. The government proposed a budget of Php5.024 trillion for 2022, higher by 11.5% than the 2021 budget. However, only 4% or Php 240 billion will be allotted for pandemic response . Meanwhile the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will getting an Php 11.36 billion increase to its budget for total of Php 30.46 billion. While the education budget was slashed including the budget of the University of the Philippines and consequently that of the Philippine General Hospital. Such actions of the government go against the calls of the International Day of Peace.

It is in this spirit that the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) enjoins our people to celebrate the International Day of Peace and let us call on the government to prioritize the country’s healing. Let us also call on the GRP and the NDFP to join the whole world in this historic occasion by returning to the negotiating table and together put an end to further human rights violations and the loss of life as a result of the conflict.

WE encourage all churches to consider adopting the attached liturgy in celebration of the Day of Peace for Sunday, September 19, 2021.

Banning books worsens miseducation about peace talks

Press Statement
11 September 2021

As peace advocates, we in Pilgrims for Peace are deeply concerned by the decision of the Kalinga State University (KSU) administration to withdraw from its library books authored and/or published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and related literature. It reinforces the malicious narrative peddled by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, military and police that schools in the country are “hotbeds of communist insurgents” simply because they promote human rights and international humanitarian law and uphold democratic principles inherent in educational institutions such as critical thinking and freedom of inquiry and speech, all embodied in the sacred principle of academic freedom.

As reported in the Manila Times on 9 September 2021, Kalinga State University (KSU) Bulanao Campus in Tabuk City school officials withdraw from its library books authored and/or published by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and related literature and turned these materials over to the military and police. In doing so, the university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies that have constantly undermined our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace.

Since the inception of Executive Order No. 70 and the eventual creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, students, teachers, schools and universities have been a constant subject of intimidation and attacks by this entity. And the withdrawal of these books by the KSU administration only proves the breadth and depth of the reign of terror in every part of the country.

The recent decision of the KSU is a dismaying act of blind allegiance to the myopic anti-insurgency campaign of the current Rodrigo Duterte administration. As a result, these university officials are now instrumentalized in the state’s efforts to vilify not only the NDFP but also those who fight for academic freedom, human rights, and just peace, at the very least. Consequently, they have also become complicit in the vicious red-tagging/red-baiting campaigns against individuals and organizations branded “terrorist” as orchestrated by the (NTF-ELCAC). As is well documented, such red-tagging sprees lead to subsequent extra-judicial killings, unjust searches and illegal arrests, and a host of other human rights violations.

This line of thinking, time and time again but more so under the current administration, has been used to justify the political persecution of those who are simply expressing legitimate criticism up to dissenting against wrongful government policies and various injustices plaguing Philippine society.

As peace advocates, we appeal to the KSU’s officials to rethink their decision. We urge them to study the contents of the books, especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), which the European Parliament hailed as a “landmark” agreement and an outstanding achievement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). These materials are readily available online, with different sites hosting them, including the International Committee Of The Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Peacemaker website.

The NDFP has been engaged in peace talks with the government of the Republic of the Philippines, with the Royal Norwegian Government as third-party facilitator. These talks have resulted in agreements that not only uphold human rights and international humanitarian law but are aimed at resolving the roots of armed conflict — actions that certainly cannot be classified as terrorist.

We call on the members of the KSU BoR to contribute to efforts to resolve the half-century-old armed conflict between the Philippine government and the forces of the NDFP by invigorating academic freedom in their own university, as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution itself. We encourage them to study the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Furthermore, study the roots of poverty and political unrest in the country.

In an atmosphere sans the fear of harassment, intimidation or punishment, students, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders can freely discuss the reasons why fellow Filipinos resort to taking up arms in order to bring about a more just and equitable society. In so doing they may be able to discern that state repression can never be a solution; rather, that addressing the root causes of armed conflict is.


Fr. Ritchie Masegman, Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace

Prof. Michael Pante, ACT for Peace

Kjerrimyr Rodrigo Andrés, Student Christian Movement

Mon Ramirez (1944-2021), the geek who dedicated his life in the service of the Filipino people


MANILA – In 2002, the Supreme Court found power company Meralco guilty of overcharging electricity rates. It was ordered to refund around P30 billion to its consumers.

Unknown to many, Engr. Ramon Ramirez or MonRam played a big role in achieving that victory.

In a tribute Sept. 5 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, AGHAM Chairperson Giovanni Tapang recalled that MonRam showed them spreadsheets proving the excessive charges imposed by Meralco. Tapang said that they used this as basis for the campaign launched by consumer group People Opposed to Warrantless Electricity Rates (POWER) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) against high electricity rates.

Throughout the hearings on the petition against Meralco, MonRam would face Meralco’s former president Jesus Francisco, his college classmate. Monram was never antagonistic toward his opponents, according to Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. “He was very principled, and he could see the political aspect in many issues,” Reyes said.

Years later, when Francisco was invited as guest speaker for a college’s graduation ceremonies in UP Diliman, the former Meralco president acknowledged the presence of MonRam, who was then standing in the aisle taking pictures.

Rhod Gonzales, a UP professor, vividly remembered that moment. “I saw clearly Mon’s wide grin and the surprise on his face. For me, that was a recognition of the nobleness of the path chosen by Mon,” Gonzales said in Filipino.

As topnotcher of the 1967 board exams for electric engineering, MonRam could have enriched himself by making a career in the corporate world. He chose a life serving the poor instead.

‘Red and expert’

He said that MonRam was AGHAM’s public utilities person who studied not only Meralco’s excesses but also the Electricity Power Industry Act (EPIRA), LRT-MRT contracts, automated elections system, among others. AGHAM took on MonRam’s initial studies and exposed how the consumers were being duped by big corporations in collusion with the government.

In a video message, Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said that MonRam performed anonymous and vital important tasks in the revolutionary movement, as well as in the legal mass movement related to science and technology.

Sison and Juliet de Lima had known MonRam as a student activist. He joined the Samahan ng Makabayang Siyentipiko during the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and then became a “CPP cadre tasked with military research and the application of the science and technology in the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.”

Rey Claro Casambre and Patricia Corazon Casambre, in a message read by their daughter Xandra Casambre Bisenio, said that MonRam contributed so much to the people’s movement in the last 50 years.The Casambre couple said that MonRam used his knowledge in radio communication and radio broadcasting to set up Radyo Sierra Madre, the defunct mobile radio program of the late CPP Spokesperson “Ka Roger” Roger Rosal. MonRam also taught their comrades to use personal computers, helped develop portable acupuncture stimulators, and studied cryptography for secure communications.

“In all of these, Ka Mon demonstrated extraordinary intelligence, diligence, dedication, determination and optimism, no matter how complicated and difficult the tasks assigned to him,” the Casambres said in Filipino.

For his involvement in the people’s movement, MonRam was imprisoned twice. The first was during the Marcos dictatorship, and the second during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos.

Danilo dela Fuente, spokesperson of SELDA, a group of former political prisoners, said that MonRam never wavered in his commitment even after the two incidents of detention.

Archivist, documentary photographer

In 1997, MonRam put up the website Arkibong Bayan, a repository of pictures of protest actions. Long before Facebook, MonRam uploaded albums of photos, often with statements released by people’s organizations about various issues.

Engr. Efren Ricalde labeled MonRam as a documentary photographer who chronicled the people’s movement for many years. Arkibong Bayan became the go-to site of progressive Filipinos in other countries to keep themselves abreast of events here in the Philippines.

He was among the founding members of Altermidya, the national network of alternative media outfits, as representative of Arkibong Bayan.

His son Karl described his father as “forward-looking.” He always made it a point to learn the new technology and use this to serve the people.

Karl said his father was looking forward to the day when the pandemic would be over. Last July 26, MonRam went to UP Diliman. He did not get out of the vehicle and only wanted to take a glimpse of the people’s march.

“Gustong-gusto niyang makapiling ang kilusang lumalaban,” (He always wanted to be with the people’s movement) Karl said.

In the hearts of many, MonRam’s legacy would live forever. (DAA)