Priest warns of rise in violence as PNP returns to drug war, peace talks collapse
Published: 3:02 p.m., Dec. 9, 2017 | Updated: 6:40 p.m., Dec. 9, 2018
A Catholic priest warned on Saturday of a rise in killings and violence in the country following the collapse of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the return of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the anti-illegal drug campaign.
“The spiral of violence is going to escalate, especially that the peace process has stopped at saka ibinalik na naman sa – it’s not only PDEA [Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency] – balik na naman sa anti-illegal drug campaign ang PNP,” Fr. Amado Picardal, outgoing executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Basic Ecclesial Communities, told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
“If that happens, the Church would not be silent,” Picardal added.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation labeling the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups in accordance with the Human Security Act.
Days later, he declared that he would order the arrests of communist leaders released by the government last year for the peace negotiations.
Picardal said that with Duterte’s proclamation the government now would have two targets for extrajudicial killings – drug suspects and the leftists.
The priest likened this to the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which had two targets – criminals and the leftists.
“We are coming back to that,” he said.
Picardal said that the public should “oppose and expose” the gross violations of human rights.
Human rights groups and advocates have also denounced the declaration, saying it would only legitimize attacks against dissenters, especially those in legal organizations.
“The proclamation means the Duterte administration’s abandonment of the peace process and the possible resolution of the largely socio-economic and political causes of the almost five-decades old armed conflict. It’s a total capitulation to the US-inspired counter-insurgency campaign,” Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of the Bayan Muna party-list said.
“It also means that darker days are ahead considering that human rights is already taking a solid hit from the fascist campaigns of the government,” he added.
Human rights group Karapatan has reported a series of killings across the country following the President’s proclamation, including those of Nueva Ecija priest Fr. Marcelito Paez, Oriental Mindoro pastor Lovelito Quiñones, and eight Lumad farmers in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
Duterte has also announced the return of the PNP to the anti-illegal drug crackdown to back the PDEA, more than a month after he entrusted the undermanned anti-narcotics agency to lead solely his controversial campaign.
Not a war
Picardal also questioned the labeling of the anti-illegal drug crackdown as “war on drugs.”
As he pointed out, a war should have at least two opposing forces. But this campaign does not have that.
He called the campaign as “hunting season” and “mass murder” of the poor.
“We cannot call this war. Hindi patas. Kung gyera ito, talagang may balance of forces. This is hunting season, mass murder carried out by the state,” he said.
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