Int’l peace, human rights advocates to Duterte: Stop rights abuses, continue GRP-NDFP peacetalks

Peace and human rights advocates from Japan, Australia, Italy, Ireland, and the United Kingdom have expressed alarm and concern on the recent political killings and arrests in the Philippines, as well as on the declarations of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte on the “cancellation” of the formal peacetalks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. 

Twenty seven (27) organizations in Japan  and Australia  expressed concern on the killing of at least four Filipino peasant leaders in January, even when the so-called unilateral ceasefire declaration of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) was still in force. 

“In the Philippines, the serious violation of human rights, such as political killings and enforced disappearance, with which Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and private armies of big landlords and mining firms got involved, has been rampant under the past administrations. We have expressed grave concerns that the situation of human rights hasn’t yet been improved even during the current administration. Such killings and serious human rights violations must not happen anymore against the leaders of Lumad and farmer who have been protecting their land rights at the risk of their lives,” according to the nineteen Japanese NGOs, who sent a joint letter of concern to Duterte. 

Australian organizations, in their letter sent to Duterte on February 9, said the killings of four farmers last January 2017 reflect the “ongoing dominance of big landlords and businesses in the Philippines and their use of violence against peasants struggling for genuine agrarian reform.”

“The killings occurred before and during the third round of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), when both Parties started to tackle the crafting of an agreement on socio-economic reforms including genuine agrarian reform and rural development. It seems that these tactics have now succeeded in ending the current peace talks process, and we urge your government to seriously reconsider this development and take urgent action to restore the peace talks,” they added. 

In an urgent alert released on February 9, Dublin-based NGO Front Line Defenders, an international human rights group, expressed concern on the killing of a Lumad leader. “Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the killing of Renato Anglao, which it believes was solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights in the Philippines,” the group said. 

Front Line also called on Philippine authorities to “guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Philippines are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.”

Luciano Seller, President of the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino (Italy-Philippines Friendship Association), called for the immediate release of NDFP peace consultant Ariel Arbitrario  and the withdrawal of the arrests order from the Philippine National Police (PNP) against thirteen other NDFP peace consultants.  Together with Filipinos, the organization asked that “the Government of the Philippines continues the formal peace talks with the NDFP to reach agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional.”

In a statement of concerned Filipinos, Fil/Brits and British citizens living in Leicestershire, United Kingdom on February 11, expressed similar concerns. “The pronouncement of President Duterte to suspend the peace negotiation and terminate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) are considered setbacks to our desire for a genuine and lasting peace in the Philippines,” they said. 

“We call on the government of President Duterte and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to resume the peace negotiations and jointly wage war against poverty, social injustice, graft and corruption, illegal drugs and criminality, human rights violations, environmental destruction,” they further stated. 

*The copies of the statements may be viewed here: