Survivors of State-Sponsored Violence to Speak Out, Address the Killings in the Philippines

by April 21, 2017
 

New York, NY—On the heels of the fourth round of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), international peace advocates today announced the launch of the “JustPeacePH Peace Tour 2017,” a US-wide speaking tour of Filipino human rights defenders on the frontlines of the struggle to address the root causes of the civil war in the Philippines, an armed conflict which has claimed the lives of a reported 30,000 people since it began in 1969.

The Peace Tour delegation features Filipino human rights experts and indigenous people who have survived the brunt of state-sponsored violence and political repression in the Philippines. The delegates will travel to 11 cities across the U.S., testifying to the extreme conditions of poverty, land theft, resource plunder, labor exploitation, and violations of national sovereignty which gave rise to the civil war and continue to the present day. They will also share stories of hope, drawn from their engagement in the peace process directly and their involvement in grassroots fights for social and economic reforms to eradicate the roots of the country’s poverty and inequity.

Given recent international attention to killings in the Philippines, the Peace Tour aims to expand support for the continuation of the peace talks between the NDFP and GRP, and help build the movement in solidarity with the Filipino people’s aspirations for just and lasting peace in the Philippines. The tour takes place amidst an escalation of human rights violations against Filipino farmers and indigenous people protecting their land from incursions by large local and foreign multi-national corporations, as well as the killing of upwards of 7,000 people in the so-called “war on drugs.” The abuses are largely alleged to be perpetrated by the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and the paramilitary units under their command.

“We have long been marginalized and discriminated by a system dominated by imperialist plunder of our lands and a state that serves their interests. The peace talks is for us and about us. We are hopeful that it shall discuss how to end the national oppression of indigenous peoples and pave the way for the exercise of our self-determined development,” states Peace Tour delegate Josephine Pagalan, Spokesperson of the indigenous peoples coalition KASALO.

"As long as the GRP and the NDFP are talking and there are opportunities to uphold and pursue previously signed agreements such as that on human rights and international humanitarian law, the peace process is a meaningful venue to fight for people's rights," says Peace Tour delegate Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of human rights watchdog KARAPATAN.

After years of impasse between the GRP and NDFP, the peace talks resumed last August after Rodrigo Roa Duterte became President of the Philippines. Four rounds of negotiations have been conducted since then. The latest round, which ended on April 6, successfully tackled the thorny issues of forging a... ceasefire agreement between the two parties and the violations of previously-signed agreements by the GRP, as well as the substantive social and economic reforms considered the meat of the negotiations. The revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP consider the implementation of such fundamental reforms under the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms a necessary precursor to the lasting cessation of armed conflict.

“Peace talks is a unique arena to resolve the roots of the conflict and can yield benefits for the people's welfare and interests. Despite the challenges and uncertainties, the possibilities for mutually-acceptable agreements arising out of ardent negotiations contextualized by social and political realities remain,” states Peace Tour delegate Edre Olalia, legal consultant to the Peace Negotiating Panel of the NDFP in the talks with the GRP.

Among the major issues to be addressed during the upcoming rounds of negotiations on economic reforms is the long-held development strategy of the Philippine government, which allows foreign and local large-scale mining, logging and agricultural corporations to plunder the country’s mineral and other natural resources and protecting the latter’s interests by militarization. Among the most impacted by these aggressive incursions are the indigenous peoples, who have resisted these state-supported incursions and whose very survival is at stake.

“Our ancestral domains are at the heart of the peace talks’ aim of promoting national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform in order to resolve the armed conflict. It is here where the last frontiers of the national patrimony can be found. That is why to defend it is to ensure the enjoyment of a just and lasting peace not only for Lumads but for all Filipinos,” says Peace Tour delegate Dulphing Ogan, Secretary General of the indigenous alliance KALUMARAN. Mr. Ogan also points to the peace process as the long-term solution to the illicit drug trade and the state-sanctioned killings. “The military’s approach in the war on drugs in Lumad territories is very alarming. We believe that the Indigenous Peoples’ Agenda, which we have worked to include in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, addresses the roots and resolution of the drug problem by addressing the problems of land, livelihood, and well-being of indigenous peoples,” states Mr. Ogan.

The Peace Tour is organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-U.S. Organizing Group, with support from partners including the Human Rights Office of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Women. From April 18-May 8, the Peace Tour will visit New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and St. Paul, MN. Universities, churches, community organizations, NGOs and elected officials throughout the US will host events for the delegation.

For a full list of events and sponsors, please visit:
www.humanrightsphilippines.net/events.

To request interviews with the Peace Tour delegates, please contact:
Rhonda Ramiro, Peace Tour Media Committee, rramiro@gmail.com.

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