March 21, 2017
Various groups staged mass actions today in Metro Manila ahead of the scheduled peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP on April 2. The groups are protesting what they called continuing human rights violations and militarization committed under the Duterte regime. Last week, the GRP and NDFP signed a joint statement agreeing to continue formal peace talks after these were suspended by President Rodrigo Duterte in the aftermath of clashes and the lifting of each party’s unilateral ceasefire.
Umbrella group Bayan assailed the Armed Forces of the Philippines for carrying out acts of terror against civilian communities and violations of international humanitarian law. The militant group called on the Duterte government to end the military operations against civilians and instead address the root causes of the armed conflict through the ongoing peace negotiations.
According to human rights group Karapatan, there were 20 victims of political killings from the period of January to March of this year. Sixteen of the killings were committed during the period Duterte suspended peace talks with the NDFP and the AFP declared all-out war. Eighteen out of the 20 killed this year were peasants . Some came from communities of national minorities. Majority of the victims this year were from Mindanao, particularly Southern Mindanao and Caraga.
“What the AFP describes as ‘surgical, deliberate, and intelligence-driven operations’ are actually systematic attacks against the people. The AFP’s body count of alleged neutralized NPA’s presumably includes civilians who were killed in military operations and labeled as NPA after the fact. These civilians are accused of being sympathetic to the revolutionary forces,” Bayan said.
“The AFP is also responsible for the displacement and forced evacuation of civilians in the course of military operations. The AFP is accused of bombing communities in Abra and Compostela Valley after Duterte gave the go-signal to use air assets and “flatten the hills”. The U-trained and directed AFP stands as a major stumbling block to the attainment of a just peace,” Bayan added.
The group believes that Duterte should take responsibility for the growing number of human rights violations under his regime and work to end the abuses.
“For the peace talks to succeed, human rights must be upheld. Political prisoners should be released. Military operations in communities should end. The US-inspired counter-insurgency program deceptively called “Oplan Kapayapaan” should be abandoned. Serious negotiations on socio-economic reforms and constitutional and political reforms should be undertaken,” the group added. ###