Closing the door
to a peaceful resolution
Statement of The Philippine
Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) over the designation of the NDFP as
a terrorist group by the Anti-Terrorism Council
July 21, 2021
The Philippine Ecumenical
Peace Platform (PEPP) joins all peace advocates in sounding the
alarm over the designation of the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) as a terrorist group by the Anti-Terrorism
Council (ATC). This designation tragically closes the door to what
is truly called for: a peaceful resolution of the Government of the
Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP conflict.
Sadly, with this action
the ATC buried 29 years of laborious and painstaking agreements and
gradual steps toward peace. The government seems to be ignoring that
peace is a sacred right of all people and guaranteed as a
fundamental duty of the state.
It also confirms that the
Anti-terrorism Law (ATL) is a huge hurdle to the promise of peace
for everyone as it is being used as a weapon in a total war against
so-called terrorists. The case against two Aetas, which thankfully
was dismissed, shows that the terror law can be used to fabricate
charges and arbitrarily designate persons and groups.
The ATC designation
demonstrates that the government is using its full resources to
subdue the CPP/NPA/NDF. It does not fully recognize that violence
will not resolve the conflict, that the most judicious way to
address its roots – poverty, landlessness, inequitable access to
resources – is to resume the formal peace talks. The designation and
the present course that relies on the use of violent means only
increase the likelihood of more violations in human rights and
international and humanitarian law.
We are therefore greatly
concerned about the escalation of civilian populations being harmed
as seen in the rising cases of killings, threats, harassment, and
restriction of movements of farming and indigenous communities in
remote rural areas.
This latest designation by
the ATC also begs the question: Are groups supporting or calling for
the resumption of the formal peace talks with “designated
terrorists” next in the ATC’s crosshairs as well? It is not
far-fetched since they unjustifiably froze the accounts and
properties of church ministries like that of the Rural Missionaries
of the Philippines (RMP) and the Haran Center of the United Church
of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City, allegedly for
supporting terrorist activities.
This also comes after the
ATC designated 19 individuals, including peace consultants, as
terrorists a few months ago. The list includes peace consultants Rey
Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Vicente Ladlad.
Their assets were simultaneously frozen by the Anti-Money-Laundering
Council (AMLC). Mr. Ladlad’s bank account contains the funds awarded
by the Human Rights Claims Board while Mr. Casambre’s were savings
from his allowances as an NGO worker, various honoraria and gifts
from family members. It is not enough that they, and other peace
consultants, are languishing in jail right now after trusting the
government that they were supposed to be covered by their mutual
agreement, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),
but their savings cannot be accessed by their families as well.
As church leaders, we are
highly alarmed at these developments. However, we will not falter in
our belief and call that the most viable option for a just and
lasting peace is through a negotiated peace settlement coupled with
meaningful social and economic reforms. We affirm that a peace
process that addresses social injustices is the will of God and we
will not stop working for it.
We appeal to the
government to rescind its designation of the NDFP as a terrorist
organization and recognize the lasting devastation this will have on
the Filipino people’s trust in the government’s competence to
resolve internal conflicts through peaceful negotiations.
We continue to appeal to
both parties to return to the negotiating table. We also call on our
people to pray and work for peace and support prospective candidates
in the coming elections who are committed to genuine peace. Let us
find inspiration in these words from the Bible: “Peacemakers who sow
in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18, NIV).
Issued and signed this
21st day of July 2021.