International Day of Peace in the context of the 50th year of
A statement by the
Citizens Alliance for Just Peace on the 50th year of Martial Law
September 21, 2022
Today, September 21, 2022,
the world will observe the annual International Day of Peace.
Forty-one years ago, in 1981, the United Nations issued the
“declaration on the right to peace” which affirmed peace as a sacred
right of all people and a primary prerequisite for the material
wellbeing, development and the progress of countries. The UN also
emphasized that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace
and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental
obligation of each state.
While this year’s theme,
“End racism. Build peace.” is not directly related to the internal
armed conflict in our country, the United Nations´ message of ending
discrimination and intolerance resonates in our context in terms of
the rampant red-tagging and vilification often directed towards
critics of the immediate past administration and even under the
current dispensation. Many government officials especially those
involved in the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed
Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have resorted to demonizing human rights and
peace advocates as “communist terrorists” instead of nurturing a
culture of dialogue and principled negotiations.
In the Philippines,
September 21, 2022 is also the 50th anniversary of the imposition of
Martial Law by the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. In those
dark years, many fell victim to human rights violations. Many others
also died defending our democratic rights. Marcos Sr. imposed
Martial Law to “nip the communist insurgency in the bud,” however,
it only fanned the flames of the armed conflict between the
government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s
Now, 50 years later, and
after succeeding administrations intensified their respective
counter-insurgency programs aimed at defeating the communist
rebellion, the armed conflict has continued to rage particularly in
the countryside causing internal displacement in the most vulnerable
communities. This long-running conflict only mirrors how deeply
embedded are its roots in social and structural injustice.
This is compounded by the
Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), with its vague and broad
definition of terrorism. Red-baiting is now paired with terrorist-labelling.
The draconian law grants police and military personnel the power to
detain suspects “for investigation” without a warrant or charge up
to 24 days. Moreover, the ATA virtually negates the accountability
of law enforcement agents for violating the rights of suspects.
The NTF-ELCAC and the ATA
have brought about stepped-up political repression against the
political opposition, trade unionists, community organizers,
journalists, artists and writers, peace and human rights advocates
and ordinary people. This includes red-tagging of social activists
including church people and churches; attacks on indigenous
communities and their schools; and harassment of humanitarian aid
groups and their workers. Sadly, the wielding of both the NTF-ELCAC
and the ATA continue under the administration of President Ferdinand
Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte.
It was thus a breath of
fresh air when Sen. Loren Legarda called for the resumption of the
GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and a review of the ATA at the Senate
floor. Her speech is a call for sobriety, unity and openness amidst
an atmosphere of hatred and war that is being pushed by war mongers
even among her colleagues.
Let us mark the
International Day of Peace and the 50th year of Martial Law on
September 21 with the call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace
talks. Peace is a continuing aspiration of our people. Calling for
the ways of peace through principled negotiations is to reject a
militarist solution, of martial rule in any guise.
Thus, the Citizens
Alliance for Just Peace, the biggest network of peace advocates in
the country, enjoins the public in this historic occasion by calling
on the GRP and NDFP to return to the negotiating table and together
put an end to the increasing human rights violations and the loss of
lives as a result of this conflict and arrive at a just and enduring
peace in the country.
Issued and signed on this
day, 21 September 2022.
Archbishop Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.
Revd. Rex B. Reyes, Jr.
Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace
Ms. Karen Tanada
Convenor, Waging Peace
Mike Pante, Ph.D.
Act for Peace