A message to the PEPP Church Leaders’ Summit in Mindanao Held at the San Jose Seminary, Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City, June 26-28, 2013

Ka Oris
June 28, 2013

His Eminence Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdez, convenors and members of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), church leaders, observers and guests, PEACE BE WITH YOU! There has never been a more auspicious time than today to firmly stand our ground and work more vigorously towards attaining genuine and lasting peace.

For us, the impetus has been honed by four decades of revolutionary struggle, which have sent thousands of Party cadres, Red commanders and fighters, and hundreds of thousands of masses to selflessly endure tremendous sacrifices in the midst of a civil war to attain the peace we aspire for. Particularly, this has cost the lives of some of your brethren in the vocation, such as Fr. Frank Navarro, Fr. Bert Salac, Fr. Pops Tentorio, Rev. Jeremias Tinambacan, lay workers Tito Marata and Mat Morales and many other religious who boldly chose to take the road less travelled.

The revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party, together with the New People’s Army (NPA), the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), fifteen other allied revolutionary mass organizations and the broad masses, including the Moro masses, has consistently struggled for a just and lasting peace against oppression and exploitation. We have put forward an alternative 12-Point Program that provides the framework for the establishment of social justice, so that, once and for all, genuine peace is achieved in the whole country.

The centerpiece and main content of this program are genuine land reform, which addresses the restiveness of the peasant masses against feudal bondage, and national industrialization, which shall serve to develop our agriculture and meet the needs of oppressed and exploited workers. Along with these is our struggle for genuine sovereignty, waged to unshackle us from foreign domination and intervention, and to defend our patrimony and the environment.

We have launched a revolutionary war that shall end all wars. By this, we mean building the people’s army to defend the struggling people’s interests, and waging armed struggle to topple the political, economic and cultural structures that fetter our society and breed violence, even as we open the doors for a peaceful resolution to the nation’s centuries-old social problem.

But, for any peaceful settlement to truly benefit the masses, it must seriously address the root causes of un-peace in this land. It must first smash the feudal chains that have burdened the peasantry. It must end the exploitation of millions of workers. It must guarantee the defence of our sovereignty, making certain that our patrimony and the environment are completely protected, so that all of us here could still fully enjoy the last years of our lives, and turn over the fruits of our struggles to our future generations intact.

We must be aware however that the Government of the Philippines (GPH) unilaterally backed out from the peace talks. In my view, the bottom line was that the GPH is not prepared to seriously discuss genuine land reform and national industrialization and sidestepped the upholding of our sovereignty, and the protection of our patrimony and the environment.

The reactionary government has extended the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) instead of undertaking genuine land reform; it has buttressed the pro-big business Mining Act of 1995 by giving Executive Order No. 79 the stamp of approval; and, it has promoted the rapid expansion of plantations in Mindanao. We have all bared witness to the proliferation of large-scale mining and agri-business plantations in the island, which have displaced Lumad and peasant communities, heavily exploited our workers, and greatly contributed to the devastation of the environment, bringing us the wrath of super typhoons Sendong and Pablo.

The Aquino government is now harking on a “new approach,” which is nothing but a rehash of the same tactics employed by all reactionary regimes in the past, to either press for the pacification or capitulation of the revolutionary movement.

It has offered, on one hand, localized peace talks, the establishment of the so-called “peace zones,”and beguiled the majority poor with palliative programs such as the 4Ps, Pamana and other such illusory “socio-eco programs,” while launching, on the other, massive, wide and sustained brutal military operations through its Oplan Bayanihan, terrorizing many villages without let up and committing human rights violations with impunity.

Localized peace talks, in particular, can go nowhere since this can never decide on issues that concern land reform, national industrialization, sovereignty and patrimony. The policies that govern multinational mining and plantations, as well as other issues that impact the nation, can only be resolved between the GPH and NDFP negotiating panels at the national level.

“Peace zones,” a carryover from previous regimes, were a total failure. Clear examples of these were: Brgy. Mahaba in Marihatag town, Surigao del Sur; Sitio Lantad in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental; Sitio Lawan-lawan, a Higaonon community, in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; and Brgy. Bitoan in Tulunan, North Cotabato. Thanks to the pacification program of the reactionary government, “peace” is achieved under the barrel of the gun, because all of these communities have big army detachments established right in their midst, which is in violation of the CAR-HR-IHL and the Protocols of War.

There can be no peace when some “3.9 million families went hungry in the first quarter of the year, up by around 600,000 from the previous quarter.”* Worst of all, severe hunger was highest in Mindanao, which, according to the same survey, “increased from 4 per cent to 6.7 per cent.”** And sadly, four regions in Mindanao are considered to be among the most impoverished in the country.

In the midst of all the risks and hardships in over four decades of our revolutionary struggle, it has always been our fervent wish to resolve the social conflict in our country through peaceful means, and, in so doing, achieve a just and lasting peace. Our option for a peaceful settlement however is based on the justness of the people’s struggle, and not on the alleged “weakening of the revolutionary movement” as falsely projected by GPH propagandists.

Particularly in Mindanao, we are witness to the growing of strength of the revolutionary people’s war across the island. With this, we renew our commitment to the struggle for just and lasting peace. However, if just peace cannot be achieved because the GPH consistently and maliciously blocks the resumption of the talks, the revolutionary movement shall remain ever unflinching to continue the struggle for social justice until just and lasting peace is fully achieved.

Now therefore, I wish to take this rare opportunity to appeal to you to unite and to collectively persuade the GPH to return to the negotiating table. I believe that this aggrupation of various church leaders is in the best position to remind the GPH that the stakes are far too costly to ignore. We are also eager to listen to and learn from proposals this august assemblage has to put forward on how to undertake this herculean task ahead of us.

In behalf of all the revolutionary forces and masses in Mindanao, I thank you for giving us this opportunity. May peace be with us all!

*“SWS: 600,000 more hungry Filipinos in 1st qtr,” PDI, p. A4, May 23, 2013
**“SWS: 600,000 more hungry Filipinos in 1st qtr,” PDI, p. A4, May 23, 2013