Bishops’ Call for Peace Rejected by Military

Arrest of Randall Echanis

Showing direct contempt of the Church’s call for peace talks, the military arrested one of the members of the NDFP peace panel last January 28.

AFP operatives arrested peasant leader Randall Echanis, a member of the NDFP peace panel, during a meeting with agricultural workers’ unions in Bago City in Negros Occidental last week. He is charged with murder in relation to an incident dating back to the mid-1980s. According to Esperon, the arrest of Echanis was a big blow to the communist movement.

In the Netherlands, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, described the illegal arrest as a flagrant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a view supported by the local human rights community in the Philippines. It is public knowledge that Echanis is a member of the NDFP’s official delegation to the peace talks and known to officials of the Norwegian government. He is thus protected by the JASIG, Jalandoni said in a statement.

The NDFP said that the arrested peasant leader participated in formal peace talks in Oslo and has taken part in discussions toward a draft tentative agreement on social and economic reforms, the second substantive agenda in the peace negotiations.

“He has played a key role in developing the NDFP draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms, especially with regard to the peasant question and land reform,” Jalandoni said.

He added that the filing of common criminal charges against Echanis and others accused in relation to an alleged mass grave found in the city of Hilongos violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The mass grave allegedly contained bodies of 13 CPP members killed in the 1980s for being military informants.

It seems the Philippine military will continue to reject the Roman Catholic bishops’ call for the peace talks to resume. Arroyo, currently battered with charges of betrayal, corruption and mass murder by her critics, sees an opportunity in waging an unjust and senseless war to divert the attention of the military away from the corruption scandals besetting her administration and focus their minds on the war against the perceived enemies of the state.

The international community of peace advocates and human rights and their local counterparts must vigorously pursue their campaign for justice and human rights in the Philippines, and do whatever they can do to avert the bloody war sponsored by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. (Bulatlat.com)

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