House reso seeks lifting of terror tag, return to peace table with CPP-NPA-NDF

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
House reso seeks lifting of terror tag, return to peace table with CPP-NPA-NDF
Undated file photo of members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc have filed a resolution to call for the lifting of the government's terrorist tag on communist rebels to pave the way for peace talks that, they said, will "institute social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict."

They said the House should call on the Anti-Terrorism Council to recall resolutions designating the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and individuals linked to them as terrorists.

Reps. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s party) and Raoul Manuel (Kabataan party-list), in a resolution filed Wednesday, noted that the Philippines is committed to renouncing war as a national policy and that this policy has guided the enactment of several laws.

"Complementing these laws are several instruments and binding agreements" between the government and the NDF as a result of formal peace talks.

Peace talks, which restarted during the Duterte administration with much hope in 2016 stalled and eventually collapsed in 2017 over alleged ceasefire violations. President Rodrigo Duterte eventually began lambasting commiunists in his speeches and at times calling for the deaths of rebels.

With the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 — still under the Duterte administration — the ATC moved to tag the CPP-NPA-NDF, and individuals accused of being "Central Committee Members" in separate resolutions in late 2020 and 2021.

"These designations signaled the Duterte administration’s repudiation of a peaceful settlement in favor of a military approach to the armed conflict," the Makabayan lawmakers said.

They said that since the ATC resolutions, there has been a "rise in violations of human rights and international humanitarian law as government forces intensified its war in the countryside, including air and artillery strikes in rural communities."

The designations have also increased the indiscriminate labeling of those critical of government as terrorists. These include trade unions, organizations of farmers, women, youth, indigenous peoples, teachers, health workers, lawyers, church workers and even political opposition.

Recently, the ATC designated red-tagged community doctor Natividad Castro a terrorist. The council claimed she was a rebel despite backing from the Philippine medical community of the work she has been doing.

The lawmakers went on that "[r]ecent history shows that the conduct of peace negotiations is an effective path to end hostilities. Negotiations resulted in a peace agreement with the Moro International Liberation Front, the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao."

"Be it further resolved that the Government of the Philippines restart peace negotiations with the NDF with the aim of achieving just and lasting peace through negotiated binding agreements," they added.

Will the House adopt it?

Asked on the chances that the resolution filed by a rather small group dominated by a super majority will be adopted by the House, Castro said that any member of the Congress can file a legislative measure, but the compelling reason for their call as embodied in the resolution is what is important.

"As it is we are enjoining our colleagues in the House to cross party lines and ignore the militarist and hawkish jibes of the security sector and prioritize the interest of the Filipino people by supporting House Resolution 756," she continued.

"No amount of red-tagging, fake news, illegal arrests, fake surrenderees nor guns, bombs, tanks and what not could deny the fact that there are glaring inequalities in Philippine society and they have to be addressed through peace negotiations," Castro also said. — with reports from Cristina Chi

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