By Chito Chavez
Interfaith organization Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) expressed overwhelming fear over the list of alleged “front organizations of local Communist terrorist groups (CTG)” as presented by the Department of National Defense (DND).
The list included the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
The list was presented on November 5 by Major General Reuben Basiao, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, in a House Committee meeting.
PEPP is composed of church leaders from various denominations belonging to five religious federations including the NCCP.
“While we celebrate our diversity and affirm our different traditions, we are united in our unequivocal faith in Jesus Christ and our common ministry for peace and justice and we stand firm with the NCCP. We are thus also willing to dialogue with the AFP regarding this red tagging of one of us,’’ PEPP said in a statement.
“We also believe that indiscriminately labeling persons and organizations create an atmosphere of fear and danger. Such actions can pose as security risks and threaten the lives of the labeled persons or that of the organizations’ staff and their families,’’ the statement added.
PEPP had also previously sounded the alarm on the red-tagging of church people, journalists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government.
In many cases, the group said that Red-tagging was usually followed by other far serious actions by government authorities against those that were labeled.
A few months ago, the group recounted that Roman Catholic bishops were included as respondents in a case of sedition and a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Negros has been jailed along with other Church members based on trumped up charges.
It added there were also killings of activists and human rights defenders including church people.
“Only days ago, we have witnessed the raids and illegal arrests and vilification in Bacolod and in Metro Manila against members of people’s organizations that are critical of the government’s policies and programs,’’ PEPP noted.
PEPP insisted these recent events are still redolent of the pronouncements of the government that they will crush the “communist insurgency”.
“The presentation of Major General Basiao was in the context of the insurgency of the Communist Party of the Philippines -New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CCP-NPA-NDF), its history, organizational flow chart and number of attacks nationwide. The “front organizations” were allegedly providing funds to the Communist Terrorist Group” (CTG) through “International Solidarity Work,” it added.
“As church leaders, we always put premium on principled negotiations rather than pure military might. A negotiated peace, based on fundamental social and economic reforms that address the roots of why there is an armed conflict in the first place is less costly and will save countless human lives,’’ PEPP leaders maintained.
“We thus call on the government and the military to rethink its all-out war strategy, including the “Whole of Nation Approach” and stop labeling organizations like the NCCP. We call on both the government and NDFP to resume the formal peace talks. We also call on the Filipino people to continue praying and working for a just and enduring peace,’’ the PEPP statement concluded.