Tell it to SunStar: Philippines as a hot spot

THE Duterte government is making the country a hot spot for peace advocates and activists, escalating attacks and rights violations while throwing the whole efforts to a just and lasting peace to the bin.

We condemned the arrest and filing of trumped-up charges anew against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Renante Gamara and companion Arturo Balagat, a former priest.

Who in his right mind will go around carrying firearms and explosives with the election gun ban in place? Are the likes of Gamara and Balagat the real threats to the people and to peace, or the people who are behind the repetitive filing of charges against peace advocates one after another, to justify unjust arrests and detention?

Both were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the same case that were filed against peace consultants who were illegally arrested and detained after formal peace negotiations were stalled since 2017.

Gamara and Balagat were reportedly arrested by combined elements of the Special Action Force and the Philippine Army on the evening of March 20. They were brought to Camp General Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite, and are now both in National Capital Region Police Office Bicutan. They are scheduled for inquest today.

Provinces and cities are declared as election hot spots for possible election fraud and violence, but in fact, state forces from the military and police are the ones who are waving around threats and attacks, like vultures hovering over their potential victims.

We expressed deep concern that more arrests will be done for the duration of the election season.

While the people’s attention is all on the elections, the Duterte government is continuing its repressive attacks against people, progressives, activists and rights advocates.

We call on the people to be alert against these attacks. The arrest of Gamara and Balagat prove that anybody may fall victim to arrest and false charges. We call on election candidates to bring to discussion the call to resume peace talks between the NDFP and the government.

Election and no election, there should be no let-up in calling for the resumption of the peace talks.

We hope that candidates will use the open season for raising the clamor for the resumption of the talks as they go around their campaign. The peace talks should be at the core of this election, because peace talks is about addressing the reasons of the armed conflict. It is about poverty, unemployment and landlessness. It is about addressing why people continue to be poor while we routinely elect government officials who repeatedly promise change to futility.


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