DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Progressive organizations on Friday, December 8, urged Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to convince her father to return to the negotiating tables with communists.

“If Mayor Sara is really for peace, she has to push the national government to go back to the negotiating table,” said human rights activist Jay Apiag, the spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Mindanao region.

Apiag added “there is no other place to talk about peace” but to discuss it on the national level.

Gabriela Davao Secretary General Mary Ann Sapar added that the issues that progressive organizations demand including land reform, poverty, jobs and contractualization are “nationwide concerns.”

“The national government must address these issues to end the decades-long armed conflict,” Sapar said.

Duterte-Carpio recently called off the localized peace talks with communists here following the signing of Presidential Proclamation No. 374, series of 2017 declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist organizations.

Duterte-Carpio said the government, as a policy, does not negotiate with terrorists.

Mixed feelings

​W​hile she ​said she ​felt happy that her previous statement calling the New People’s Army as terrorists was “validated” by the Proclamation, she also expressed sadness as a local chief executive that the efforts of the local government to talk with the NPAs here will not push through.

The city government created the Davao City Peace Committee (DC PEACE) to pursue talks with local NPA commanders.

But with the termination of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political wing of the CPP, Duterte-Carpio said the committee will be turned into an advisory council and pursue talks with residents in the communities instead.

In danger

Activists here also expressed alarm that the termination of talks and the extension of Martial Law pose threats against them.

Apiag said the proliferation of posters of activists who were accused of kidnapping Lumads in a case dismissed by the court last year attempts to “criminalize activism.”

They also feared that the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the constitutionality of Martial Law in Mindanao would result to more human rights abuses.

“The SC decision plays up to Duterte’s pronouncement of tagging the CPP-NPA as terrorists which will worsen human rights violations,” Apiag said.

Based on Karapatan Southern Mindanao region’s tally, there are already 56 victims of political killings in the region under the current administration.

Apiag added they have recorded 45,862 victims of forcible evacuation, 22 incidents of aerial bombings, and 39 Lumad schools that are tagged as schools of the NPA were forcibly closed.

The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday, December 5 denied with finality three motions for reconsiderations that appealed the ruling on the constitutionality of Martial Law in Mindanao. President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao on May 23, following the clashes between government troops and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

Martial law extension

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Friday, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the Secretary of National Defense has already forwarded the AFP’s recommendation to extend Martial Law for another year to the Palace.

Padilla said the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf group and other terrorist organizations “remain to be a threat.”

Padilla however said they are still awaiting the decision of whether their recommendation is approved.

But, President Duterte previously said the lifting of martial law will depend on the recommendation of the military and the police. (davaotoday.com)

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