Church leaders to gov’t: Withdraw designation of NDFP as terrorist group

National Democratic Front of the Philippines senior adviser Luis Jalandoni speaks in a press conference during the 48th founding anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the hinterland village of Lumiad in Paquibato District in Davao City on Monday, December 26, 2016. Beside Jalandoni is NDF consultant Porferio Tuna. Mindanews Photo

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on Wednesday called on the government to rescind the designation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a terrorist organization.

In a statement signed by Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma and other church leaders, PEPP said the designation by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) of the NDFP as a terrorist group “closes the door to what is truly called for: a peaceful resolution of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP conflict.”

“Sadly, with this action the ATC buried 29 years of laborious and painstaking agreements and gradual steps toward peace. The government seems to be ignoring that peace is a sacred right of all people and guaranteed as a fundamental duty of the state,” the statement said.

PEPP said the designation proves that the Anti-terrorism Law “is a huge hurdle to the promise of peace for everyone as it is being used as a weapon in a total war against so-called terrorists.”

The group cited that the case against two Aetas who were charged as terrorists but which was recently dismissed by the court “shows that the terror law can be used to fabricate charges and arbitrarily designate persons and groups.”

It added the designation shows that the government “does not fully recognize that violence will not resolve the conflict, that the most judicious way to address its roots–poverty, landlessness, inequitable access to resources– is to resume the formal peace talks.

It warned the designation and the reliance on “the use of violent means” will only increase the likelihood of more violations in human rights and international and humanitarian law.”

PEPP further warned that the move by the ATC might lead to the designation of groups calling for the resumption of the formal peace talks as terrorists, too.

“It is not far-fetched since they unjustifiably froze the accounts and properties of church ministries like that of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Haran Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City, allegedly for supporting terrorist activities.

“This also comes after the ATC designated 19 individuals, including peace consultants, as terrorists a few months ago. The list includes peace consultants Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Vicente Ladlad. Their assets were simultaneously frozen by the Anti-Money-Laundering Council (AMLC).

“Mr. Ladlad’s bank account contains the funds awarded by the Human Rights Claims Board while Mr. Casambre’s were savings from his allowances as an NGO worker, various honoraria and gifts from family members. It is not enough that they, and other peace consultants, are languishing in jail right now after trusting the government that they were supposed to be covered by their mutual agreement, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), but their savings cannot be accessed by their families as well,” PEPP said.

“We continue to appeal to both parties to return to the negotiating table. We also call on our people to pray and work for peace and support prospective candidates in the coming elections who are committed to genuine peace,” the statement concluded. (MindaNews)