By RENZ KANG
LAOAG CITY — Progressive groups and churches in the heart of Marcos stronghold-province of Ilocos Norte held a press conference calling for the resumption of peace talks on March 3 at La Preciosa Restaurant in Laoag City.
The event was spearheaded by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Ilocos (Bayan-Ilocos) and Alyansa dagiti Mannalon ti Ilocos Norte (AMIN). They were joined by Martial Law Victims Association in Ilocos Norte (MLVAIN), Ugayam Iyapayao Tribal Organization, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
Almost a month ago, President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) ended their unilateral ceasefire following a violation done by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao.
Immediately after the declaration of all-out war by Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, human rights violations intensified. The groups believe that the all-out war will only intensify the attacks not against NPA guerillas but on civilians and political activists.
“We call for the resumption of peace talks and an end to the all-out war. While the peace talks was ongoing, members of AMIN were harassed in the guise of tokhang. We are afraid that the lives of our members are at stake. All-out war of DND plus All-out war against drugs is a bad combination for the people as well advocates and activists like us,” said AMIN chairperson Rodrigo Limon.
Elizer Corpuz of MLVAIN, on the other hand, calls for the release of all political prisoners. He was reminded of the horrors of the Martial Law era when Ilocano activists like him were illegally imprisoned.
“Most of the political prisoners now are in prison due to trumped-up charges because of their political leanings. Release them like you [Duterte] have promised,” he added. Corpuz is one of the many victims of the martial law period waiting for the justice and compensation from Martial Law Victims’ Claims Board. However, the compensation has not been given up until now.
The call for the resumption was seconded by Benny Aguinaldo of Ugayam Iyapayao Tribal Organization. “We, indigenous people of Ilocos Norte, were dismayed that the peace talks were cancelled since we have been victims ourselves for a long time of this rotten system. Our ancestral lands were taken from us by corporations and politicians alike. Our right to self-determination will definitely be realized since it is included in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and not by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP),” Aguinaldo said. “The road to peace is definitely a rocky road. But it is without doubt not through the path of all-out war. The path to peace will only open if the root cause of the armed insurgency is resolved.”
Lastly, the church people represented by Conference Minister Rev. Noel Pagdilao of UCCP and Rev. Arvin Mangrubang of IFI showed their support by asking Duterte to resume the talks and stop the all-out war. Both Pagdilao and Mangrubang emphasized that the warmongering path will only displace their constituents to a state of hardships and sacrifices. They added that it is better for Duterte to resume the talks for the people to benefit from the reforms it will bring. # nordis.net