DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Progressive organizations here denounced Friday the recent pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will declare Martial Law if local officials in Mindanao will not help him curb terrorism and address the drug problem. They also condemned Duterte’s statement that he will spend all military assets against New People’s Army.
“We should oppose this Martial Law declaration specially in Mindanao that has already suffered militarization,” Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bayan in SMR, said.
Since Duterte assumed the presidency, human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao, recorded 15 victims of indiscriminate firing and bombing in the communities of Lumad and farmers in the Davao Region.
Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan, challenged the President to also visit the victims of the on-going civil war in the country.
“We hope that he will visit the civilian victims of extra judicial killings. Those who do not have the capacity to fight back but were killed by government troops,” Apiag said.
On Duterte’s order to use all government assets, including air force to suppress the NPA, Apiag said, it will only cause more damages to civilian communities.
“Based on our experiences in documenting human rights violations, it is not the NPA that are targeted, but the civilians in the community,” Apiag said.
“If we could remember, thousands of Lumad were forced to evacuate their communities due to indiscriminate firing and bombing,” Apiag added.
He cited in particular the Lumad, who mostly came from Talaingod and Kapalong of Davao del Norte, and sought refuged at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines – Haran compound.
Majority of them has just returned to their communities early this year, Apiag said.
Farmer leader, Pedro Arnado, spokesperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao Region, described Duterte’s order as an act of a “berdugo” (executioner).
“If there are other term to describe someone declaring to bomb communities it is ‘berdugo’,” Arnado said.
Instead of suppressing the NPA in the mountains, Arnado claimed that bombing communities with air strikes would only light the fuse
for more revolutionaries.
“That is one fuse to rise the number and strengthening of the agrarian revolution and more people will join the armed revolution that the victims themselves will join,” Arnado said.
Meanwhile, Duazo said uprising will continue even if the government will drop bombs in the mountains unless the issue of landlessness is resolved.
Duazo added that even though the government would eradicate the NPA, “the people will uprise for their right to land, employment, education, and social services.”
She said Duterte should instead resolve the root cause of why there are struggles in the rural and urban areas.
Continuing call for peace talks
With the series of skirmishes between the NPA and the government troops, the militant leader said that it is the high time that peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines should resume.
“We are still pushing for the peace talks to continue,” Duazo said.
“And most importantly, to address the root cause of why the NPA are still waging their war. That is because there is a need to be addressed,” Duazo added.
Since February 2017, the talks between the NDFP and the GRP has been halted after Duterte lifted the government’s ceasefire. The President’s announcement came after visiting slain government troops in Bukidnon.
But, the talks between the two parties’ peace panel have not ended their communication as to how to pursue the talks.
Fidel Agcaoili, chairperson of NDFP peace panel said both sides agreed to hold backchannel talks since February.
The President himself confirmed this in a press briefing at the Malacanang, last Tuesday.
Duazo, remaining hopeful, said that the public as citizens should push the call to continue the peace talks of NDFP and GRP to be able to address the root cause of the armed conflict. (davaotoday.com)