September 25, 2018
A recent interview of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galves and Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. revealed the sad truth that the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains in a quagmire of anti-democratic war-mongering, stale conspiracy peddling, and vicious red-tagging of known peace advocates in the GRP-NDFP peace process.
In dropping the names of Rey Casambre and former congressman Satur Ocampo as being in the center of an imagined, nay, invented conspiracy plot, the AFP has provided concrete evidence that they are indeed war-mongering peace-spoilers. Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Satur Ocampo of Pilgrims for Peace are publicly known peace advocates. Their efforts in seeking to move the peace talks forward in addressing the roots of the armed conflict towards the aspiration of a just and enduring peace in the Philippines are well known to peace advocates throughout the country and internationally.
Naming Casambre and Ocampo as central figures in the AFP’s poorly concocted conspiracy theory makes abundantly clear that Duterte’s state forces are prone to fascist machinations and red-tagging which undermine democracy and impinge upon democratic freedoms.
Many peace advocates—both in the Philippines and around the world—will insist that part of peace building is allowing and even encouraging the participation of dissenting and marginalized voices in government and society. In contrast, the blatantly oppressive character of the military was revealed as they repeatedly warned of infiltration by communists in government. Peace advocates applaud the participation of progressive, pro-poor leaders in government, especially as they have been seen to deliver reforms and services that benefit the poor and toiling majority.
The AFP made evident that they wish to blame a faltering economy on the opposition. They even went as far as to accuse the opposition of manipulating the price of rice. This is ridiculous. Meanwhile, they also exposed the lie of their so-called “Whole of Nation” approach where the military seeks to control and manipulate access to basic and social services for their anti-insurgency campaign, while feigning that they are apolitical.
We want peace for the Philippines. The way to move in this direction is to resume GRP-NDFP peace talks intended to address the roots of the armed conflict. The negotiating parties had hammered out meaningful agreements, ready for signature, on much needed Socio-Economic Reforms. These very peace spoilers in the AFP and the security cluster are the ones standing in the way of democracy and peace building.
The public would be wise not to give an iota of credence to the AFP’s conspiracy tales. An open opposition exists. It would be much worse for democracy in the Philippines if it didn’t. And as Duterte’s military henchmen grasp at straws to attempt to tie together these perceived strands of opposition and falsely render them into a tidy conspiracy, they only lay bare their penchant for military rule.
On some level, President Duterte appears to have coalesced with their thinking. We must urge him that it is not too late to recalibrate toward peace talks and addressing historic injustices and root causes of armed conflict in our beloved homeland. People like Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Satur Ocampo of Pilgrims for Peace would welcome such developments.
As President Duterte continues to follow the AFP’s war-mongering and martial law, opposition will continue to grow in response to increased oppression and militarization. Not only should we not believe this conspiracy they are peddling, we must encourage the Duterte administration that peace-building and resuming GRP-NDFP peace talks is the better option altogether. ###
Bishop Rex RB Reyes, Jr., D.D.
Convenor, Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice)