NDF hopeful papal visit will call attention to rights abuses

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Hoping for a reflective atmosphere during the papal visit, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao reminds its guerrillas to observe the unilaterally declared ceasefire to welcome Pope Francis. 

Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, Mindanao spokesperson of the NDF, said that all revolutionary forces on the island greet Pope Francis and ensure that members of the New People’s Army will strictly adhere to the 10-day unilaterally declared ceasefire. 

“In deference to the papal visit, the NDFP-Mindanao has reiterated to the New People’s Army (NPA) in the island to strictly comply with the 10-day ceasefire declared by the NDFP at the national level, which includes in its coverage the 4-day stay of the Pope in the country. During such time, the NPA, while in defensive mode, shall cease all its tactical offensive military operations,” Madlos said. 

With the messages delivered by Pope Francis about social justice and human rights, Madlos commented that these would hopefully motivate the Filipino people to continue fighting for what is right. 

“As a world leader whose office holds considerable influence over the Filipino populace, we, in the revolutionary movement, stand in fervent hope that Pope Francis’ visit will inspire the people to unite and be more resolute in their struggle for social justice, particularly for genuine land reform, which is the aspiration of millions of peasants who have been for so long exploited and deprived of land to own, and, for national industrialization, which is the hope of exploited workers, particularly factory, mine and plantation workers who struggle to free themselves from below subsistence wages and inhuman working condition,” Madlos said. 

The communist spokesman added that they are expecting the papal visit to bring attention to the alleged cases of human rights abuses and the culture of impunity in the country. 

“Gleaning from the Pope’s views against pervasive abuses against human life and dignity, the Filipino people should be inspired by the visit to take the fight against human rights violations further, especially in the context of millions who have fallen victim to Benigno Aquino III’s brutal military campaign Oplan Bayanihan. This bloody campaign has, since the first quarter of 2014, razed the countryside in the island of Mindanao with incessant combat operations, terrorizing populated villages with cannon fire and aerial bombardment, and compelling whole communities of peasants, Lumad, and Moro to abandon their farms and flee their villages,” Madlos said. 

These accusations have been consistently denied by the military and the government, downplaying the claims for justice of rights victims. 

Human rights group Karapatan documented at least 225 cases of extra-judicial killings and about 226 cases of frustrated killings targeting activists, human rights workers, church leaders, and advocates since President Benigno Aquino III assumed the presidency. 

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines said at least 172 media workers have been killed in the country since 1986. The last victim was a tabloid reporter who was killed a week before Pope Francis’ arrival in Manila. 

Peace talks

And with the conflict between the communist movement and the government already stretching for more than 4 decades, the NDF is hoping that the Pope’s message of peace would renew the interest of the parties involved and the public to resume the stalled talks. 

“As a leading figure in the quest for peace worldwide, we wish that the Pope’s presence could imbibe among Filipinos renewed interest in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the current armed conflict, particularly in pushing for the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” Madlos said. 

“Directly relevant to which, the release of detained NDF consultants, whose participation is of crucial importance to said talks, should be undertaken. On the part of the NDF and the NPA, it has been releasing prisoners of war since the second half of last year as a confidence-building measure for the resumption of the talks,” the communist leader added.  

Presently, peace advocates are calling on both the government and the NDF to resume the negotiations that would address the root causes of the conflict that has caused numerous casualties and damages to property.

In The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, both parties agreed to tackle substantive agendas, including human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In March 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). 

The government and the NDF have already formulated their drafts for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) but have not made progress since the talks collapsed. 

The NDF is asserting that the government should release political prisoners and NDF consultants who were captured by government forces – as agreed upon in previously signed agreements – to jumpstart the stalled talks. – Rappler.com