Religious groups slammed what they call a distortion of historical truths in the celebration of the Escalante massacre, that was organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Police, in cooperation with local government executives.
The Carmelite JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation), Alternative Solidarity Initiative Network (ASIN) and JPIC Franciscan Brothers of Charity, in a joint statement, slammed the authorities for the arrest and detention of progressive groups, especially the Teatro Obrero, who were preparing for the people’s tribute for the ESCAM 34th anniversary on Sept. 20.
A statement signed by Fr. Gilbert Billena, and Brothers Tagoy Jakosalem and Simon Peter Jardinico said they claimed as their own, the sacred ground of the people’s movement by occupying the memorial state of the ESCAM victims; totally insulting both the victims of past and present in what they call a repression and of the continuing people’s struggle.
The arrest of the eight activists tagged as alleged New People’s Army rebels in Brgy. Jonob-Jonob, Escalante City on Sept. 18, yielded Molotov bombs, explosives, and eight assorted firearms.
The marking of the ESCAM also coincided with the three-day Northern Negros Peace Summit hosted by the City of Escalante, headed by Mayor Melecio Yap, and highlighted by the surrender of 2,510 former New People’s Army allies in northern and central Negros, who turned in 41 assorted firearms.
The religious groups called the peace summit a “sham”, that, they claimed, robbed the people of the celebration of the true spirit of ESCAM.
They were also dismayed by the cooperation of mayors in the peace summit, that they said manifested an alliance of local governance with the oppressive state, and defending the interest of the perpetrators of violence rather than the interest of the people.
The National Democratic Front-Negros also issued a statement earlier condemning the sabotage by state forces of the Escalante massacre commemoration.
The religious groups accused the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte of implementing a de facto martial law in Negros, faking the existence of a just peace through the creation of the Negros Occidental Task Force ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict), of staging the surrender of 2,510 alleged NPA allies, pressuring local government officials to cooperate in the Red-tagging and issuing persona non grata declarations on the rebel groups, militarizing hinterland communities, and victimizing organizers and leaders of progressive organizations.
“In solidarity with the suffering masses, we manifest our intention to protect us from human rights abuses at the hands of state forces, and we are resolved, instead, to pursue the resumption of peace talks to address the root cause of armed conflict,” they said.*
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