Peace talks and counterinsurgency are campaign issues

16. February 2022 | Human Rights News, Internal Affairs

The more than 50-year-long armed conflict between the Philippine government and the New People’s Army (NPA), the militant branch of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP), is another issue in the current election campaign.

During his term in office, Duterte’s government ultimately suspended peace negotiations on this matter. The four presidential candidates Leni Robredo, Manny Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson and Isko Moreno announced in a television interview that they would resume peace negotiations if elected. Presidential candidate Leody de Guzman goes further, saying, “I intend to meet all the requirements in the NPA’s document, and I have read them all. […] The people will not stop fighting and taking up arms as long as there is injustice against them.” He refers in particular to the demand for land rights reforms.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, according to polls the most popular presidential candidate, announced that if elected he would raise the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The NTF-ELCAC is responsible for the implementation of counterinsurgency operations and has long been criticized for red-tagging, among other things.

With the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, the overall human rights situation in the Philippines continues to worsen. Former Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned, “With the Anti-Terrorism Act as part of the law of the land, it is as if the Philippines is permanently under a situation worse than martial law.” Activists and government critics branded as terrorists can be threatened, prosecuted and imprisoned on a “legal basis.” The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) first declared the CCP and later the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as terrorist groups. The NDFP had been an important partner in peace negotiations between the government and the NPA since 1992. Several peace consultants were victims of extrajudicial killings in 2021.

In addition, 21 cases of killed NPA members were documented in 2021, in which the Armed Forces of the Philippines violated the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), signed in 1998.

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