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Church leaders express alarm at ‘reign of unpeace’ during Advent

Church leaders expressed alarm and concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace as shown by the Rodrigo Duterte government’s demonization of human rights.

In a pastoral statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that while the Advent season has arrived, “unpeace” reigns as the Rodrigo Duterte government continues to consider human rights as a barrier to peace and order.

“This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the church leaders said.

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs, they added.

The statement was signed by Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro Bishop Emeritus and PEPP co-chairperson Antonio Ledesma; Bishop and PEPP co-chairperson Rex B. Reye; Bishop and National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary Reuel Norman Marigza; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission executive director Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora; and PEPP head of secretariat Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

The church leaders pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had been relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.

They blamed the harmful rhetoric coming from President Duterte himself.

“This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace,” the pastoral statement said.

No ceasefire

President Duterte announced last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire declarations nor peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and the NDFP as long as he is president.

His announcement followed the repeated and public announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it will never recommend the declaration of ceasefire with the Communist groups.

The CPP in turn announced Wednesday, December 16, it is impossible for them to issue the traditional  ceasefire declaration over Christmas and New Year while government troops terrorize civilian communities and conduct intense military operations against their revolutionary forces.

The CPP ordered the NPA to actively defend civilians and their ranks from AFP military operations throughout the holiday season as well as urge its members to secretly observe its 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.

‘Silence guns during season of hope’

While calling on both parties to “silence the guns during this season of hope,” the PEPP pointed out that the Duterte government’s rejection of the results of the back channel talks during this COVID-19 pandemic is what brought about the state of unpeace.

“[It] unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called ‘legal fronts’, the group said.

“Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested,” it added.

The PEPP pointed out that the government is set for an all-out war in 2021 with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act while substantial funds were also designated for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC.

The PEPP however said such policies will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

“This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace,” the church leaders said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Army, police kill Alvin Luque in midnight raid

Prominent Davao activist Alvin Luque–who after many threats to his life by suspected State agents joined the New People’s Army (NPA)–was killed by a composite military and police team in a raid at 1AM this morning in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

The Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division said Luque, also known by his nom de guerre Joaquin Jacinto, was killed along with a yet unidentified male medic at Hermanias Resort, Purok Milion, Barangay San Agustin by elements of the Philippine Army’s 401st Brigade and the Philippine National Police-Caraga.

The military said they raided Luque’s hideout to serve an arrest warrant but were fired upon.

The ensuing firefight eventually led to the death of the victims, the military press release said.

Luque had at least five pending cases in various courts in Mindanao and a Php6 million bounty for his arrest, the military added.

He was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

The military also claimed the raiding team recovered a handgun, a grenade, various kinds of ammunition, bomb paraphernalia, an NPA flag and documents at the scene.

Independent Kodao sources confirmed that one of the victims was Luque.

They said that Luque was ailing, unable to walk and a hors de combat (unable to fight), thus the presence of the medic with him.

A frail asthmatic even before joining the NPA, Luque suffered from other ailments that forced him to seek medical care in the Surigao del Sur capital city of Tandag.

Luque and his medic’s killing was reminiscent of the deaths of legendary NPA commander Leoncio “Parago” Pitao and his medic in Davao City in June 2015.

The NPA said Pitao was also being medically attended to when summarily fired upon by government soldiers.

‘Red-tagging victim’

Luque first gained prominence as secretary general of the Southern Mindanao chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Previously, he was a student activist at the Ateneo de Davao University, a consistent candidate in the school’s student council elections.

In the 2001 national and local elections, Luque was a candidate for a Davao City Council seat with then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s party. He narrowly lost.

Due to his inclusion in the military’s order of battle lists and red-tagging campaigns by suspected State agents, Luque decided to join the NPA sometime in 2007.

In an essay, Luque wrote, “I have chosen not to submit myself to the processes of the law under the present reactionary government in the interest primarily of self-preservation, and to be effective still in contributing to the people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy.”

READ: Hounded by Military for Years, Ex-Bayan Leader Takes Refuge in NPA

Luque regularly featured in news reports and radio interviews as one of the more eloquent spokespersons of the Communist guerilla army.

He was also the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Mindanao.

A Philippine News Agency report said Luque rose to become a member of the executive committee and spokesperson of the Mindanao Commission of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No ceasefire? No surprise—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it is not surprised with President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he will not declare a ceasefire with the New People’s Army this Christmas and new year season.

Responding to Duterte’s late Monday address, the CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said Duterte’s decision “comes as no surprise,” adding the President’s policies had always been shaped by military generals obsessed with prolonging the civil war in the Philippines.

“They [the generals] are addicted to war because of the profits they pocket from it,” Valbuena said in a statement.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they are not recommending the declaration of the traditional Yuletide season ceasefire with the NPA this year.

Nor would the military recommend that the government declare ceasefires with the NPA ever again, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

Duterte said, “There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term ..For all intents and purposes, that ceasefire is dead. That’s gone. That has been long gone.”

Duterte again devoted a part of his address Monday assailing the Communists and vowing to destroy them.

He said that if he compromised with the Communists, the military and the police may assassinate him for being a traitor to the republic.

“I cannot compromise anything in this government. It’s either I will be impeached or the military and the police will shoot me,” Duterte said.

“And if I give you a power to share in the — a power-sharing, that’s a very, very serious thing. You can get assassinated for it,” he added.

‘Who ingratiated himself with whom?’

In a statement, National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison belied Duterte’s allegation, saying it was Duterte who kept blabbering about joining a coalition government with the CPP.

Sison said it was Duterte who ingratiated himself with the revolutionary movement as a Davao City mayor and when he was seeking the support of the legal democratic forces when he ran for the presidency.

“At no time has the subject of coalition government ever been taken up with Duterte or any of his predecessors as president in the course of the peace negotiations. The people’s revolutionary government based in the countryside can very well exist and develop without him and his likes,” Sison said.

“Duterte is lying about being offered a place in what he imagines as invitation to a coalition government. He could not even qualify as NDFP consultant when he offered himself to become one,” Sison said.

Duterte applied to become an NDFP consultant but was ordered to withdraw by the Benigno Aquino administration’s interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

High Court orders transfer of Casambre’s trial

The trial of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre has been transferred to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC), his family announced.

Casambre’s trial in Lupon, Davao Oriental had been ordered transferred to Quezon City by the Supreme Court in response to his counsels and family’s petition, Casambre’s daughter Xandra Liza Biseno said in a statement.

“[This is] due to the cost, burden and stresses on Rey and his kin, counsels, and friends of seeing the very remote Davao case through. [But the] partial transfer requires Rey to waive his right to physically appear and defend himself should any case proceeding transpire in Davao,” Xandra Liza said.

She added that the QC judge has informed Casambre’s lawyers that whatever transpires in Quezon City will be reported back to Davao.

Casambre’s trial has resumed last Wednesday, December 2, almost two years after his and wife Patricia Cora’s arrest in Bacoor, Cavite near midnight of December 6, 2018.

Casambre and Cora were flagged down by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives in a deserted stretch of road and were charged with illegal possession of a firearm grenade and a bomb detonator allegedly found at their sub-compact car’s dashboard compartment.

The state prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation said the charge was “preposterous” and ordered the couple freed.

The police however refused to release Rey, alleging he participated in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon on September 13 of that year.

Casambre said he had never been to the remote town, adding he was in fact at the House of Representatives on September 12, 2018, the very day a government soldier claims he saw the elderly peace consultant at a guerilla camp, planning the ambush. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP arrests ‘ex-NDFP consultant’ and gov’t employee Mapano

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s all-out offensive against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants is not sparing even those who have already chosen to live above ground.

In a curious turn of events, the police arrested peace negotiator Alfredo Mapano who newspaper reports describe is an “ex- NDFP consultant” and who currently works as a government employee.

Mapano, known in Northern Mindanao as the legendary New People’s Army leader “Ka Paris”, was arrested by the Bayugan City (Agusan del Sur) police while at work in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last Friday, November 27.

Bayugan is 200 kilometers away from Tagoloan and under a different Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Command.

A participant in at least three Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-NDFP formal peace negotiations from August 2016 in Oslo, Norway to January 2017 in Rome, Italy, Mapano is currently an employee of the government-owned Phividec Industrial Authority.

The former Red commander reportedly “surrendered” to President Duterte after Rome, brokered by former cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. who also recommended his employment as Phividec corporate social responsibility officer and, later, as security officer.

Mapano was allowed to post bail in August 2016 to participate in the first round of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Previously, he had been in jail for seven years for various crimes he allegedly committed as NPA leader.

A Kodao source said that Mapano had been “roaming around freely” in Northern Mindanao since his supposed surrender and living a “normal” life.

Surprised

Mapano’s re-arrest surprised everyone, including Mapano’s wife, employer and local police chief, Alternative news outfit Davao Today (DT) reported.

Wife Chona told DT  she is concerned if her husband is indeed under the custody of the Bayugan police.

“Our family is trying to locate him and ensure that he is safe…[The arrest] was unexpected. He is now living a normal life,” Chona said.

DT also reported that Talogoan police chief Captain Mark Dungca said the arresting team only informed him that they will be serving an arrest warrant but did not specify who.

Mapano was arrested two days after his 67th birthday.

Killings, convictions

Mapano’s arrest followed the “mafia-style executions” of fellow NDFP peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio in the early hours of November 25 in Angono, Rizal and the conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Austria, also last November 27.

Earlier this year, NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron and Randall Echanis were brutally killed in Baguio City and Quezon City, respectively.

In January 2019, NDFP peace consultant Randy Malayao was killed in his sleep while on board a bus in Nueva Vizcaya.

A number of other NDFP consultants have been arrested since formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP broke down in November 2017, all on allegations of possession of firearms and explosives.

The NDFP also reported that some of its peace consultants are missing, abducted by suspected government agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP protests gov’t court’s conviction of Tiamzon and Austria

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel protests a government court’s conviction of two of its senior peace negotiators as “baseless” and “an act of persecution.”

Reacting to Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 26’s conviction of NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultant Wilma Austria of kidnapping with serious illegal detention, the NDFP said the decision violated the 1956 Hernandez Political Doctrine.

“This doctrine mandates that all alleged acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are absorbed, subsumed or integrated in one political crime of rebellion and cannot be mutated into several common crimes as what they were convicted of,” the NDFP said.

The group added that even if both Tiamzon and Austria, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), had a hand in the capture of then Philippine Army Lt. and now retired Brigadier General Abraham Claro Casis, the act was “legitimate in the laws of war.”

The court should have considered Casis as among “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict” or “prisoners of war” in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Protocols, the NDFP said.

1988 capture

In his decision, Judge Alfonso Ruiz II said he gave “full faith and credit” to Casis’ testimony that, while detained, he saw Tiamzon and Austria in meetings with the NPA.

Casis said they were on their way to Manila on June 1, 1988 when captured by the NPA at the border of Tiaong and Candelaria towns in Quezon Province.

They were released after two months of captivity on August 12 of that year by the late NPA spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

The NDFP however questions the credibility of Casis’ testimony as recalled “with unbelievable magical throwback powers.”

It said the incident happened “a good three decades ago in a case long archived and dismissed against many other accused but just recently politically excavated by the militarist hawks of the (Rodrigo) Duterte regime.”

The NDFP said it found unbelievable that the lone witness “can vividly remember minute details, names, faces, places and events that happened in 1988.”

The group also said the court’s decision suffered from “sweeping and conclusory inferences of conspiracy by mere alleged presence” of the accused.

JASIG-protected

The NDFP said the Tiamzons were also denied due process because of their involuntary inability to personally present their own defense “due to the real and imminent threat on their lives conducted under the baton of no less the GRP Principal, President Rodrigo Duterte.”

It said that as publicly-known NDFP peace negotiators, the Tiamzons should be immune from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions under the subsisting 1995 GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

The group said the JASIG remains effective and demandable despite its questionable termination by the GRP and regardless of the status of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

“And this is precisely the raison d’ etre for it (reason for being), i.e. to encourage participation by ensuring subsequent protection,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Left to discuss peace talks resumption with Leni

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it plans to engage in discussions with Vice President Leni Robredo for the resumption of its peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Recently-appointed NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said the Left should “engage the (GRP’s) constitutional successor to press for the resumption of the peace negotiation as a rallying point in the effort to oust [GRP President Rodrigo] Duterte,” the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Ang Bayan reported.

“[T]he NDFP, including its panel, should hold discussions with opposition parties, in particular, the Liberal Party,” de Lima told the underground newsletter.

She added that prospects for resuming the peace negotiations after Duterte, whether he is ousted or he finishes his term, “are possible and desirable.”

De Lima pointed out the peace negotiations can immediately resume on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) once Duterte is out of office.  

Duterte cancelled the peace negotiations in July 2017 as both the GRP and NDFP were ready to finalize important agreements under the CASER.

Prior to her new appointment, de Lima is a long-time NDFP Negotiating Panel member and head of its Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

CASER to combat COVID-19

The CASER, de Lima said, has relevant provisions on confronting the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The draft agreement has a whole article consisting of seven sections which are devoted to the discussion of the people’s right to health. This includes the establishment of a universal public health system that provides free, comprehensive and quality health services for all,” de Lima explained.

The CASER provides immediate and adequate financial, material, moral and psychosocial support, ensuring disaster preparedness and respons, and holding criminally and civilly liable corrupt and grossly negligent officials, she added.

“The NDFP and GRP can elaborate on the issue based on a summing up of experience and learning lessons from both sides as well as from the positive and negative practices of foreign countries and international agencies in responding and confronting this particular pandemic as well as other pandemics.”

Robredo has yet to respond to Kodao’s request for a reply to de Lima’s statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Doc Ed’ Villegas dies after massive stroke

Edberto Malvar Villegas, retired University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University professor, book author and Marxist political economist died Monday night, September 7, after suffering a massive stroke last Friday.

Villegas, 80, died at the Makati Medical Center at 9:56pm, sources informed Kodao.

A founding member of the Kabataang Makabayan in November 1964, Villegas was a two-year political detainee under Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and suffered intense physical and psychological torture along with his late wife Lilia.

He was chairperson of the University of the Philippines (UP) Political-Economy Department for several years and was a board member of research group IBON Foundation at the time of his death.

He also served as secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers from 1996 to 2001.

Villegas was a doctor in public administration.

A political economy expert, Villegas was a long-time National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel resource person on social and economic reforms.

He authored several books on economy and imperialism, including Studies in Philippine Political Economy; Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System; Political Economy of Philippine Labor Laws; Japanese Capital and Investments in Southeast Asia; A Guide to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital; Oil Imperialism in the Philippines; Japanese Capitalism and the Asian Development Bank; Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System as well as many pamphlets and essays.

Villegas’ political economy books are required reading for national democratic activists.

Villegas authored the novel Sebyo and Barikada: Maikling Kuwento ng mga Pilipino. He also wrote poetry.

He edited the historical book Gen. Malvar and the Philippine Revolution, authored by Doroteo Abaya and Bernard Karganilla and published in 1998.

Villegas was a grandson of General Miguel Malvar who served as interim President of the First Philippine Republic after Emilio Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans in Palanan, Isabela in 1901.

Villegas is survived by his two children, Karl and Iona, and grandchild Miguel as well as brothers Jose and Bernardo.

Abaya said Villegas will be interned at the family mausoleum in Sto. Tomas, Batangas on September 11. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP assigns Julie de Lima as interim peace panel chairperson

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has assigned Juliet de Lima as interim chairperson of its Negotiating Panel following the death of former chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili last month.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao that de Lima is the most senior and most available among the members of the Left’s peace panel.

Sison added that de Lima, his wife, is also the “most secure for relating to the third party facilitator with matters pertaining to the NDFP section of the Joint Secretariat and Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”

Established in June 2004, the Joint Secretariat is tasked, among others, to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has refused to hold offices in the Joint Secretariat’s Cubao, Quezon City headquarters for several years already, however.

Signed by both parties in March 1998, the CARHRIHL is the first of four substantive agenda on the peace talks based on The 1992 GRP-NDFP Hague Joint Declaration.

The three other substantive agenda are social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.

The Royal Norwegian Government has been the third party facilitator of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations since 2002.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel includes Coni Ledesma, Asterio Palima and Benito Tiamzon.

It has been engaged in on-off peace negotiations with the Philippine government since 1986 after the downfall of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

‘No rush to appoint replacements’

Sison also told Kodao in an online interview that there is no rush to appoint replacements to Agcaoili and NDFP Negotiating Panel Reciprocal Working Committee vice chairperson Randall Echanis who has brutally murdered last August 10.

Sison said that the lack of peace negotiations while Duterte is in power is temporary and will not last long.

“The National Council of the NDFP has enough time to complete the NDFP Negotiating Panel with the replacements of Ka Fidel and Ka Randy and revitalizing the working committees before peace negotiations will probably resume after (GRP President Rodrigo) Duterte is gone,” Sison said.

Duterte shall end his six-year term in June 2022.

“The broad united front against Duterte expects that his successor will opt for peace negotiations,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

European activists condemn Duterte government for Echanis’ murder

By Macel Ingles

OSLO, Norway—A Norwegian peace advocate and International Committee member of the Red Party in Norway said the slay of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)  consultant to the peace talks has eroded the international community´s trust in President Rodrigo Duterte’s role to achieve peace.

“Duterte´s time is vanishing. His credibility to be part and address political solutions over the big conflict in the Philippines has crumbled,” Arnljøt Ask of Norway’s Red Party said in an online protest rally and tribute to the late peasant leader and social activist Randall Echanis last Sunday, August 10.

“I can see that the fascist Duterte regime gave priority to murder this man instead of taking him to prison like Marcos and other presidents we encountered to earlier, This consistent, honest and persuading, social activist, peasant leader and peace advocate gathered support in broad circles, a killer like Duterte could not put up with that, he therefore hoped to silence him,” Ask added.

Ask revealed he only met Echanis once at a peace talk meeting in Oslo but he said he remembered his “friendly” and “determined” face.

Arnljøt Ask of Norway’s Red Party

Norway serves as the third party facilitator to the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP,

Most of the formal rounds of peace negotiations were held in Oslo.

Ask, a founding member of the Filipino Resource Center in this city, joined other fellow Philippine solidarity activists in paying tribute to Echanis and condemning his murder under the Duterte regime.

“For the solidarity movement in Norway, Ka Randall´s passing away through this terrorist act will enforce our strength, will force our efforts to strengthen our work to contribute to the fulfillment of the task Ka Randall dedicated his life to, so also supporters of justice and real democracy will act all over,” Ask added.

Aside from Ask, other international solidarity leaders attended the online event including Dutch youth activist Tom de Koning of the Revolutionaire Enheid in the Netherlands who sent his condolences to Echanis´comrades and family in the Philippines and paid tribute to his contribution to the people´s struggle.

“With comrade Randy in our hearts and minds, we will remember his genuine commitment to the Filipino people, the revolution and his special contribution to the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. We will remember Ka Randy like so many other comrades who had been in prison several times and he was never afraid to make the sacrifices in order to defend the people,s democratic revolution,” Koning told fellow activists and peace advocates in the online protest.

Italian activist Alessio Arena of the Fronte Populare and the International League of People´s Struggle (ILPS) in Italy also condemned Echanis´ killing.

“I would like to join in condemning the barbaric murder of comrade Randy Echanis and to offer my condolences to his family, comrades and friends. The murder of Ka Randy extends the blood trail drawn in recent months by the massacre of leaders and representatives of the mass movement in Philippines. The blood of Ka Randy and other martyrs/victims fall on the criminal Duterte regime and the imperialists of which it is a servant to,” Arena said in the online tribute.

Arena met Echanis at the peace talks meetings held in Rome where he came to hear him speak about his work on genuine agrarian reform issues and mass work in the Philippines.

From Luxembourg, Julie Smit of the People´s Coalition for Food Security exhorted solidarity organizations and comrades in Europe to support the Filipino people in their struggle for peace and justice in the Philippines.

“We need to turn outrage, this grief we have, into action. It is all we can do to continue the work of Ka Randy, to continue to fight, to support the Filipino people and to fight for justice so that we can arrive at the rainbow´s end,” Smits said.

“These people who have given their lives, they earn our deepest respect. I think it is our responsibility who are living to continue doing what we can to expose, the violent repression that is pretty escalating now under the Duterte administration,” she added.

Smits worked for 20 years in the Philippines for a Luxembourg NGO working on peasant issues and joined the solidarity movement for the Philippines after her stint in the country.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and interim head of the NDFP Negotiating Panel Julie De Lima also sent a video message in the online tribute condemning Echanis killing and vowing to obtain justice for his death.

Besides messages of condolences and support from the international solidarity organizations from various countries in Europe, the online protest was also joined by several Filipino organizations and peace advocates including messages from Zaria Galiano of International Migrant Alliance (IMA), trade unions and human rights activist from the UK, Rommel Abellar, Filipino scholar in Universite Catholique Louvain, Phoebe Zoe Maria Sanchez, Seyra Rico of AnakBayan Europe, Migrante Europe, Ugnayang ng mga Pilipino sa Belgium (UPB), and the Filipino Resource Center (FRC) in Norway.

The online tribute also featured videos of the late peace advocate´s life and struggle with the Filipino peasant organizations and his role in the peace advocacy in Europe as senior consultant to the NDFP´s Negotiating Panel in the peace talks.

His favorite song, Moon River, as revealed by his wife Linda Lacaba, was also played in the tribute with not a few tears shed in his memory by those who attended the event.

The participants also lit candles and observed two minutes of silence to honor Echanis. #