Category Archives: Uncategorized

“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?


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.







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.




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

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)

End the Injustice! Release all Political Prisoners Now!Pilgrims for Peace Statement on the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners

Pilgrims for Peace
Press Statement
3 December 2021

Today, 3 December, the Pilgrims for Peace stands in solidarity with the world in commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. Living in a country with a long history of incarceration of political dissenters—with their number increasing tenfold at the time of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos—we stand with the world and join the call to Free All Political Prisoners!

There are currently 652 political prisoners in prisons across the country, with more than 400 of them arrested under Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. Ten of them are consultants to the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
It is nothing short of tragic that peace advocates and consultants are among such political prisoners. Rey Claro Casambre, 69 years of age, educator, activist, and executive director of the Philippine Peace Center, is jailed at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, with over 40 other political prisoners. Casambre, an NDFP peace consultant, was arrested on fabricated criminal charges three years ago.

Another NDFP peace consultant incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa is Vicente Ladlad, who was also arrested in 2018 on the basis of trumped-up charges. Casambre’s and Ladlad’s detention is a blatant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a bilateral agreement signed by the GRP and the NDFP.

The case of Amanda Echanis, daughter of slain NDFP peace consultant Randall Echanis, also deserves to be highlighted. Still detained with her infant child at Camp Adduro in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, Amanda was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a baseless but now typical charge used by state forces against activists. She is but one among hundreds of other individuals whose freedom has been taken away by the state simply because of their political convictions.

Nursing mothers like Amanda, along with elderly and ailing political prisoners, as well as couples arrested thus depriving their children of any parent, should be immediately released for humanitarian reasons. With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, the urgent release of political detainees for humanitarian reasons continues to hang in the balance. Even the United Nations Human Rights Council, at the start of the pandemic, had already recommended the reduction of overcrowding in penitentiary institutions, especially in consideration of at-risk groups such as pregnant women, the differently-abled, the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and political prisoners, among others. Unfortunately, this call has fallen on deaf ears in the Philippines.

The potential of the Writ of Kalayaan, a remedy introduced by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen in his separate opinion on the Supreme Court decision junking the plea of political prisoners for temporary release amid the pandemic, remains unrealized. In the face of possible outbreaks due to new and more transmissible variants of the Coronavirus, the unfulfilled promise of the Writ of Kalayaan is not just a lost opportunity but an affront against human dignity.

The Pilgrims for Peace decries the Philippine government’s cruel inaction on this critical issue, a stark contrast to how quickly they fill up prisons with new inmates. That peace consultants and activists are locked up, while a convicted criminal like former first lady Imelda Marcos, a serial tax evader like presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and assorted plunderers of the people’s money are all free to plan their return to Malacañang or maintain their hold on power, is simply unacceptable.

Peace advocates and freedom-loving Filipinos need to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are victims of political repression and are cruelly punished by these double standards that define our justice system.
The Pilgrims for Peace, in solidarity with peace advocates everywhere, reiterates the call to free all political prisoners in the Philippines and throughout the world.

Fr. Ritchie Masegman
FBPage:@PilgrimsForPeacePH; email:; +63998-348-9307
Artwork by Bulatlat’s Dee Ayroso

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