FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2017
Reference: Jessica Antonio, BAYAN-USA Secretary General, firstname.lastname@example.org
BAYAN-USA to President Duterte: Stop Arresting the Peace Process!
“President Duterte’s threat to arrest peace consultants threatens to arrest the peace process itself,” stated BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin, in response to President Duterte’s speech to the Philippine Navy during which he warned that he would “throw [into] the slammer” the consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are participating in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
“Any action by the Philippine government to detain the NDFP peace consultants would willfully violate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a binding agreement signed by both the NDFP and GRP that guarantees all negotiators, consultants and staff of the peace talks to be immune from surveillance, arrest, detention, and other forms of harassment. By arresting NDFP consultants, keeping political prisoners in captivity, and waging its counter-insurgency operations under Oplan Kapayapaan, the GRP has already violated the JASIG repeatedly. Continuing to do so would render JASIG useless and prevent the talks from continuing in earnest,” continued Ellorin.
President Duterte’s comment comes on the heels of the GRP’s decision not to participate in the 5th round of peace talks with the NDFP. During the 5th round, the GRP and NDFP were set to discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), including national industrialization and agrarian development. Such reforms are considered fundamental to addressing the root causes of poverty, landlessness, and injustice which lie at the center of armed conflict in the country. If pursued, such reforms stand to change the domination by the landed ruling elite in the Philippine government over the vast majority of impoverished and landless farmers and rural communities, including indigenous peoples, in the country.
“In the U.S., members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines just concluded a successful Peace Tour, during which thousands of Americans attended events and actions supporting the call for a just peace in the Philippines and the continuation of the NDFP-GRP peace talks. They also condemned the role of the U.S. in sabotaging the peace talks, through its historic role in occupying, conducting military exercises and operations, and designing counter-insurgency programs in the Philippines,” said Ellorin.
President Duterte’s statements were also made just one week after his declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Since the imposition of martial law, dozens of civilians have been reported wounded and killed, and forced nearly 60,000 people to evacuate Marawi City.
“History shows that without the JASIG, the work of the peace consultants will be paralyzed. History shows that with martial law, violations of human rights and civil liberties will continue with impunity. We urge President Duterte to break away from the militarists and opportunists in his regime such as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is drumbeating a pretext for greater militarization, especially U.S. military intervention, just as the US-backed Arroyo administration did in 2002. Duterte should instead side with the people who are demanding the continuation of the peace process and the lifting of martial law,” said Ellorin.
“The people want and deserve a just peace, not militarization and continued impunity. We join the people of Mindanao, the entire Philippines and around the world in calling on the GRP to immediately lift martial law, comply with previously-signed agreements in the peace process, and continue with the peace negotiations. Duterte must end the impunity, not contribute to it, in order to create an environment conducive for the peace process to flourish,” ended Ellorin.
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 20 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org