Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed solidarity with peace advocates who are calling for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels in the hope of ending decades-long insurgency in the country.
In her recent message during a peace forum at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, De Lima said the continued insurgency has led to persistent human rights abuses committed against Indigenous Peoples (IPs).
“Sumasang-ayon po ako sa inyo na isa sa pinakamatinding naaapektuhan ng nagaganap na digmaan ay kayong mga kapatid nating katutubo. Kayo na unang nabibiktima ng mga pag-abuso at mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao na dulot ng gyerang ito. Kayrami na pong nasaktan at inagawan ng buhay mula sa inyong hanay,” she said.
De Lima’s message entitled “Understanding the Journey of the Indigenous Peoples: A Call for Just Peace” was read by Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches Director Pastor Aldrin Penamore, last Sept. 19.
“The serious character of this event is but proper as the theme [i]nvites us to walk around the field of struggle of our indigenous peoples who have borne the brunt of unspeakable injustice,” she said.
It may be recalled that President Duterte asked for a three-month suspension of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) to further study documents that pertain to the peace process last June.
The cancellation sparked concern from the Indigenous leaders, notably those from Mindanao, who called on the government not to postpone the peace talks with the NDF because they consider the talks as the solution to ending human rights abuses against IPs and a way to help them exercise their right to self-determination.
The Senator from Bicol lamented that IPs always run the risk of being branded as rebel sympathizers even though they are the ones suffering injustices.
“Naniniwala po akong malalim ang inhustisyang matagal nyo nang pinagdudusahan at nilalabanan. Pagkat pagkatapos kayong itaboy sa mga kabundukan ng kolonyalismo at modernisasyon ay inaagaw naman ngayon ang inyong mga lupaing ninuno at likas na yamang taglay nito,” she said.
“At kapag tumutol at kumilos kayo upang hadlangan ang mga pag-abusong ito ay babansagan naman kayong mga komunista at rebelde – mga kaaway raw ng pagkakaisa at pag-unlad,” she added.
With the struggle to attain peace during these trying times, De Lima underscored the need to always value the rule of law and respect the basic rights of the people, including the IPs.
“Sapagkat kakambal po ng tunay na kapayapaan ang buhay na demokrasya, ang pagrespeto sa pangingibabaw ng batas at pagsasakatuparan ng mga batayang karapatan ng mamamayan at panlipunang katarungan,” she said.