By Inna Christine Cabel
As justice remains elusive for victims of different human rights violations in the country, University of the Philippines – Diliman (UP) student groups filled Palma Hall Feb. 17 with songs and poetry of protests.
“Rage Against Repression,” a cultural protest calling for the end of state fascism, was held to relaunch human rights youth network Tanggulan.
“Ito ay isang paraan ng pagpapakita na mulat ang kabataan sa kawalan ng hustisya na laganap sa mga pananamantala ng mga may kapangyarihan,” said Sachi Samaniego, member of the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP (UJP-UP).
UJP-UP, along with Himig Maskom and Alay Sining dedicated revolutionary songs such as “Rosas ng Digma” and self-written spoken word pieces to the victims of the Ampatuan and Kidapawan massacres.
On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 individuals including 32 media workers accompanying Esmael Mangudadatu on his way to file his certificate of candidacy for governor during election season were slain in an ambush in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Out of 197 accused, 112 have been arraigned. Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the main suspects, died in July 2015.
The victims were tortured, killed and disposed in mass graves by men allegedly from the Ampatuan clan, a political rival of Mangudadatu’s and one of whose sons was incumbent Maguindanao governor at the time.
On the other hand, the 2016 Kidapawan massacre involved the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) violent dispersal of about 3,000 protesters who blocked several roads in Cotabato April 1 calling for the immediate release of calamity aid from the local government.
The incident left two farmers dead and 40 protesters injured.
The province was placed under a state of calamity on Jan 19. According to North Cotabato’s Crop Damage Report Summary, around 36,915 farmers were affected by the drought.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista along with various local government officials and officers of the police and military were criminally charged for the dispersal.
Meanwhile, students also condemned the recent declaration of an all-out war by the government against communist rebels, citing it as a manifestation of state fascism.
According to UP Diliman University Student Council Councilor Ben Te, the need for the continuation of the peace process is essential to achieve just peace.
“Hinding-hindi po natin masasabi na mapayapa ang ating bansa, dahil sa iba’t ibang paraan nagdidigma ang ating estado, pinapatay ang kanyang mga mamamayan,” Te said.
“Gine-gyera niya ang mismong mamayang Pilipino na nabuhay, nahihirapan, para sa ating lipunan,” he added.
The armed struggle of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), established in 1968, is Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency.
Founded by Jose Maria Sison, the CPP aims to create a new democratic state headed by the working class, and is free from imperialism. The NPA is its armed unit while the National Democratic Front (NDF) represents the CPP to the Philippine government.
The first formal peace talks under the Duterte administration and the NDF started Aug. 22, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. On Aug. 25, Duterte also declared ceasefire with the CPP-NPA.
According to Kapayapaan, the meetings resulted to an agreement strengthening the joint monitoring mechanism for human rights and humanitarian law, the approval of several provisions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and an exchange of drafts on political and constitutional reforms.
Duterte scrapped the peace talks Feb. 4, accusing the CPP-NPA of violating the ceasefire and finally terminating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and ending the peace process on Feb. 7.
“It is an all-out war because they are already considered by the president as terrorist[s],” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a press briefing Feb. 9.
Both parties were supposed to meet on Feb. 22 to 27 to discuss the government’s proposal for a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
The CPP in a statement last Feb. 19 urged for the resumption of peace talks, reiterating their support for the agreement.
Peace advocates such as National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chair Liza Maza and Sen. Loren Legarda, also urged the president to resume the peace process.
A peace talks forum also organized by Tanggulan will be held on Feb. 22. The events are part of the build-up campaign for the National Day of Walkout for Free Education, Human Rights and Just Peace to be held on Feb 23. #