We of Kapayapaan, an alliance of advocates for a just peace, are disheartened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s rash and harsh statements cancelling/terminating the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), ordering the re-arrest of NDFP consultants and tagging the CPP/NPA as “terrorist”. These constitute a complete turnaround from his avowed policy of talking peace with the CPP/NPA/NDFP by negotiating much-needed socio-economic and political reforms to end close to five decades of armed conflict with the revolutionary movement.
We find President Duterte’s pronouncements contradictory and unreasonable. He wants the public to believe that he is cancelling the talks because of continuing clashes between the AFP/PNP and the NPA and associated civilian casualties. But this is precisely the character of an armed conflict between fiercely opposing forces that, with its unimaginable toll, ought to compel the parties to the conflict to pursue the peace negotiations.
We are cognizant of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in the course of government’s counterinsurgency campaigns as reported by human rights organizations. They are far more in number and atrocity than those Duterte attributes to the NPA. But whether committed by the government against its citizens or by the NPA against their constituencies, they are human rights violations just the same and must be addressed by their respective principals.
We also know that the Duterte administration’s bloody “war on drugs” has claimed thousands of innocent lives, including children and youth, in so short a time. Furthermore, the war prosecuted by the Duterte regime in Marawi City has produced hundreds of civilian casualties, including many more who are still unaccounted for, and hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians, the destruction of civilian property and the ruins of a once proud city of Islamic and Christian heritage.
In sum, he is saying that unless the CPP/NPA/NDFP stops fighting, gives up their arms and accepts government offers of “rehabilitation”, he will put government’s all-out war against them on high gear. He promises the war-weary military and police more and better arms, higher salaries and generous death and disability benefits.
We think that President Duterte is presuming too much by dangling a “revolutionary government”. That “revolutionary government” will only set aside all constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights, as well as pander to the needs and demands of government security forces.
We believe that labelling the CPP/NPA as “terrorist”, in the same vein as the dreaded ISIS, will not work either given the vastly different history, character and track record of the former. The Arroyo government as well as the US government did tag the CPP/NPA as “terrorist” in order to demonize them and justify the most well-funded and ruthless military and political campaign against them but to no avail.
We of Kapayapaan do not find acceptable President Duterte’s threat to crack down on BAYAN and other legal progressive organizations on his mere say so that these are “communist fronts”. We view this threat as unleashing his military and police against legal progressive organizations in the way of the massacres of the poor in President Duterte’s “war on drugs” that saved the military, police, government officials and oligarchs known to have connived with drug lords.
Such tyrannical and repressive measures are also nothing new. Extrajudicial killing of legal activists reached its height during the Arroyo administration victimizing farmers, workers, students, church people, professionals and even local government officials. And like Arroyo, President Duterte’s blackened human rights record will inevitably contribute to his political isolation and delegitimation.
We of Kapayapaan therefore call on the Duterte administration to return to the peace table, do the hard work of hammering a peace agreement acceptable to both sides and to the Filipino people, and avert the prolongation of a civil war fuelled by long-standing social injustice and violations of the people’s democratic rights.
Kapayapaan calls on the Filipino people to reject warmongering, resist political repression and struggle for a just and lasting peace.