Rights, peace groups protest rampant killings and remind people of the Martial rule declared 44 years ago; Farmers call to realize SDG
Networks of civil society groups for human rights and peace, faith-based institutions, and environmental organizations collectively celebrated United Nation’s International Day of Peace and commemorated the 44th year of declaration of Martial Law on September 21.
Anchoring the event, iDefend (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) a network of human rights advocates formed amid the rampant killings of suspected drug criminals in the anti-drug campaign under President Rodrigo Duterte, called on the government to uphold human rights for all and respect for the dignity of life.
Groups converged at Kambal na Simbahan in Bustillos, and proceeded to march towards Plaza Miranda by 2:30 in the afternoon, followed by a mass concelebrated by five priests and lead by Father Nonong Navarro. A program interspersed with speeches and cultural presentations then followed.
“This day is especially significant for our country since for the last three months, the country has been wracked by government-sponsored violence and lawlessness, by a war the administration has declared, ostensibly against drugs but which has become a war against humanity,” said Ellecer Carlos reading the iDefend statement to the crowd.
Other speakers from several organizations reiterated the demand that Duterte administration put an end to extra-judicial killings: that it should respect human rights and due process, refrain from subverting the separation of powers, and uphold democratic processes instead of curtailing them.
“Kapayapaan, Karapatan, Katarungan”
“While we appreciate the on-going peace talks for our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters and the groups of CPP-NPA-NDF, we stand-by our call to uphold dignity for all, regardless of circumstances. Suspected drug criminals must be accorded with due process. We condemn the rampant extra judicial killings amid the anti-drug campaign of the government,” Karen Tanada of Gascon Z. Ortigas Peace Institute and PMPI-NCR Point Person said in her speech.
She added human rights is key.
“Even the current peace process’ key guiding principle is respect for human rights, through the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Not because they are criminal they do not deserve justice. Human rights is for all. Let us keep this in mind while we pave the way towards peace,” she added.
The group carried pictures of victims of martial law’s violence to remember what happened during this dark period of Philippine history where thousands of activists were tortured and killed.
“Our network celebrates International Day of Peace yearly to highlight the importance of peace as a path to development and to advocate for peace and justice in all aspects of life,” Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of Philippine Misereor Partnership opined.
She pointed out that this year’s context, however, is unique.
“Violence is escalating. Even as we agree that criminality and drug also violates human dignity and destroys life, the current government’s approach to curb it is no better,” Esguerra said.
She stressed that there is a need to ensure that the police strictly follows the rules of engagement with criminals to avoid deaths and to thoroughly investigate the summary executions of suspected drug users/pushers.
“We are deeply concerned that the tenor coming from the President is to kill the so called lowlifers and that the drug campaign is becoming to be anti-poor as it has victimized mostly the small time pushers and addicts living in poor communities,” Ms. Esguerra added
Towards the dawning of sun, priests, nuns, seminarians, youth, contingent from urban communities and NGO workers slowly gathered in the plaza for a symbolic lighting of candles commemorating those who perished during Martial Law and the EJK victims of the Duterte drug campaign.
Other participating and organizing groups in the event include, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared (FIND), Association of Major Religious Superiorsof the Philippines (AMRSP), Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM)-Pilipinas, the Order of Friars Minor, Franciscan Solidarity Movement for Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (FSM-JPIC), Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Pilipina, Inc, Medical Action Group (MAG), Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Urban Poor Associates, Community Organizers Multi-versity, Sanlakas, 1018, Kilusan sa Pambansang Demokrasya(KDP), Partido Manggawa, Bukluran ng Manggawang Pilipino (BMP), Balay Rehabilitation Center, GZO Institute.
More celebration for Peace Day
Meanwhile other members of PMPI across the Philippines focused on their respective advocacies observed the International Day of Peace, carrying its theme for the year, Sustainable Development Goals: The Building Blocks for Peace.
“We celebrate the Peace Day in solidarity with the small farmers and farming communities affected by plights that stop them from realizing peace among their communities,” Georie Pitong of Masipag Visayas lamented.
She emphasized that these “un-peaceful” situations include farmers being victimized by usurious financing, seed control and environmentally destructive technologies commercialized by big agro-chemical business corporations.
“The rampant human rights violation added up to all these problems faced by remote communities,” she said.
Pitong highlighted that the government and non-government development agencies must imbibe this year’s theme of the Peace Day celebration focused on the Sustainable Development Goal.
“Let us put this to practice. The SDG is not just a paper. It is life and livelihood for all, as it is our right. Indeed, it is the building block for peace,” she said.
Fair Trade Foundation – Panay Inc. shares this statement by saying that economic empowerment among the poor must also be prioritized in order to deal with peace issues in the country.
“If the majority of the people wallow in deep poverty, and have no decent jobs and are living below the “living wage”? How can there be a lasting peace if majority of the people have barely enough food on their table, cannot afford to send their children to school, and cannot make both ends meet?” FTP-Panay said.