[FORUM Highlights] Prospects for Peace After the 2022 Elections: A Call for Just Peace and an End to Tyranny

February 23, 2022

The Council for People’s Development and Governance, on February 23, 2022, hosted a forum entitled Prospects for Peace After the 2022 Elections: A Call for Just Peace and End to Tyranny with Pilgrims for Peace, Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice PH), the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), Move PH’s #CourageOn and PHVote Coalitions, and Assert Socioeconomic Initiatives Network (ASCENT). This gathering aims to amplify the campaign for a just peace and an end to tyranny and shed light on why a broad spectrum of civil society is against the return of the Marcoses and Dutertes in power.

The forum started with a video briefing the intensified state terrorism through militarized policies, which the Duterte administration ensued. It emphasized the criminal enforcement of the War on Drugs and the 27,000 killed; counterinsurgency campaigns; the communist witch-hunting that led to harassment, arrests on trumped-up charges, and killings; NTF-ELCAC red-tagging of activists, critics, and development workers. 

On the welcoming remark, Sr. Ma. Lisa Ruedas from the Daughters of Charity and Pilgrims for Peace mentioned that forging peace requires not just the absence of war but the presence of wellness. “Peace in the Philippines will mean land for the farmers; decent housing and decent jobs with decent pay for the workers; access to healthcare, schooling, electricity, water, and other basic and social services; and security of life and protection with respect for human and democratic rights.”

“Taking this in context is the truth and our faith in the recognition of peoples as beings created in the image and likeness of God. Peace is true and tangible when God’s gift of human dignity is protected through human rights. When these rights are denied and violated, God’s image is also violated in us, as we are created in God’s image,” she added. 

Joanna Carino, an indigenous peoples’ rights defender and a Martial Law survivor, and one of the convenors of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) pointed out that the People Power uprising is a cumulative gain of an anti-dictatorship struggle for 14 years before a critical mass and broad united front gathered together from February 21 to February 26 thirty six years ago to collectively pust the dictator then President Ferdinand Marcos. Carino explained why the return of the Marcoses and Dutertes in the government is a giant step backward for democracy in the country. 

There are stark parallelisms on Marcos’ and Duterte’s tyranny, she said. 

First, poverty is eminent in both regimes. Poverty incidence was recorded at 49% by the end of Martial Law. It worsened over the course of the Marcos era. Whereas about 4 out of 10 families were poor by the end of his rule. Some regions reached as high a rate as 7 out of 10 families below the poverty line. This is the same with Duterte based on the latest poverty reports with a self-reported 49% poverty incidence. About 27.28 million Filipinos had monthly incomes of Php 22,000 or less entering the pandemic and the poorest 2.23 million with monthly incomes of Php 11,000 or less.

During the Marcos era, around $10B funds were embezzled from the Philippine Government, and now during Duterte, a series of unresolved corruption scandals have been reported  including a Php 8 billion contract for a questionable pharmaceutical company. 

Both regimes also had behest loans and foreign debts. Marcos’ external debts ballooned to $28.26B during the martial law era. Duterte had Php 10.4T by the end of February 2021. 

Both regimes also pushed development aggression through infrastructure frenzies that displaced indigenous communities. They were also both fanatics of incarceration – to their political opponents, to activists, and to human rights defenders. They both attacked media outfits and closed down mainstream media, like the ABS-CBN. 

Marcos had 100,000 victims of killings, enforced disappearances, tortures, and imprisonment. Duterte, on the other, had over 20,000 victims of killings, enforced disappearances, tortures, and imprisonment. 

“All in all, the human rights situation in the country is dark and gruesome not only during Marcos’s time but even now under the authoritarian rule of Duterte. This is why we should organize and build the critical mass, the broadest possible united front against dictatorship and tyranny, and gather international support. We should also be resolute, fear no sacrifice, and surmount every difficulty to win victory – end the Marcoses and Dutertes policital dynasty and control of Philippine government”, Joanna concluded. 

Prof. Michael Pante, an associate professor at the Department of History, Ateneo de Manila University and convener of Pilgrim for Peace, ACT for Peace, and Tanggol Kasaysayan discussed the importance and potentials of peace talks to unite the critical mass. He also discussed the prospects of just and lasting peace to presidential and vice-presidential candidates. 

In his introductory discussion, Pante critiqued the Duterte administration’s stance on peace talks. In 2016, Duterte was eager for his promise of peace. But in 2017, there was a quick erosion to his peace agenda. He ensued institutional roadblocks through implementing repressive laws and policies. Among these, is Executive Order 70 which birthed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), terror-tagging, and intensified communist insurgency. In the present times, Duterte’s peace agenda is termed as “desecrating the dead.” The regime sheerly retracted peace and enforced a killing spree to activists, human rights defenders, and peace consultants including Randy Echanis, among others. 

Pante added, “it is thus hard to have peace talks in this kind of situation. But we have to continue and persevere because our peace agenda should not end in one administration. Our mindset should be towards waging just and lasting peace”. 

Pante said “One thing we could do as an institution is to undo Duterte’s dirty deeds: scrap the Executive Order 70 that built the NTF-ELCAC; remove pronouncements, especially the terrorist for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines; repeal the Anti Terrorism Act of 2020; rescind localized peace talks and E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program). Localized peace talks are merely localized surrenderings. A national issue cannot be solved through local methods, especially when its roots are systemic poverty and a lack of industrial and agrarian reforms”.

“On the upcoming elections, we could trust the peace agenda presented by Leni Robredo, Ka Leody de Guzman, and Manny Pacquiao. But during election time, it is better, as supporters, if we maximize our demands and campaigns for a peace agenda because now is the most crucial time for these politicians to listen,” Pante concluded. 

To synthesize the forum, Alicia Lucena, convenor of Youth Act Now Against Tyranny and secretary-general of Anakbayan pointed out that what transpired during the 1986 people power revolution at EDSA was a reiteration of the people’s campaign for democracy, peace, and justice. 

“Marcos and Duterte are cut from the same cloth. Both their regimes imposed state terrorism and rescinded pro-people economic policies. Duterte, amid the pandemic, hampered social services, livelihood, labor, and education, and instead resorted to militarist solutions that sowed harassment and terror on the population. In this coming 2022 national elections, the desire of the Marcos-Duterte tandem to return and extend power is sheer and evident. Their “unity” is a guarantee to a dark future for Filipinos. Amid the crisis and a need for a clear peace agenda, Marcos-Duterte could only grasp NTF-ELCAC programs. They both have no credibility to serve the interests of the people. They are both corrupt and populists. The people’s bid for justice and peace could only be attained if the government recognizes the importance of human rights, pro-people laws, and peace talks in itself,” Lucena iterated.  

Liza Maza, a veteran activist, former Representative of Gabriela Women’s Party, former lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and the current spokesperson of the Council for People’s Development and Governance, closed the forum with the unity statement calling for an end to Marcos-Duterte in Philippine government. #