WE REMEMBER September 21 as the date of Marcos’ declaration of martial law. But September 21 is also the International Day of Peace, established by the United Nations in 1981, to provide a shared day globally to commit to building a community and culture of peace.
But it’s a paradox of our time that some say “Martial Law brings peace”. That’s the line from the military and government propagandists. They say it with guns, tanks and checkpoints. Elsewhere, there is red-tagging propaganda, aimed to expose “enemies of people’s peace”.
But Catholic Church leaders during a forum in Quezon City last week said this kind of peace has brought the opposite effect.
This was shown by a video testimony by Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, a 60-year-old city health officer of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. She said she is the only doctor serving the 33 barangays of Guihulngan. But when she was tagged as the NPA spokesperson JB Regalado, she has stopped going to the communities out of fear. The recent killing of a district hospital doctor aggravated her fears.
Elsewhere, Ophelia Tabacon, a public school teacher in Cagayan de Oro, was attending a leadership seminar by the ACT Teachers last Thursday when she received a bouquet of flowers with a note. She opened the note to find a leaflet with her photos taken during ACT forums, with a text calling her “maestro komunista” (communist teacher).
Tabacon is not the only person getting in this red-tag list pervading in Cagayan de Oro. Veteran journalists Froilan Gallardo and Vicente Corrales, both having covered events of the NPA in Mindanao, were tagged as NPA leaders. Lawyers and church leaders advocating for human rights are also tagged as well. A Lumad leader was arrested for trumped up charges.
Red-tagging is creating a culture that one can assign guilt outside of due process, and making killings legal, this is what Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma lamented during the forum.
Ledesma and other Catholic leaders said the abandonment of peace talks, and the president’s issuance of Memorandum Order 32 and Executive Order 70 or the “Whole of Nation” approach, has created a culture of fear. It is actually war.
“An all-out war may bring about a divided community in our country,” Ledesma was quoted in the news. “I think what we should do is really call for all out peace. Let the whole nation call for all out peace.”
The bishop’s words hold true. It seems government’s response to people who show concern for the poor, the Lumad and the environment, is a reactionary method of branding them as the enemy.
We must act to protect our defenders, as well as define peace in the way it should be. As the bishop said. “So, all the more we should work for justice, peace negotiation, (and) culture of dialogue to bring about peace.”