THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel suspects elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are out to sabotage the peace process after the brutal police dispersal of an indigenous peoples-led rally at the United States (US) Embassy in Manila yesterday.
In a statement issued this morning, NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said it is most likely there are elements within the military and police who are against the new policy direction of their commander-in-chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, to pursue peace with the NDFP.
“The NDFP Negotiating Panel strongly condemns the brutal police dispersal of the peaceful rally of Lumads and their supporters in front of the US embassy calling for the scrapping of EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) and other unequal treaties with the US and an end to the US-instigated Oplan Bayanihan,” the statement said.
“We call on Pres. Duterte to discipline the police and rein in his troops. They must be told to respect the people’s rights to peaceful assembly and free speech. These rights are guaranteed in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) constitution and in the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) signed by the two sides in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” the statement added.
The first GRP-NDFP peace negotiations collapsed in 1987 when the then Western Police District (now the MPD) violently dispersed protesters and killed 13 farmers.
At least 50 protesters were injured when Manila Police District deputy commander Col. Marcelino Pedrozo ordered his troops to “fight” and “arrest” rally participants in order to save face with the US Embassy.
The police then broke its agreement with the protest leaders and started violently dispersing the rally with tear gas and truncheons.
A Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho then rammed his police vehicle against the protesters and ran over several activists.
Kho was also photographed violently pulling the hair of a woman protester through a jeepney window. Kho was later reported to have punched Kilab Multimedia photojournalist Jaja Necosia who took the photo.
The police also ganged up on a hapless jeepney driver who was left bloodied and twitching on the street from blows to his head.
The PNP said it will investigate the incident.
Part of the ongoing Pambansang Lakbayan ng mga Pambansang Minorya 2016, the rally was headed by newly-formed national minorities alliance SANDUGO and supported by various progressive groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Anakbayan.
SANDUGO is an alliance of national minorities and indigenous peoples from Northern Luzon to Mindanao whose communities the NDFP said bear the brunt of military operations under the US-instigated Oplan Bayanihan.
“The lumad communities in Mindanao have not only suffered from the devastation of their ancestral lands as a result of the operations of foreign mining companies and agro-corporations. Oplan Bayanihan has been used to protect these foreign companies against the opposition of the Lumads to the companies’ destructive operations. Lumad communities have been forcibly evacuated and their leaders assassinated as in the recent case of Jimmy Saypan, the secretary general of Compostela Valley Farmers Association,” NDFP’s statement said.
“The rallyists were calling for the withdrawal of all US troops from the Philippines in accordance with Pres. Duterte’s policy statement on charting an independent course in foreign policy. They also called for an end to the US-designed Oplan Bayanihan in view of Pres. Duterte’s declared policy of reaching a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict with the forces of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” the statement added.
SANDUGO also led the rally that was violently dispersed by the AFP with water cannons in front of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City last Tuesday.
The NDFP complained that the AFP has been violating Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration.
“Apparently, parts of the military and police apparatus are still stuck in the old mindset of subservience and mendicancy to US imperialist interests contrary to their President’s avowed commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy. Pres. Duterte has more than once reminded the US that the Philippines was no longer its colony. He has declared that he would develop friendly relations with all countries including Russia and China and not be used by the US in its wars and conflicts with other powers as his predecessors had done before him,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)