For Immediate Release
4 May 2017
Contact: Drew Elizarde-Miller, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines - PNW email@example.com 503 476 2179
In Wake of Trump-Duterte “Bromance,” Portland Filipinos Gather for Promotion of Peace as Survivors of State Violence Speak Out
Portland, OR – On the same day that the Washington Post deemed the Duterte-Trump friendship a “bromance” , Filipino-Americans convened to welcome the “JustPeacePH Peace Tour 2017,” a US-wide speaking tour of Filipino human rights defenders on the frontlines of the struggle to address the root causes of the civil war in the Philippines, an armed conflict which has claimed the lives of a reported 30,000 people since it began in 1969.
Given recent international attention to killings in the Philippines, as well as the growing “friendliness” between President Trump and Duterte, the Peace Tour aims to build the movement in solidarity with the Filipino people’s aspirations for just and lasting peace in the Philippines and specifically through expansion of support for the continuation of the peace talks between the NDFP and GRP. The tour takes place amidst President’s Trump’s invitation for Duterte to visit the White House, the escalation of human rights violations against Filipino farmers and indigenous people protecting their land from incursions by large local and foreign multi-national corporations, as well as the killing of upwards of 7,000 people in the so-called “war on drugs.” The abuses are largely alleged to be perpetrated by the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and the paramilitary units under their command.
From May 1-2, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines - Pacific Northwest and Pinoy-Van Port Ministries hosted two public events as a part of the Tour: Kababayan’s Let’s Talk: Promoting Peace with Justice in the Philippines, and Peace, Land, and Rice: An Ecumenical Forum for Peace. The events featured human rights and indigenous leaders from the Philippines: Dulphing Ogan, Secretary General of Kalumaran; Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan; and Christopher Hamera, an United Methodist minister. The delegates emphasized the urgent need to absolve the poverty and state violence at the root of the armed conflict.
Palabay, who has spoken in venues across the world such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and Amnesty International, urged Filipino-Americans and peace advocates in the United States to support the peace talks, saying “GRP-NDFP peace talks that result to discussions and agreements on free land distribution, rural development and national industrialization for the poor majority will impact on the struggle for and realization of people’s rights.” In regards to President Duterte, the war on drugs, she noted, “The people of the Philippines have already ousted two presidents (Marcos and Estrada)--why couldn’t we oust Duterte?” Continuing on, Palabay moved beyond the drug war, recognizing that Duterte at once declared an “all out war” against the CPP-NDF-NPA during the peace talks, ordering the Philippine army to “flatten the hills,” hills that are largely filled with civilians and are the ancestral lands of indigenous people.
Throughout the events, community members expressed their support and need for the peace talks. Nikki De Leon, board member of the Filipino-American Center in Portland, OR, echoed the call of the peace delegates, noting “Filipinos around the world are forced to migrate due to the conditions that give rise to armed conflict in the Philippines. The Peace talks are a primary interest to migrants because peace in the Philippines means jobs in the Philippines. Peace means genuine social and economic reforms that will allow us to return home.”
At “Peace, Land, and Rice: An Ecumenical Banquet for Peace,” pastors and lay people gathered at First United Methodist Church - Vancouver to discuss the people’s agenda for peace. Hamera, a UMC minister who has spent two years in Southern Philippines, shared that the militarization of indigenous communities first violates the rights of children - their right to education and to daily sustenance. Emily Rice, a participant of Pinoy Van Port Ministries, remarked, “At the heart of religious traditions is love and mercy, peace and justice. Jesus said let the children come, and further, if a child asks for bread what parent will give their child a stone ? The peace talks must address the the major human rights violations against our children. The Government of the Philippines can no longer treat its children as collateral as it wages all out war.”
The peace negotiations between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) aim to address the roots of the conflict, but have flown under the radar in a virtual international media blackout of the peace talks. As the “friendliness” between Trump and Duterte heightens, the voices of lawyers, pastors, church people and human rights activists becomes all the more important in supporting just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
The Peace Tour event was organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights, with support from legal, faith and environmental justice partners. From April 18-May 8, the Peace Tour tours New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and St. Paul, MN.
For more on the tour, visit: www.humanrightsphilippines.net/events or #JustPeacePH.
Video of the two events, “Kababayan’s Let’s Talk” and “Peace, land, and Rice,” can be found at: facebook.com/justpeaceph/