Peace and justice advocates are facing great challenges and difficulties as the government intensify their anti-insurgency campaign. In 30 March,14 farmers were killed by the police and military in Negros Oriental. Last 04 April, the president made a public threat to arrest critics and declare a ‘revolutionary war.’ A UN rapporteur testifies that there is a silent war being waged on Philippine indigenous communities. As faith-based peace-and-justice field workers committed to active nonviolence, how should we respond to these challenges?
Some of our key Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community leaders are expressing grave concern with the events happening in the national scene that directly affect their local communities. How would PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee For Peace (CFP) respond to the challenges before us? What guidance can PBCI and CFP share with PAR Communities?
177 farmers killed during this administration
As of January, 177 farmers were reportedly killed since the beginning of the Duterte administration. The latest of these series of killings happened last 30 March in Canlaon City and the towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina in the Province of Negros Oriental. It was named by the police as Operation Sauron. Some human rights activists believe this is part of the government’s intensified anti-insurgency operations which was publicly announced by the president last November 2018. These are dark times indeed.
Since 2017, farmers have been crying for justice because of the escalating violence against them. They say that, unlike the drug-related killings in the urban centers, killings of farmers in the rural areas are not being heard.
Our immediate response is to pray, seeking the Great Creator’s justice and peace towards the healing of our land. We will continue to utter, and to act out, our prayer for peace and reconciliation for our beloved country:
A PRAYER FOR NATIONAL PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
You are the purpose of our existence,
and the reason for our being is
to glorify You,
and You alone,
We seek to submit our creativity
We seek to continually experience
both the transcendent and the immanent
Shalom we have in You,
We seek to be consistently energized
by the Ultimate Energy
of Your Presence,
Understood through our spiritual journey,
through the counsel of our spiritual leaders, and
through the affirmation of the Church,
We hereby accept our Calling —
to offer our lives towards the attainment of genuine
peace and reconciliation in our land…
…where worldviews and value systems
are mutually respected and
freely expressed in
the context of
a multicultural society;
…where truth is advanced by
not by religious imperialism,
not by economic domination,
not by political manipulation, and
not by military suppression.
Understood through our spiritual journey,
through the counsel of our spiritual leaders, and
through the affirmation of the Church,
We hereby accept our Mission —
to offer our time, talents, and treasures
towards the attainment
of a socio-political transformation of our land
where, through active non-violent means,
our people can —
assert our national sovereignty and independence
from foreign domination and control;
promote a self-reliant and sustainable socio-economic development through —
genuine land reform,
nation-building industrialization, and
protection of the environment;
uphold the social and economic welfare of
other marginalized sectors;
guarantee the right to self-determination of
the Indigenous Peoples;
advance a comprehensive policy
on peace negotiations.
We hereby submit to You
our Creator, our Sustainer, our Provider
this understanding of the purpose
of our existence, our calling, and our mission
with praises and thanksgiving.
For Your glory and honor.
In the name of
We also merge our voice with the voices of the religious communities and the civil society organizations in condemning these killings; thus, this blog. Our heart resonates with the spiritual wisdom of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines when they condemned, “in the strongest terms,” the mass killings of those 14 farmers. “Condemning these killings is a Christian duty, a moral requirement for people of faith and conscience,” their statement said. “Fourteen people have been robbed of God’s most precious gift, which should have been protected at all costs by our police and military,” they further lamented.
We will also carry on with our active, nonviolent approaches and long-term programs in supporting the liberation of our farmers from the unjust and oppressive systems prevailing in our land. For the past decade, we, at PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace have been actively working among farmers throughout the country in the area of inclusive development and social entrepreneurship. We say, carry on! Nothing will discourage us.
Critics are threatened and harassed
During his speech before the Department of Justice prosecutors last 04 April in Puerto Princesa City, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to arrest his critics. He also said he will declare a “revolutionary war.”
This is not new. In 09 August 2016, Duterte warned Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno that he would declare martial law; Sereno was perceived to be meddling with the executive branch’s war on drugs.
Vice President Leni Lobredo, in reaction to Duterte’s statement, was quoted saying, “You cannot threaten the people with something unconstitutional just because you are having tantrums. I think it’s an irresponsible response because when we entered this job, the hardships are part of the mandate we swore to.”
Constitutional lawyer Tony La Viña , in a related article, reminded Duterte on constitutional basics. “The 1987 Constitution is crystal clear,” he said. He continues: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion when the public safety requires it. Suspension of the writ shall be for a period not exceeding sixty days. Within 48 hours from the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus (or martial law), he is required to submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress which may, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Congress may extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.” La Viña further explained that “For Duterte to threaten the opposition with a revolutionary government is utterly unwarranted, illegal and extra-constitutional, if not laughable.” He advised that, “Any upheaval brought about by lawlessness, rebellion or invasion can be remedied by adopting the prescriptions within the constitutional framework.”
Since 23 May 2017, when Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, the task of peacebuilding and justice advocacy among civil society organizations became more difficult. We suddenly found ourselves discussing again about the safety and security of justice advocates, peacebuilders, and human rights defenders. Those of us who were survivors of Marcos’ Martial Law feel that we’re back to those dark years between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. One of our younger colleagues, Marc Batac, in his March 2018 reflection paper entitled Challenges to Peacebuilding and Adjustments to Strategies in the Philippines Under the Duterte Administration, said: “If before we almost worked entirely on facilitation on and advocacy for a politically negotiated settlement and on social cohesion strategies, we now also work on monitoring of human rights violations, and on advocacy work for protection of vulnerable communities. For this, we have co-partnered with law and human rights groups.”
Our immediate response would be to strengthen our solidarity with our larger peacebuilding and human rights advocacy network. Together, we will engage the government in a dialogue to express our hearts and minds as well as discern the intentions of their stated policies. So, on Wednesday, 24 April 2019, PBCI-CFP will join a “Multistakeholders’ Dialogue on the Peace Process” at the Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City. This will be a one-day policy conference with the new Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU). The invitation letter from the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) indicates that participants “from other mandated peace mechanisms who will have engaging conversations with Mindanao civil society, academe, religious leaders and the other stakeholders needing to be informed by the current national peace strategy” will be present. We expect to see a “civil society engagement roadmap” as we walk with the Bangsamoro Transition and with the National Dialogue Process of the Executive Order 70 (“Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework”).
Two IPs killed every month
It was reported during the Asia Preparatory Meeting on UN Mechanisms and Procedures Relating to Indigenous Peoples, which was held in India last year, that under the regime of President Duterte “at least two indigenous peoples are extrajudicially killed every month.” They claimed that the attacks against them “come in the form of political extrajudicial killings, filing of fabricated charges against indigenous leaders and activists, forced evacuation, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrests and detention, and political repression.”
We look at this silent war being waged on Philippine indigenous communities as a result and a perpetuation of the centuries old historical injustice called the Doctrine of Discovery. In the 1400s, a series of Papal Bulls, falsely justified in the name of Christ, were declared. Those Papal Bulls embodied the Doctrine of Discovery and sanctioned explorers to invade, colonize, and exploit lands and peoples around the world. This doctrine is the unsound theological basis for the colonialism and imperialism that still oppress many Indigenous Peoples today. These were done by the European imperial monarchs in the name of Christ. The devastating impact of such doctrine on Indigenous Peoples was articulated during the concluding session of the 11th UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 18 May 2012 in New York.
The following 45-minute video explains how this doctrine affected the Indigenous Peoples of the Turtle Island (North America) and other IPs around the world, including the natives of our archipelago:
The Doctrine of Discovery and its negative impact in the history of the Philippines is still being perpetuated, wittingly or unwittingly, by the government, by the church, by the school, by the media, by the military, and by the police.
Every day, we interact and work with the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao. The ancestral domains of these peoples are being encroached by multinational corporations, using the legal processes based on the Regalian Doctrine, which is the face of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines. The respective leaders and mass bases of these peoples have been struggling to protect their ancestral domains and to assert their right to self-determination. This struggle has been their way to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery in their own contexts. As peacebuilding missionaries, we have been called and sent to listen, to learn from them, to affirm them, to walk with them, and to help amplify their voices in their struggles.
We have a global support in this struggle. The Peace Commission of the Mennonite World Conference have proposed a Declaration of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. It was approved during the General Council meetings last 23–26 April 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. The organizations we represent, PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace, are committed to help apply the said declaration in our various contexts here in the Philippines.
As we walk with the IPs in our land, we often find ourselves in need to be reminded, to be reawakened, and to be committed to consistently stand in solidarity with our indigenous sisters and brothers. So, everytime our elders at PeaceBuilders Community send out our PAR Missionaries — inclusive development workers, social entrepreneurship seminar leaders, and community organizing facilitators who will be assigned to our farming partners in indigenous communities — we will go through the following declaration of commitment:
Sending Elder: We are being taught by the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines to join them as they journey towards their right to self determination.
PAR Missionary: We will support their view of their future and we will help preserve and nurture their respective Ancestral Domains.
Sending Elder : We have learned to respect the dreams of their elders and we are enriched by listening to the visions of their young people.
PAR Missionary: We will walk with them towards their dream of a sustainable livelihood that respects their culture and dignity as a people.
Sending Elder : We are seeing a lot of Indigenous People living on mountains higher than 500 meters above sea level who have existing coffee trees.
PAR Missionary: We will share a coffee processing technology that would meet the highest local and global standards at fair trade prices.
Sending Elder : We are invited to look to the future when all the Indigenous People in this land are trading fairly in local and global markets.
PAR Missionary: We will assist in developing their entrepreneurial skills by practising direct trade philosophies and inclusive business models to the coffee industry.
Sending Elder : We are learning that financial resources and monies earned by our farming partners through a successful coffee entrepreneurship may, at times, lead to conflict if we do not prepare them with necessary skills in personal and communal financial planning.
PAR Missionary: We will journey with community leaders and their people in basic conflict resolution approaches and financial management strategies to ensure the sustainability of their newly-gained economic capacities in the context of their cultural values and customary laws.
Carry on with our integrated strategy
All of our responses can be packed as a whole within our integrated framework for peace-building. PBCI and CFP will seek to continue our various roles, characterized by a Christ-like servant leadership, in each PAR Community. By God’s grace, we will faithfully pursue our long-term path towards genuine peace and reconciliation.