PEACE TALK: Philippine Bike Tour for Life and Peace. By Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

In every parish where I will stay for the night, I will celebrate the Eucharist and preach the gospel of life and peace. I do this because we live in a land where the value and sanctity of life is disregarded, a society where the culture of death and violence prevails. There are various manifestations of this culture of death and I would like to focus on the following concerns:

(1) Abortion
(2) The ongoing armed conflict/war in the countryside,
(3) The spate of killings of militants, journalists and suspected petty criminals
(4) The environmental destruction
(5) Graft and corruption

1. Prevalence of abortion.

Millions of unborn children have been murdered in their mothers' womb.

Over 400,000 abortions are performed annually. Most of these are performed by doctors, nurses and hilots. There are groups that advocate the legalization of abortion following the trend in many countries. There is a lack of outcry to the ongoing mass murder of innocent and defenseless unborn children.

2. The continuing  armed conflict.

The peace negotiations between the Government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) which started 20 years ago have not progressed and have practically been abandoned. The partial agreements arrived at have been ignored.

Hoping for an eventual military victory, the revolutionary movement is expanding the NPA guerrilla fronts and mass base and increasing tactical offensives. They attack soft targets like cell-sites and burn buses and equipment of companies who refuse to pay revolutionary taxes.

The revolutionary movement has resorted to assassination of  so-called "enemies of the people": uncooperative local government officials, police, suspected informers, former comrades, those belonging to other competing ideological groups, etc.
The Arroyo Government continues to classify the CPP/NDF/NPA as a terrorist group and has adopted a militarist solution to the insurgency problem which it hopes to eliminate or neutralize by 2010.

The NDF/CPP/NPA has made its "de-listing" as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU as a precondition for the resumption of the peace negotiation.

So many civilians have been caught in this crossfire which has consequently led to evacuations and to human rights violations.

The roots of the armed conflict have not been addressed – such as  poverty, inequality, injustices, and exploitation. These lead to slow death and can provoke people to resort to violence or support the armed struggle.

While the ceasefire between the MILF and the Government is holding, a peace agreement is still elusive. Every time a breakthrough is almost reached, there are forces and events that sabotage the process.

3. The spate of killings of militants, journalists and suspected petty-criminals

Hundreds of members and leaders of legal groups accused of being fronts of the revolutionary movement have been abducted or assassinated. The United Nation special rapporteur, Alston, points to the involvement of elements within the military in these killings. They appear to be part of a counter-insurgency campaign.

Media people have not been spared from the cycle of violence.

Journalists and radio commentators critical to actuations of government officials have been murdered.

While capital punishment has been abolished, suspected petty criminals have been summarily executed by death squads. According to the Alston report, these vigilante killings appear to be inspired or tolerated by local government officials. They appear to be supported by businessmen who proclaim that these killings are good for business.

4. The destruction of the environment
The land, seas, rivers, lakes and the air are polluted. The forests are disappearing. These have contributed to global warming. The destruction of the environment is one of the biggest threats to life. It harms not only this present generation but the future generations. The mining, logging and banana industry and other corporations have
made huge profits while the local populace remain impoverished and their health and life put at risk.  Our government policies favor these companies over the welfare of the people.

5. Corruption at all levels of government
Corruption is like a cancer that afflicts all levels of government – from top to bottom. The culture of corruption perpetuates the culture of death. The CBCP has condemned corruption as "death dealing" and "life-destroying plague" (1989). It perpetuates the poverty of the people and contributes to the continuation of the armed conflict. It
allows the wanton destruction of the environment to continue.

Abortion, the armed conflict, extrajudicial killings, the environmental destruction and corruption. These  are manifestations of the culture of death in our country. They cause so much suffering and death to our people. They manifest a total disregard for the value of life. It is in the midst of this culture that I wish to preach the gospel of life. Life is sacred. No to abortion, no to war (whether people's war or the counter-insurgency war), no to the extrajudicial killings, no the destruction of the environment. No to graft and corruption.

I wish to dedicate this Bike-Tour to the victims of this culture of death:

For the millions of the aborted – the unborn children murdered in their mother's womb.

For the casualties of the armed conflict – combatants and non-combatants

For the militants, journalists and suspected petty-criminals who have been executed

For  the millions affected by the destruction of the environment.

I make the following appeal:

1.  To women with unwanted pregnancy, those doctors,  nurses, and hilots involved in abortion: Stop killing the unborn human beings. Abortion is not a right. It is crime, it is a grievous sin. Choose life not death. Allow the children to see the light of day. If you cannot care for them, let others who can take care of them and shower them with their love. Let us build a society that is child-friendly. Children are not a curse, they are a blessing. They are the hope of the future.

2. To the government and military leaders  and leaders of the revolutionary movement, especially the NDF/CPP/NPA and the MILF: No more war.  No more killings and destruction of property. Resume the peace negotiation without precondition and come up with a peace settlement that addresses the roots of the armed conflict.

To ordinary citizens, civil society groups and the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs): Be peace-makers. Let us build up the peace movement, help create more peace zones and pressure the government and the revolutionary movements to pursue the path of peace.

3. To the Government and Military Leadership: Put an end to extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances and bring the perpetrators to justice. Respect the rule of law and human rights.

4. Respect and defend the environment. Impose a total log ban nationwide. Repeal the mining act. Ban aerial spraying in banana plantations.

5. Stop corruption at all levels of society – from top to bottom.

Life is precious, life is sacred. Let us put a stop to this culture of death, violence and corruption. May the fullness of life and peace of the risen Christ prevail in our land.