MANILA, Philippines (ViaNews) – In the wee hours of January 30, Felix Randy Malayao, a consultant in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the revolutionary movement here, was sleeping inside a passenger bus. In a pit stop in Nueva Vizcaya, a province north of Manila, as other passengers alighted to rest and stretch, A suspected state agent boarded the bus and shot Malayao twice.
He died on the spot.
This has been the latest attack against a consultant in the peace process between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents before the negotiating table the armed revolutionary resistance here that has been going on for the past half-century.
Since President Duterte terminated the peace talks, four peace consultants have been arrested and were charged with trumped-up cases. One of them, Rafael Baylosis, was recently released, following the dismissal of charges filed against him and his companion.
The NDFP, as a matter of policy, has always been open to resuming peace talks with President Duterte as it did with his predecessors. But the recent killing of Malayao is pushing them to rethink this policy.
Why are peace consultants under attack?
Under a signed agreement between the Philippine government and the NDFP, peace consultants such as Malayao should have been protected against surveillance, harassments, or an extrajudicial killing such as this. In fact, among those recovered from his possession is his Document of Identification, a proof that he is covered by the agreement.
Yet, this is not the first time that a peace consultant has been subjected to attacks. Malayao is the second peace consultant killed – the first was Sotero Llamas, who was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen back in 2006.
There are also peace consultants who were forcibly disappeared under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, namely: Cesar Batralo, Leo Velasco, Rogelio Calubad who was disappeared with son Gabriel, Philip Limjoco, Leopoldo Ancheta, spouses Federico and Nelly Intise, and Prudencio Calubid who was disappeared with his wife, Celina Palma, niece Gloria Soco and NDFP staff Ariel Beloy.
Still, many are illegally detained and facing trumped-up criminal charges. Among the most recent arrests are publicly-known peace consultants such as Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre.
Peace consultants were also among those named in the infamous “terror list” as part of a plea filed before a Manila court asking the CPP and the NPA to be proscribed as terrorist organizations. Prior to Malayao’s killing, he, too, was subjected to vilification and red-tagging.
They have become regular targets of human rights violations in the Philippines as they play an important role in advising and aiding the NDFP “on the peace talks and national issues, as well as their keen knowledge of the situation in their respective areas in assisting the peace panel to disseminate to the people the developments in the peace negotiations,” said its chairman Fidel Agcaoili in a Bulatlat report.
In his weekly column in a local national daily, Satur Ocampo, an independent cooperator of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Economic Reforms, said that with the government’s “legalist moves now being exposed as shamefully contrived, are the state security forces now taking deadlier, offensive action against NDFP peace consultants?”
In a speech in November last year, Duterte said that he would establish an armed civilian group to kill idlers and prospective members of the New People’s Army.
What is supposedly next for the talks?
The peace negotiations under the Duterte administration began on a high note back in 2016, with at least 19 detained peace consultants released on bail to participate in the formal talks in Oslo, Norway.
However, as the Philippine government failed to free all political prisoners as part of their commitment and as the peace talks progressed at an unprecedent rate towards the eventual signing of another peace pact that will address the social and economic needs of the people, the peace talks were eventually unilaterally terminated by President Duterte.
President Duterte, too, has been persistent on holding a bilateral ceasefire, when government troops continued to harass, intimidate, and vilify the people, especially those residing in the countryside, as supporters of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, under what analysts view as the guise of holding civic-military operations.
Peace advocates have long been pushing both parties to return to the negotiating table, citing the ever need to distribute land to farmers and develop the country’s industries. The Reciprocal Working Committees on Social Economic Reforms of both parties were able to reach a common draft, with several provisions pending to be agreed on.
A man of peace
For several days now, many peace advocates, rights defenders, and activists are grieving over the cold-blooded killing of Malayao, despite police reports sowing intrigues that the slain consultant committed financial and sexual opportunism against the revolutionary movement.
“In killing you, they have created a bigger legend, a stronger inspiration,” said journalist Raymond Villanueva, a close friend of Malayao.
The NDFP, for its part, said, “The blood of martyrs is never shed in vain. It inspires the greater resistance of the people to tyranny.” (ViaNews)