A network of peace advocates, which is hosting a three-day peace activity here denied that their events are organized by the National Democratic Front as alleged by a statement from the Army last week.
On Thursday, June 23 the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said they received reports that the NDF’s allied groups and the New People’s Army (NPA) is organizing a rally set to commemorate the death of New People’s Army leader, Leoncio Pitao, alias Parago.
“The 10th Infantry Division has been receiving several reports from concerned civilians that for the past weeks, the NPAs and its allied groups from the NDFP-SMR had been coercing the people to join in a so-called peace rally scheduled on June 27-28, 2016 in Davao City,” said Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief of the Division of Public Affairs office of the 10th ID.
Batchar said their reports said the organizers “are insinuating the people to join them in said peace rally as part of the thanksgiving of Honorable Rodrigo R. Duterte prior to his oath taking as President on June 30, 2016.”
“The NPA and its allied groups have resorted to intimidation and deceptive tactics in hiding the real purpose of the said rally which is the commemoration of the death of Leoncio Pitao alias Parago. Parago was a known notorious NPA criminal who has several standing warrant of arrests for various crimes ranging from murder, multiple frustrated murder and robbery,” the Army said.
“On several occasions, the NPA and its allied groups made-up several deceptive approaches in exploiting the people to join a rally. Among their approaches range from offers of monetary payments in cash or in goods, field trips or meeting key government officials to address their needs,” it added.
Batchar said while the Army respects the people’s right to peaceful assembly, they also would like to “protect the people from any exploitation.”
“As part of our mandate, 10th ID will remain as the people’s servant and will remain committed in preserving the democratic way of life,” he said.
The dates of the activities received by the Army in their report coincide with the Exodus for Justice and Peace’s hosting of a three-day peace activities starting today, June 27.
However, Rev. Jurie Jaime, convener of EJP clarified that “these peace events are hosted by church leaders of the Exodus for Justice and Peace in support of the resumption of peace talks between the incoming Duterte government and the revolutionary movement represented by the National Democratic Front.”
Jaime said the peace activities dubbed as “Pukaw Kalinaw: Educate communities and various sectors to address the roots of the armed conflict” include a concert and a peace rally on June 29.
Jaime said their activities aim to “launch a campaign to push for public participation in deepening of the people’s agenda for change, to expand and link with various sectors in supporting the call for peace talks, and to mobilize and launch advocacy campaigns and activities to boost and sustain confidence in peace talks.”
He said their event seeks to serve as bridge between the people and those involved in the peace talks.
The group said that the military should “refrain from acting as saboteurs against people who want peace.”
“We pray that they may understand our efforts that will serve the benefit of the Filipinos, which is also the intent of the incoming Duterte administration,” he said.
For how many years, EJP has been consistent on facilitating the safe release of soldiers, police officer, and other individuals who were considered prisoners-of-war by the NPAs.
NDF to attend the event
Meanwhile, the NDFP said that they were also invited to talk about the updates on the peace talks -on the second day of the event on Tuesday, June 28.
In an interview with NDFP consultant Randall Echanis at the sidelines of the Kapehan sa SM media forum, he said that they did not know about the details of the preparations of the peace activities here.
Echanis said that the peace event is not hosted by the NDFP but by the EJP.
“We are only included on the peace forum with the GPH,” he added. He said that it is the EJP who has knowledge on the other events mentioned.
Jaime said that the GPH-NDF peace negotiations is now entering four decades yet negotiations have gone on-and-off through various administrations.
The EJP has previously served as a third party facilitator for the safe release of the NPAs prisoners of war.