Across PH, militants slam EJKs, demand peace talks | Inquirer News

Across PH, militants slam EJKs, demand peace talks

/ 02:23 AM February 26, 2017

rally cebu duterte supporters

Supporters of President Duterte carry a Philippine flag to their assembly at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. —JUNJIE MENDOZA/CEBU DAILY NEWS

The commemoration of the bloodless revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 turned into pockets of protests against extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and a resurgence of counterinsurgency abuses in cities and towns outside Metro Manila, which are nearer areas that are seeing a resumption of fighting between communist rebels and government soldiers.

Protests, led by the militant leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), were held in the Bicol cities of Legazpi in Albay province, Naga in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon in Sorsogon and Daet in Camarines Norte.


It seemed like time stood still as protest leaders raised the same issues that had been thrown at the Marcos dictatorship and had led to its downfall—human rights abuses and social injustice.


Vince Casilihan, Bayan Bicol spokesperson, said the spirit of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution will never be forgotten.

Casilihan said more than 2,000 joined protests in Sorsogon, 700 in Albay, more than 300 in Camarines Norte and at least 600 in Camarines Sur.

In Legazpi City, groups of drivers, women, farmers, youth and political detainees took part in the rallies at the city business district.

Among those who joined were youths who walked at least 5 kilometers from the town of Daraga to the Pinaglabanan Monument for the rally.

Protesters take to the streets in Naga City to air their demands for social justice and respect for human rights which they said the Duterte administration is neglecting. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Protesters take to the streets in Naga City to air their demands for social justice and respect for human rights which they said the Duterte administration is neglecting. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


Casilihan said the Left is noticing increasing human rights violations under the Duterte administration first in the guise of the war on drugs and next in the pretext of an all-out war on communist rebels.


A resurgence of state fascism is apparent, just like what prevailed during the more than 20-year dictatorship of Marcos, Casilihan said.

“The situation worsened due to the all-out war of AFP when the peace talks were canceled,” he said.

Armed with streamers and placards, protesters urged President Duterte to resume peace talks with the communists.

They also reminded the President of his promises to uplift the lives of people.

But instead of encouraging the bloodbath that accompanied his war on drugs, Mr. Duterte should wage war instead on poverty and inequality.

Casilihan said the failure of peace talks would lead to a surge in human rights abuses targeting suspected rebels or sympathizers.

Instead of addressing the roots of the rebellion in the countryside, Mr. Duterte’s all-out war would only worsen social and economic injustice in many of the country’s most impoverished areas where rebellion continues as a result of poverty and deprivation.

Drivers’ concern

A group of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers also took part in the rally, protesting plans to remove from the streets jeepneys and other PUVs that are 15 years or older.

Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of the public transport group Condor Piston in Bicol, said his fellow drivers are joining a nationwide transport strike on Monday.

Condor said to phase out jeepneys under a transport modernization plan would deprive drivers of their only source of livelihood.

The Department of Transportation had urged jeepney operators to voluntarily replace old units before it enforces the mandatory phase-out plan next year.

In the City of San Fernando, Archbishop Florentino Lavarias urged Catholics to pray for the enlightenment of lawmakers who are being swayed by the Duterte administration to revive the death penalty.

He made the call as hundreds of Catholics in Pampanga province staged a “Walk for Life” in San Fernando on Saturday coinciding with the 31st anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

The gathering opposed the death penalty and condemned the rising number of victims of extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.


“Pray that they will consult God [before they vote on the bill returning the death penalty],” said Lavarias, head of the Archdiocese of San Fernando that covers Pampanga and the dioceses in Tarlac, Bataan and Zambales provinces.

Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has denounced a return of the death penalty. Arroyo was president when she suspended capital punishment after signing into law Republic Act No. 9346 in 2006. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a key sponsor of the death penalty bill, had threatened to replace Arroyo, a deputy speaker, and other House leaders who refused to back the measure.

Dubbed as “Walk for Life,” the event did not criticize President Duterte.

Life from God

Catholics implored the help of the province’s patrons—Virgen de los Remedios and Sto. Cristo del Perdon—in the campaign against the restoration of death penalty. Public readings of the Gospel of Matthew about Christ’s preachings against killing were held at the gathering.

Joined by priests, nuns, pastors, seminarians and lay ministers, protesters marched from four points at 7 a.m., chanting “Yes to Life!” as they neared the grounds of the defunct Philippine National Railways in this provincial capital.

Reading the archdiocese’s position paper, which is being circulated to gather signatures, Lavarias said life must not be taken because “life comes from God and God is merciful.”

He said there is “no proof in the whole world that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crimes.”

The government, he said, should address the roots of the drug menace, which he traced to widespread poverty, family disintegration and corruption.

Lavarias said the success of Saturday’s protest was not because many people came, but “in their decision to stand up for life and defend the dignity of the human person as a creation of God.”

He challenged them to spread these values in their communities.

“Let us be people of hope. We can control the present but God holds the future. Passing the death penalty law is like saying that God is not there anymore,” he said.

In Cebu City, the commemoration of the People Power Revolt also became a show of force by groups criticizing and supporting Mr. Duterte.

At the Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu, at least 1,000 people gathered to express support for the President and asked people to protect him from “serious threats.”

After the group left at 4 p.m., their spot was taken over by militant groups warning against threats to democracy by the Duterte administration.

The pro-Duterte groups called their movement “Continue the Change.”

Protecting Du30

“We are here to protect the president and we got his back until 2022,” said Dr. Rowena Burden, one of the pro-Duterte leaders.

“Nobody will unseat our duly elected president without our consent,” she said at a speech before the pro-Duterte supporters wearing red and blue shirts. The groups offered free shirt printing with the words “PROTECT PRRD OUR 16TH PRESIDENT.”

Burden said the assembly was not a political gathering. “We are exercising our rights,” Burden said.

Duterte got 1.4 million votes from Cebu during the elections.

Past 5 p.m., groups criticizing Mr. Duterte’s disregard for human rights arrived where the pro-Duterte supporters had left.

Cebuano lawyer Democrito Barcenas, who was jailed during martial law, urged those who had not been born during the revolt to learn its lessons.

He said under Mr. Duterte, “there are ominous signs that democracy is being threatened.”

Placards that appeared at the anti-Duterte rally carried messages like “defend political rights,” “never again to dictatorship,” and “resist authoritarian rule.”

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Barcenas said Malacañang’s decision to tone down the celebration of the People Power Revolt was wrong. “We can never move on,” he said, referring to Palace officials’ statements urging people to “move on from the past” in defending the low-key celebration of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. —REY ANTHONY OSTRIA, MAR S. ARGUELLES, MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN, TONETTE OREJAS, MICHELLE PADAYHAG AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL

TAGS: war on drugs

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