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Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) expresses alarm over the all-out war declaration of the Duterte government against the New People’s Army which came after he terminated the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
We are very much disheartened with the termination of the peace negotiations as it invalidates the initial gains of the previous three rounds of the formal talks which resulted to a discussion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) to address the roots of the armed conflict.
The termination of the negotiation and all-out war pronouncement of the government paved the way to more brutal military combat operations in the countryside - endangering the lives, safety and welfare of children, their families and communities.
We believe that state-instigated human rights violations will definitely intensify and will cost the lives of civilians, including children. As seen in history, counter-insurgency campaigns of previous governments all ended in a bloody war against civilians, killing children and adults, rendering children orphans and displacing indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands.
Recently, a series of threat, harassment and intimidation was experienced by Bayan-Negros Secretary General Christian Tuayon and his family. Last February 3, a certain PO3 Salt Alvarez Peña went to the school of Christian’s 8 year old son. Peña, who introduced himself as the child’s uncle, approached the child and badgered him with questions about his family and other personal information. The said police officer also went to the workplace of Christian’s wife Roan, asking the same questions. Roan was a former staff of CRC Outreach program in Negros Occidental.
On the same day, a, 42-year old leader of indigenous group Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) Renato Angalao was assassinated while on his way home after buying school supplies in the town center of Quezon, Bukidnon. He was aboard his motorcycle with wife and child, when another motorcycle with three unidentified men wearing masks drove to their side and shot him twice in the head and chest. Renato was killed instantly and the three assassins quickly sped away. Renato’s wife and child were unharmed but they are now experiencing severe trauma from the incident.
Children and even grandchildren of NDFP consultants are also in great danger with the on-going witch hunt among leaders and consultants of the NDFP. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) also terminated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and this set back has proven that the GRP do not respect and uphold previous agreements. These are but clear violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
We strongly appeal to President Duterte to reconsider his stand and instead hold on to his promise of trailing the road to a just and lasting peace for the best interest of the Filipino people, especially children.
For more than three decades, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center fervently supports the continuation of the peace negotiations in order to come up with an agreement on socio-economic reforms which will help address the roots of armed conflict – poverty and social injustices. The cries of oppressed and exploited children thirsting for peace are but enough compelling reasons to continue with the peace negotiations.
Mr. President, give peace based on justice a chance.