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Peace, a continuing aspiration of Filipinos – Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace Statement

From Arkibong Bayan repost from Panay News
August 1, 2022

THE Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace, the largest network of peace groups in the country, is alarmed with the government announcement that there will be no peace negotiations.

Roughly a week before the State of the Nation Address of President Marcos, his peace adviser, Secretary Carlito Galvez, announced a recommendation from the National Task-Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, that there will be no national level peace talks. Instead, there will be localized peace talks.

CAJP stands by our position that the peace negotiations at the national level should resume. This is because the roots of the armed conflict in the country, which includes poverty, landlessness, foreign domination of our economy, inaccessibility to services and inequitable distribution of resources, demand a comprehensive and systemic response.

In this time of deepening economic crisis, where prices of basic commodities and services continue to rise, it is counter-productive to engage in a very costly all-out-war or a program like the failed localized peace talks of the past administration, that have resulted in fake and forced surrenders, harassment and other rights violations. No local New People’s Army command has actually engaged in said local talks. Instead, civilians are coerced and misrepresented as armed combatants. There have been many reports of fake surrenders, including alleged corruption related to these.

In a recent survey, “promoting peace” emerged as number eight in the top ten most urgent issues that Filipinos want the Marcos administration to prioritize. This shows that Filipinos value peace. Peace is a continuing aspiration of our people. For the CAJP, peace is not merely the silencing of guns but the reign of freedom, genuine democracy and social justice. It must be manifest through land to the tiller, decent jobs and fair wages, food on the table, housing, education, health and other social services. Peace with justice means people living in their communities without fear or threat to their lives and livelihood. Without these, the violence of the past and its manifestations in the present will continue, and escalate.

We reiterate that such a vision for a just and enduring peace requires a comprehensive and national approach. President Marcos has banked on the call for unity but there can be no unity in the country if there is unpeace. It is in this context that the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace calls on the government to resume the peace negotiations which address the roots of the armed conflict. Much has been achieved in the negotiations, including meaningful work on the highly anticipated Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. The parties should stay the course and advance the negotiations as well as implement signed agreements, like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

We echo the call of church leaders in the recent summit of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform to “respect the work and agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships” and for “a stop to the practices of red-tagging, filing of trumped-up cases against dissenters, and extrajudicial killings; and the release of all political prisoners.

“An attack on free speech” Blocking of sites illegal, arbitrary

BAYAN – Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
June 22, 2022

The NSC and NTC orders to block websites including independent media and progressive groups such as Bayan are a blatant attack on free speech. The orders show how arbitrary the use of terrorist-labelling and red-tagging have become. The orders to block certain websites are devoid of any due process and rely merely on guilt by association. No specific offense or evidence was ever cited to justify the blocking of Bulatlat et al except for the Anti-Terrorism Council resolutions that do not pertain to Bulatlat et al. This again highlights the dangers of the anti-Terror Law.

The sloppiness of the work is made evident when in the NTC order to telcos, the subject heading used was “for blocking- illegal cockfighting websites”.

We urge telcos to reject these illegal and baseless orders from the NTC and NSC. Our lawyers are preparing to question these issuances before the proper courts.

The last-minute orders come less than a month before the end of Duterte’s term. The regime is desperately trying to silence all opposition to its reign of tyranny. In doing so, it further exposes itself as a throwback to the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

We call on the media, free speech advocates, and opponents of the “terror law” to stand together and push back against this latest attack. The next National Security Adviser is also urged to revoke these illegal orders and to cease attacks on free speech and freedom of association. ###

National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights

UNITY STATEMENT
June 12, 2017

No to Terrorism!
Lift Martial Law!
Stop Aerial Bombings of Communities!
Stop Extrajudicial Killings!
Defend Human Rights!
Pursue the Peace Talks!

On June 12, Independence Day, we, concerned Filipinos from various faiths, sectors and political affiliations, will come together in a day of prayer and action to renew the call for peace and respect for human rights amidst the rising tide of terrorism, martial rule and impunity that threatens to rip the nation apart.

We extend our solidarity to the victims of the Marawi siege. We condemn the deliberate acts of terror by the ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. We call on all people to come to the aid of thousands of internally displaced persons in Lanao del Sur and nearby areas.

Likewise, we gather to show our opposition to martial law in Mindanao and possibly other parts of the country. We call for an end to the aerial bombardment of Marawi and other conflict areas.

As the Marcos dictatorship showed, martial law is not the answer to the complex problems of Mindanao. A regime that trades Filipinos’ human rights for vague, ever moving law and order goals can only add fuel to armed rebellions and set back efforts to address the roots of the conflict. Martial law will further embolden law enforcers and state-sponsored vigilante and para-military groups to commit even more extrajudicial killings and curtail civil and political rights.

In the last year, atrocities have mounted nationwide. Filipinos are right to protest the murders of thousands in the drug war, as well as the extrajudicial killing of suspected rebels, ordinary farmers, indigenous peoples and Moro people in the counterinsurgency war. It is the poor that bear the brunt of these wars. It is the poor that are killed. It is their rights that are violated. It is their communities that are subject to aerial bombings and abuses during military and police operations.

As the poor suffer, the drug lords, the landgrabbers, big mining corporations, and their protectors in government, continue to get away with their crimes.

We likewise unite against the dangers of reimposing the death penalty and lowering of the age of criminal responsibility. Given the weaknesses and failures of our justice system, such measures will most likely further victimize the poor, weak and powerless.

Drug abuse, criminality, social unrest and rebellion are but symptoms of deep-seated, historical problems that cannot be solved by wars against the poor or the imposition of martial law. We need to address the roots of the problems – massive poverty, social injustice, corruption, and failure to assert national sovereignty and genuine independence.

In this light, we also call for the continuation of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Only by mutually addressing the roots of the armed conflicts can all parties hope to forge a just and lasting peace for our people.

We shall continue to pursue various paths to peace based on justice and the full respect for human rights. It is our hope and prayer that President Duterte and all government officials can still listen and change.

Initial signatories:

Current and Former Members of Congress:

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag Former Sen. Wigberto Tañada
Former Sen. Nene Pimentel Former Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III
Rep. Carlos Zarate (PL- Bayan Muna) Rep. Emmi de Jesus (PL – Gabriela)
Rep. Arlene Brosas (PL – Gabriela) Rep. Antonio Tino (PL – ACT Teachers)
Rep. Sarah Elago (PL – Kabataan) Former Rep. Neri Colmenares
Former Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III Former Rep. Teddy Casiño

Religious:

Bp. Broderick Pabillo, D.D. Bp. Godofredo David, IFI
Bp. Joel Tendero, UCCP Bp. Elorde Sambat, UCCP
Bp. Rodolfo Juan, UMC Bp. Ciriaco Francisco, UMC
Bp. Alexander Wandag, ECP BP. Redeemer Yanez, IFI
Bp. Ernesto Tadly, IFI Bp. Rudy Juliada, IFI
Bp. Melzar Labuntog, UCCP Bp. Antonio Ablon, IFI
Bp. Modesto Villasanta, UCCP Bp. Alger Loyao, IFI
Bp. Ronelio Fabriquier, IFI Bp. Manuel Buenaventura, Jr., UMC
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB Sr. Maureen Catabian, RGS
Rev. Mary Grace Masegman, IFI Rev. Irma Balaba, PCPR
Fr. Ben Alforque, MSC Br. Jun Santiago III, CSsR
Fr. Gilbert Billena, Ocarm Fr. Rolly de Leon, PCPR
Fr. Arvin Bellen, CMF Rev. Fr. Jonash Joyohoy, IFI
Rt. Rev. Jonathan Casimina Rev. Igmedio Domingo, UMC
Rev. Israel Painit, UMC

Lawyers:

Atty. Edre Olalia Atty. Ephraim Cortez

Artists:

Maria Isabel Lopez Maria Carmen Sarmiento
Gabriela Lluch Dalena Mae Paner

Human Rights Advocates and Sectoral leaders:

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Dr. Carol Araullo, BAYAN
Renato Reyes, Jr., BAYAN Mark Vincent Lim, CEGP

#StopTheKillings

#EndStateFascism

#PeaceTalksItuloy

National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights. Bonifacio Shrine. June 12, 2017

NTF-ELCAC’S DENIAL OF PEACE TALKS REVEALS MARCOS, JR. ADMIN’S IMMEDIATE ADHERENCE TO RULING CLASS INTERESTS –SCMP

Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP)
July 15, 2022

Ecumenical youth group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) decries the recommendation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to discontinue the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to NTF-ELCAC chairperson President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. The proposal was announced during the first executive committee meeting under the new administration.

“Simply put, the Marcos, Jr. regime and its militarist peace spoilers are not interested in peace,” said Kej Andres, SCMP National Spokesperson. “They would rather continue the failed militarist and violent way to deal with belligerence. They’re all wasting people’s lives as well as taxpayer’s money,” he added.

Scores of human rights have been recorded under the Duterte administration’s counter-insurgency program. From July 2016 to December 2021, about 426 politically-motivated extrajudicial killings have been committed, while more than 470,000 have been affected by forced evacuation due to militarism in the countryside. For 2022, NTF-ELCAC has been granted ₱17.1 billion, while considerable budget increases were allotted for AFP and PNP despite lack of social services.

The NTF-ELCAC, however, recommends localized peace talks, according to peace adviser Carlito Galvez.

“The government falls deaf on the fact that landlessness, extreme poverty, lack of jobs, unabated rise of prices, and other roots of armed conflict are not simply local problems—these should be dealt through national policies through a president that has strong political will,” Andres said. “Resorting to peace talks show that Marcos, Jr. and his national government is ill-capacitated to solve problems on a national scope,” he added.

Marcos, Jr. would be the first president after martial law who would not pursue peace talks between the GRP and NDFP after winning the elections. Galvez said that “all peace talks ended up to nothing.”

“The erosion of peace talks has been due to GRP’s refusal of socio-economic reforms long-sought by the Filipino people. Immediate refusal of peace talks under Marcos, Jr. this early into his rule exposes his administration’s adherence to the greedy and exploitative interests of the ruling classes,” Andres said.

In the end, SCMP calls other peace advocates and freedom-loving Filipinos to stand for human rights and socio-economic reforms that are also being advocated under the peace talks. According to Andres, “we also call everybody to heighten their vigilance against human rights violations under the Marcos, Jr. regime. Usually, the fall of peace talks would mean worsening of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“What the people demand is genuine national peace talks based on addressing the socio-economic roots of armed belligerency in the Philippines. As peace advocates, we denounce the militarists who spoil the peace talks and we reaffirm the need to solve the armed belligerency through addressing the socio-economic roots of poverty,” Andres ended.

#PeaceTalksItuloy

#RejectMarcosDuterte

Reference:

Kej Andres,

SCMP National Spokesperson

PATIENCE, PERSEVERANCE AND PEACE – A book review of On the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

A book review of the Sison Reader Series Book No. 9, On the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations by Jose Maria Sison

BY ATTY. LILY CRUZ
Posted on 7/05/2022 from Arkibongbayan

Constant upheaval and irrepressible revolutions have always been a central feature in the Philippines, where the sublimely serene landscapes contrast with the intensity of political conditions amid fraught social structures. A long history of conflict has inevitably led to several peace tables, all intended to address deeply-rooted inequalities, well-seated oppression, and persistent poverty. But beyond reaching an agreement, the greatest question has been whether these agreements can really bring a sustainable peace.

That the world’s longest running insurgency has engaged in peace negotiations for thirty of its fifty years shows that peace, while elusive, is not automatically illusive. Talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) have been slow but relatively steady. So far, the parties have mutually concurred on framework agreements. With discussions now stalled over substantial reforms and political motivations, and at the dawn of a second Marcos administration, Professor Jose Maria Sison timely reminds us that the very objective of the communist war in the Philippines is ultimately, peace.

Celebrating the golden jubilee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) a few years back, Prof. Sison called upon the party to intensify the war, and at the same time, advocate for peace. Readers of the book will know that these two faces are not contradictory, but rather, two sides of the same coin.

The ninth book in the Sison Reader Series tackles a wide array of issues, under the all-encompassing theme of “on the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations”. Meaningfully, it is bookended by an interview about the 1986 elections, and another about the 2022 elections. This collection of articles and works tracks the history of and lays out the politics, as well as philosophical underpinnings, of the peace movement in the Philippines. Previously, the NDFP had published the booklet introducing “Two Articles on the People’s Struggle for a Just Peace” (2015), as part of the education series of its Human Rights Monitoring Committee. This new book is a broader, more definitive collection of his thoughts relevant to the subject, delving into substance and procedure, as well as general and specific topics.

Very few can talk about this with the gravitas and authority of Prof. Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDFP at present. As the acknowledged founder of the new communist party, which the NDFP represents at the table, he not only has the institutional memory but also the greatest personal influence over a group that has persistently clawed at pretensions of a pacific democracy. Through the years, Prof. Sison has actually emerged as one of the biggest stalwarts of the peace movement, resolutely holding on to pending collective demands and to possible post-conflict unities.

His logic, precision, and consistency, especially when speaking on the root causes of the communist revolution, lends an academic flair that will make the book a reliable reference for all kinds of scholars and students. Three of the longest articles, “History and Circumstances Relevant to the Question of Peace” (1991), “The NDFP Framework in Contrast with the GRP Framework” (1991), and “On the Question of Revolutionary Violence” (1993), give us exquisite, comprehensive narratives of conflict in the Philippines and offer incisive analysis direly lacking in textbook works. The professor in Sison shines through, as he seamlessly shifts through academic perspectives and melds social science theories with practical applications.

At the same time, his use of the active voice and personal pronouns joltingly persuade. Prof. Sison, in true Marxist fashion, dares readers to not only interpret the world, but to change it. His frequent exhortations to arouse, organize, and mobilize creates a cadence as he seemingly directs an orchestra – cadres of the red army, members of mass organizations, supporters of the national democratic movement – towards harmony in work. In recognizing that all persons can play a part in peace-building, Prof. Sison appeals to and educates a general audience. His political and polemical writings certainly deserve its space alongside foremost critical thinkers of the era.

Several interviews are included in the collection. These generally serve to clarify niggling issues that the public fixate upon. Such as, concerns over continuing clashes as negotiations are ongoing, and modes of engagement on the battlefield. Questions like these are never too simple to answer. Why does the New Peoples’ Army continue to use landmines? Why can’t ceasefires be more frequent and longer-lasting? Media will always press for straight, categorical answers, but Prof. Sison’s firm grasp of the core points allows him the leeway to invoke complex contexts even where others see it as deflection.

When asked to address those who may have the barest acquaintance with the Philippine armed conflict in “On the Revolutionary Movement in the Philippines” (2012), Prof. Sison just as well responds succinctly. Asked to sum up the situation in the Philippines, the economy, of the peace talks and of the fighting, he masterfully condenses several volumes of his writings in as little as three paragraphs. The point is, after all, to make people understand better.

And of course, the slightly controversial. In January 2012, he admitted the he is not too optimistic about negotiations under Aquino, which the NDFP had engaged two years prior. In August 2016, he lauded Duterte for the breakthrough in the peace talks, but later reconsidered when relations turn sour and peace consultant Randy Malayao is murdered. Many often deride these efforts as “mistakes” or a waste of time, but Prof. Sison conscientiously refers to the NDFP’s policy of being open to peace negotiations, the “constant policy of seeking a just and lasting peace”. This kind of patience reflects a scrutiny of peace work and experiences in the Philippines, as well as in China, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and South Africa. The dogged insistence on long-term goals rather than short term gains will only ensure that parties no longer return to war after peace agreements.

Many of the concerns are legal. In “Remedies to Obstacles or Problems in the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations”, Prof. Sison at the press conference launching the International Legal Advisory Team in 2011 demonstrates his essential understanding of how international laws impact what is, at first glance, a non-international, intra-state conflict. In a simple but studied introduction, Prof. Sison diplomatically emphasizes “political integrity”. In his other articles, however, Prof. Sison refers to the recognition and rights of belligerency as a basis for engagement between the NDFP and the GRP.

Where the status of belligerency is invoked, it triggers international law obligations. In consonance therewith, the NDFP precisely signed on and adheres to international humanitarian law instruments – laws of war – in its conduct, even without reciprocity by the GRP. However, the customary doctrine on belligerency, upon which the NDFP claims rights, has been seen in decline and apparent desuetude after the Second World War. Only a handful of experts have acknowledged otherwise, and as it seems, Prof. Sison could be crucial in convincing more.

His extensive discussion of the profound role of the United States also hints at an extended concept of armed conflict. In a semi-/neo-colonial Philippines, does the involvement of the US on various political aspects internationalize an internal armed conflict? Is there space in law for such “third” category of armed conflict? This also has considerable problem sets for third states and parties who have always found a place in Philippine peace processes. What are the consequence of intervening on either side?

Because the situation is ongoing and the process evolving, there are very few experts and scholars who have dared come forward with conclusive studies and predictions on the Philippine armed conflict, lest they be proven wrong in the long run. As such, it falls upon Prof. Sison to set the tone and substance in the conversation. His evaluation of prospects of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at different points in the timeline are always canon and relevant. Obviously, there is no doubt that he is a central figure in the peace negotiations, particularly as there are only a handful of NDFP personalities not working incognito.

Thus, Prof. Sison’s refusal to concede to the lesser “state of insurgency” is expected. To treat the armed conflict as either rebellion, insurgency, or even terrorism has significant personal bearing. Prof. Sison has been labelled a terrorist in different territories, intended to make him pariah and irrelevant. Asked in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2002, how he felt about this, Prof. Sison merely said that he was not intimidated. Given that he still writing to us today tells that he really wasn’t, and that he remains influential – indisputably, and perhaps, irrevocably so. If any, this book is his flex of both the brains and brawn of the Philippine left and proof that Prof. Sison is not a terrorist, but a dyed-in-the-wool revolutionary.

In the latter parts of the book, Prof. Sison mulls over the possibility of him serving in the GRP government, or even being GRP president. “Crooks and butchers have become president in the Philippines,” he says, his attitude starkly more realistic than messianic.

Patience is a virtue, and so is discipline. Prof. Sison shows us the he has both in spades. Decades of exile has not dulled, but instead sharpened his senses for every bit of useful information from and about the Philippines. Writing to Bienvenido Lumbera who turned 80 in 2011, Prof. Sison led the letter from personal reminiscing to a discourse, with every page dripping in the adage: the personal is political. His own 75th birthday wish was a truly proletarian one: To stay healthy and live longer in order to further serve the people.

This book is a political guide and a personal gift from Prof. Sison for all of us interested in peace in the Philippines. In parts where his persona seeps through, it almost feels like a personal conversation. As his words lilt when sharing his life story, we really feel how his heart yearns for mangoes. And as always, for peace.

Thank you, Prof. Sison.

“An attack on free speech” – Blocking of sites illegal, arbitrary

BAYAN – Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
June 22, 2022

The NSC and NTC orders to block websites including independent media and progressive groups such as Bayan are a blatant attack on free speech. The orders show how arbitrary the use of terrorist-labelling and red-tagging have become. The orders to block certain websites are devoid of any due process and rely merely on guilt by association. No specific offense or evidence was ever cited to justify the blocking of Bulatlat et al except for the Anti-Terrorism Council resolutions that do not pertain to Bulatlat et al. This again highlights the dangers of the anti-Terror Law.

The sloppiness of the work is made evident when in the NTC order to telcos, the subject heading used was “for blocking- illegal cockfighting websites”.

We urge telcos to reject these illegal and baseless orders from the NTC and NSC. Our lawyers are preparing to question these issuances before the proper courts.

The last-minute orders come less than a month before the end of Duterte’s term. The regime is desperately trying to silence all opposition to its reign of tyranny. In doing so, it further exposes itself as a throwback to the Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

We call on the media, free speech advocates, and opponents of the “terror law” to stand together and push back against this latest attack. The next National Security Adviser is also urged to revoke these illegal orders and to cease attacks on free speech and freedom of association. ###

Duterte advice to successor: resume peace negotiations

Satur Ocampo – AT GROUND LEVEL
Philstar – April 30, 2022

Because he had bungled them by bending to militarist advice, President Duterte recently expressed hope that the next administration would resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and succeed in forging a peace agreement to end the more than 50 years of internal armed conflict.

“I hope that whoever comes in next after me, they would try to reconnect [with the CPP-NPA-NDFP]. I hope that [the peace talks] would succeed,” he said during a visit to families affected by Typhoon Agaton in Capiz last April 16.

He described himself as “a friend” of the rebels when he was the mayor of Davao City. However, his relationship with the New People’s Army changed when he became President, he was quoted as pointing out, “because the safety of the nation fell into his hands.” He did not elaborate.

Acknowledging that the communist rebels were correct in fighting to eradicate the inequitable feudal structures in the countryside, Duterte stated: “I hope that we will find peace with the communists. I do not want a quarrel with them.”

By way of addressing the feudal problem and making rebellion “irrelevant,” he claimed that he implemented land reform by distributing “something like 160,000 hectares of land.” For sure, that wasn’t enough since he had vowed to complete the implementation of the Cory Aquino administration’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Moreover, the CARP was widely criticized for providing major exemptions from the land distribution scheme, and for neglecting the support needed by land reform beneficiaries. An amendatory legislation later sought to provide the latter inadequacy.

Was Duterte regretting that he had mishandled the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which during his electoral campaign he had promised to resume and complete? At least, his recent statements implied that he recognized the correctness of the government’s pursuing the GRP-NDFP formal peace negotiations at the national level, rather than gunning for a strategic military victory in the protracted armed conflict, as preferred by his militarist advisers.

Following the initiation of a formal process by the Ramos administration in September 1992, the peace negotiations produced 10 significant signed agreements, including the landmark Comprehensive Agreement of Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). After that, however, the talks went neither here nor there under the successive presidencies of Estrada, Arroyo and Aquino III.

In August 2016, with Duterte in Malacanang, the peace talks resumed with high expectations. And a series of negotiations (with intermittent disruptions) attained significant advances in just a few months of meetings held in Europe, hosted and facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government.

It’s important to note that, even after he had announced the “termination” of the process in November 2017, Duterte still allowed on-again-off-again formal and informal talks to proceed. By June 2018, the two panels produced mutually signed or initialed comprehensive agreements intended for final signing that July.

These included draft accords on agrarian reform – with free land distribution as guiding principle – and rural development, and on national industrialization and economic development, the main components of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). The CASER is mutually considered as the “meat” or the core product of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Also drawn up for final signing were two initialed draft agreements on a stand-down or ceasefire, and accord on the guidelines and procedures for an Interim Peace Agreement.
Yet, because of strong objections to CASER from his military advisers, Duterte aborted the final signing of these agreements and called off further negotiations.

But there’s no ignoring the issue of negotiating an enduring peace that will bring security and development to the country.

In a series of forums sponsored by peace advocacy groups, a number of presidential candidates have expressed a favorable stance to pursue the GRP-NDFP peace talks, should they get elected to the country’s highest post. They include Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and labor leader Leody de Guzman.

President Duterte has just over a month to go in his six-year term. He could help much in enabling the succeeding administration to resume the GRP-NDFP peace talks, by removing a number of obstacles that his presidency has put in place.

He can start with rescinding two presidential proclamations and an executive order he issued in the latter part of 2017 and in December 2018. These are the following:

• Proclamation No. 360, issued on Nov. 23, 2017, declaring the GRP’s official termination of the peace negotiations;

• Proclamation No. 374, issued on Dec. 5, 2017, designating the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations; and

• Executive Order No. 70, issued on Dec. 4, 2018, instituting localized peace talks and setting up the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The task force has been heavily criticized, even condemned, for its reckless red-tagging drive against civil society activists and other persons, organizations and groups perceived by state security forces as “enemies of the state.” Calls for defunding or abolishing the NTF-ELCAC have also been raised within Congress and among human rights institutions, here and abroad.

But the biggest hindrance to the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks is the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), since it has already enabled the Anti-Terrorism Council, composed of Duterte Cabinet members and other executive officials, to designate the National Democratic Front of the Philippines also as a terrorist organization. How then can the talks resume?

Having been legislated by Congress, and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court minus two questionable provisions, it will take the next Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) to repeal the law. It would be up to the next president, who may commit to pursue the GRP-NDFP peace talks, to take the initiative in asking Congress to repeal the ATA.

Much is at stake in the years ahead. Is there still time for President Duterte to undo the harm that has already been done?

DROP PREPOSTEROUS CHARGES VS CASAMBRE NOW

Unite for a Just Peace, Free Rey Casambre

April 26, 2022

We demand that the Duterte administration withdraw the more than three years fabricated and ridiculous charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against peace advocate and political detainee Rey Casambre as the Bacoor RTC Branch 113 hears his case.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) presented physical evidence of its charges versus Casambre to the court Monday. But this is a reset of the February 22 hearing where the CIDG’s attempt to submit digital photos of the Colt pistol and fragmentation grenade as evidence was not admitted by the court.

We believe that the court should junk this made-up case altogether. To recall, Rey and wife Cora were violently arrested in December of 2018 in pitch-dark midnight on the couple’s way home from a friend’s funeral and their grandson’s birthday. Police and military vehicles cut and surrounded them along Molino Avenue, and armed operatives started pounding the couple’s car windows with their guns, angrily commanding the two elderly to alight their vehicle.

For fear of being “tokhang” victims purportedly “nanlaban”, they alighted but were dragged away from their vehicle only to be shown, after half an hour of waiting, a handgun, a grenade, and an alleged detonating cord supposedly found in their car. The “evidence” were obviously planted.

May we remind the Honorable Court that the judge City Fiscal who had earlier conducted the inquest had described the CIDG’s story preposterous — finding the “evidence” stashed in the dashboard with a laptop, claiming that these were seen “in plain view” from outside the car, otherwise the arrest would have been hands down illegal as the operatives had no search warrant for the couple. Cora was thereby released.

Rey would also have been released but the regime slapped him with another set of non-bailable charges – murder and attempted murder in the hinterlands of Davao Oriental – to keep him behind bars.

This government has taken away Rey’s freedom to keep him from teaching many about the sore lack of social justice in the country and building unities towards genuine peace that will benefit the Filipino majority socio-economically.

The Duterte administration must withdraw all false charges against Rey Casambre and over 700 political prisoners and tens of thousands more incarcerated because they were falsely accused.

We likewise call for the withdrawal of the similarly false and trumped-up charges vs RCC in Lupon, Davao de Oro, which was the basis for the arrest warrant served on RCC in Bacoor.

Should this clamor fall on deaf ears, may the candidates speaking in well-attended rallies boldly talk about the cowardice of this government in jailing its adversaries instead of painstakingly forging a just-based peace. May the next administration resume the peace negotiations to be able to address the roots of armed conflict and open all the necessary avenues to build a solid just-based peace constituency.

#FreeReyCasambre

#FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners

#FreeAllFalselyAccused

#UniteForAJustPeace

#FightTyranny

#NoToDuterteMarcos2022

Reference: Free Rey Casambre Campaign
Photos from International Human Rights Day Mobilization and Luntiang Republica Farm Tour/ December 2021

Pilgrims for Peace welcomes Manila RTC dismissal of case against peace consultants and activists

photo courtesy of SELDA

Pilgrims for Peace
December 21, 2021

Pilgrims for Peace applauds the dismissal of the infamous Hilongos case, which was filed against peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and peasant organizers. This decision of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina on 16 December is not just a vindication for the accused who were arrested and detained on the basis of trumped-up charges but is also an indictment of the state’s counterinsurgency strategy.

In granting the demurrer to the separate pleas of the accused, Judge Bunyi-Medina highlighted the lack of documentary evidence for the death of the alleged fifteen victims of a purported “communist purge”. The judge underscored the lack of scientific evidence that the skeletons the military allegedly exhumed in 2006 are those of the supposed victims. Moreover, the judge said prosecution witnesses are “tainted with bias and ill motive.”

Among the accused are peace panel member Benito Tiamzon, peace consultants Wilma Austria, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, former peace negotiator and congressman Satur Ocampo, and the late Randall Echanis, who was brutally tortured and murdered last year. Also included are peasant organizers Norberto Murillo, Dario Tomada, and Oscar Belleza. These individuals have been at the receiving end of relentless political persecution. In fact, ten peace consultants have been unjustly imprisoned due to the state’s weaponization of the law and judicial system. For instance, Silva and Ladlad remain incarcerated due to other trumped-up cases, while Baylosis continues to face security problems. Pilgrims for Peace will continue to call for the dropping of these other false charges.

Led by former Philippine Army commanding general and former National Security Adviser during the Arroyo administration with its blackened human rights record, now current national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, the state’s security forces have been on a rampage trying to silence government critics and dissenters. In particular, the accused, by trying to implicate them in cases of multiple murder that involve so-called mass graves. As already pointed out by many human rights defenders, the Hilongos case is but a rehash of a 2000 Baybay, Leyte case, from which the “exhumed” evidence and compromised witnesses were resurrected and recycled to concoct another fabricated case.
Judge Bunyi-Medina represents a welcome change in light of numerous baseless charges and search warrants that have been issued against activists in recent years by the same judges. It is noteworthy that Judge Bunyi-Medina, in her 97-page decision, also expressed her “sincere and ardent wish that their respective leaders will endeavor to go back to the negotiating table and eventually forge a long-lasting peace agreement which will be mutually beneficial to them.” Pilgrims for Peace wholeheartedly agrees with the honorable judge. Indeed, the resumption of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP in order to arrive at a negotiated political settlement remains the most judicious, viable and long-lasting solution to the long-running armed conflict.

Pilgrims for Peace reiterates its call for the dropping of the remaining trumped-up charges against other political prisoners and their release at the soonest time possible. It also calls for upholding of all previously signed bilateral agreements between the GRP and the NDFP, such as The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Through the resumption of the formal negotiations, the parties could restart talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), thereby allowing productive discussions on how to address the underlying socioeconomic problems that have doomed the Filipino masses in a life of poverty and misery and fueled armed conflict.

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Court junks cases vs 17 NGO workers jailed in Agusan del Sur

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma listens as detained NDFP-Northern Mindanao official Alfredo Mapano shares his views on the peace process during a PEPP conference in Cagayan de Oro City on June 28, 2013. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

By FROILAN GALLARDO – Minda News
DECEMBER 1, 2021 6:55 PM

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma listens as detained NDFP-Northern Mindanao official Alfredo Mapano shares his views on the peace process during a PEPP conference in Cagayan de Oro City on June 28, 2013. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 01 December) — A local court had dismissed the cases against 17 NGO workers detained in Agusan del Sur for kidnapping and robbery charges almost six months ago, but their lawyers only got their copies of the decision on Wednesday morning, Dec. 1.

In his decision dismissing the cases and ordering the release of the accused, Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr., of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Bayugan City said they have been detained for over a year without the “benefit of a speedy trial” following delays by the prosecution.

The 17 accused were mostly members of Karapatan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kadamay and other organizations in Northern Mindanao.

Fudalan also assailed the use by the prosecution of “John Does” in the arrest warrants for the NGO workers.

He said for “John Doe” warrants to be valid, they should have the description of the appearance of the accused, which the prosecution failed to establish.

The decision was promulgated last June 10 but the lawyers of the accused only got their copies on Wednesday morning.

Thirty-five other accused, including former National Democratic Front consultant Alfredo Mapano, are still detained in Agusan del Sur to answer murder charges filed against them.

Mapano was arrested on Nov. 27 last year at the PHIVIDEC compound in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental where he was working as a corporate social responsibility officer.

Known collectively as the “Sibagat cases,” the arrest of the 52 NGO workers sent shock waves to human rights advocates here.

The military filed the cases against the 52 NGO workers after New People’s Army rebels raided a paramilitary camp in Barangay Tubigon, Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur last Feb. 19, 2019.

Two soldiers and 12 members of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit were taken hostage by the rebels but were released unharmed later.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, co-convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform hailed the court’s decision to release the NGO workers.

“They were vindicated by the decision,” Ledesma said.

Now that they are freed, Ledesma said the NGO workers can now continue their humanitarian work in their respective places.

He said news of the decision was timely because it came a day before the start of the celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace on Thursday. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)