The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas again appeals to the Roman Catholic bishops in Samar to see through the criminal, terrorist Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), leave this 8th Infantry Division-led formation and the Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development, and thus withdraw support from the Duterte regime’s campaign of terror upon the people.
The RTF-ELCAC is the regional formation of the National Task Force led by Duterte’s military hawks. Formed according to the “whole-of-nation approach,” it is an attempt to project the “counter-insurgency” campaign as supported by different sectors of society. What it really does is actively call for the witch-hunt of activists, progressive organizations and institutions, peace-loving government officials, and ordinary civilians who criticize Duterte. It aims to install a fascist dictatorship where all opposition are silenced, rights and due process are swept aside, and Duterte’s greed, corruption and plunder reign.
The National Task Force is responsible for ordering Duterte’s death squads in the military and police to kill NDFP peace consultants Randall Echanis, Julius Giron and Randy Malayao, health advocate Zara Alvarez, among others. Following its national counterpart, the RTF-ELCAC is responsible for the brutal murders of urban poor leader Carlito Badion, and Northern Samar peasant leaders Allan Aguilando and Jennifer Tonog. If the Samar bishops continue membership in the RTF-ELCAC, in principle they agree to the extrajudicial killings of even more innocents whose only crime is fighting for the people’s interest.
In the midst of the global pandemic and the worst economic and political crises, they will have agreed to even more military bombings, shelling, forced evacuation, population control, and economic blockade. The Church will have stood silent as entire peasant communities, such as those in San Jose de Buan, continue to suffer martial law conditions meant to pave way for the large-scale mining of bauxite here and in nearby towns.
They will have agreed to the implementation of the widely opposed Anti-Terror Law. The RTF-ELCAC openly declares the CPP-NPA as “terrorist organizations” and will subject anyone it identifies as members and sympathizers to the inhumane provisions of this draconian law. Even before this was passed, the RTF-ELCAC and the 8th ID have already arrested dozens of activists, most recently the Tacloban 5, and have gone on a Red-tagging spree against critics of the Duterte regime including those who retired from activist work. As the Anti-Terror Law is implemented, will the Church simply watch as more people are abducted, arrested, forced to surrender? Will it stay silent as freedom and democracy are stifled by a martial rule more brutal than the Marcos dictatorship?
We heed Bishops Isabelo Abarquez of Calbayog, Crispin Varquez of Borongan and Emmanuel Trance of Catarman to continue calling for genuine and lasting peace by supporting the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). We warn them against the fake local peace talks promoted by the RTF-ELCAC for it narrow-mindedly rejects the roots of the armed conflict and is meant to force innocent individuals to surrender.
In these trying times, we urge the Church in Samar to remain steadfast on their Christ-like principles of peace, social justice, and solidarity with the people. In the midst of unprecedented poverty and suffering, the people call on the bishops to stand alongside them in defending their rights and resisting any attempt at undermining genuine peace.#