The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) has expressed alarm over the reported inclusion of rebel peace consultants in a government list of alleged “terrorists.”
The group warned that the move “will have far-reaching and adverse repercussions” on the peace process between the government and the communist rebels in the country.
On May 12, the Anti-Terrorism Council released a resolution designating 26 individuals as “terrorists,” including 19 alleged members of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
PEPP, a group of Catholic and Protestant Church leaders, decried the inclusion in the list of peace activist Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center.
Casambre has been designated consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to the peace process.
He was arrested and detained on the strength of a warrant for murder issued by a regional trial court in the southern Philippines in December 2018.
In a statement, PEPP said Casambre is a “publicly known peace advocate” and “has contributed to the ministry and advocacy” of the group as a resource person for various activities.
The group said it believes in the sincerity of the Philippine government and the communist rebels in “their efforts to reach a negotiated peace settlement,” but added that noted that the termination of the formal peace talks resulted in the arrest and killing of peace consultants.
NDFP peace consultants Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis were killed by still unidentified assailants in January 2019 and August 2020, respectively.
“The breakdown of the … peace negotiations along with the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law has contributed significantly to an increase in human rights violations and the worsening climate of impunity in the country,” noted the church group.
PEPP is composed of representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum.
The church leaders called on the government to promote peace that “addresses the root causes of dissent and seeks resolution by negotiation.”
“It is our unwavering belief that principled dialogue across the negotiating table is still the most viable way, and less costly in terms of lives and resources, to attain a just and lasting peace,” read the group’s statement released this week.