LAST month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the anticipated peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) caused a bit of controversy.
In response, peace advocacy groups around the world have been urging the president to go forth with the peace talks in hopes of settling the decades-long dispute in the Mindanao region.
Progressive organization BAYAN USA Southern California, on Monday, February 27, hosted a protest and vigil condemning the Duterte administration for terminating the peace talks and honoring the “martyrs” who died in the conflict. The protesters also called to oppose the GRP’s announcement of an “All Out War,” referencing the human rights violations circulating around the country.
The protest — which was held in front of the Philippine Consulate in Koreatown, Los Angeles — was a chance for young Filipino Americans to show global support for the peace talks, according to Eric Tandoc of Anakbayan – Long Beach.
“There’s a widespread desire from the people from the Philippines and people are calling for the continuation of the peace talks,” Tandoc told the Asian Journal. “There’s been over a 100 people in Congress and folks holding rallies for it. And it’s important for [Duterte] to know that Filipinos overseas are also paying attention and want to see successful peace talks between the NDFP and the GRP.”
The protest began with a series of chants which caught the attention of passersby and nearby drivers, some of whom honked back in support.
“When human rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” the group of young Fil-Ams yelled out. Different representatives from organizations under BAYAN-USA gave their testimonies on why the peace talks are important in moving the Philippines forward, socially and economically.
They also held up signs, including a few that showed photos and the names of activists who were killed while fighting for peace in the region.
“It seems as if he made a rash decision to say that he was going terminate the peace talks because of the armed clashes that happened, but what’s important for him to recognize is that ceasefires are not a requisite for peace talks to continue,” Tandoc added. “In all the previous administrations there has been peace talks and progress in the peace talks even without ceasefires on either side during the duration.”
Tandoc added that the ceasefires didn’t stop the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from continuing military operations (including assassinations of activists) “under the guise of peace and development.”
Duterte had lifted the six-month ceasefire on Friday, February 3 after rebel forces rejected their own truce days before and killed six AFP soldiers. He also warned that if the NDFP and any other rebel forces — calling them “terrorists,” not rebels — try to fight back, they will be met with violence.
“It seems to me that these terrorists want another 50 years of war, of killing Filipinos,” Duterte told reporters at the wake of three of the soldiers who were killed.
“I don’t want a bloody thing, but if they choose to do it, fine,” the president said. “With my lifting of the ceasefire, they can begin their attacks and we are prepared and I will use the assets. We have so many planes now, we have jets [and] I will drop all [the bombs].”
Despite his threats to react violently should the rebels continue their attacks, he urged them to seize their rebellion and, in return, they will receive offers of land reform and housing in their regions.
“I’m offering you peace,” the president said, addressing the NDFP. “You should just come down and I will look for money to place you in settlements and I will proceed with land reform.” (By Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)