The Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA), along with partners in the broad civil society and peace movement in the Philippines today join the world and the international community in celebrating the International Day of Peace (IDP) today that was declared by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 36/67 in 1981.

In the Philippines, however, September 21 continue to haunt our collective memory as a nation as this particular day reminds us of the darkest period in our history when Martial Law was declared by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos more than four decades ago. We are one with our people in honoring the martyrs of Martial Law and today recommit ourselves to defend the gains of their valiant struggle against dictatorship.

This year’s theme of the International Day of Peace is dubbed “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” It is within this context of ‘togetherness’ for peace and dignity for all that we strongly reassert our peace and human rights, now being challenged repeatedly by those who insinuate and promote authoritarianism with a goal to deface and undermine our concept of democracy and to restrict our fundamental freedoms.

Also, GPPAC-SEA takes the observance of International Day of Peace as an opportunity to further express concern over the continuing humanitarian crisis in Marawi City in Mindanao that has now displaced more than half a million people. The continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanaowhich started in May 23, has confirmed the bankruptcy of a military solution to resolve Mindanao’s insurgency problem. If anything, the declaration of martial law has simply aggravated the already dismal condition of Mindanao especially the people of Marawi. The conflict has resulted to the loss of hundreds of lives as well as socio-economic deterioration, which could once again complete the recipe for violent extremism.

We maintain our resolve that respecting the primacy of the peace process for Mindanao and granting the Bangsamoro greater autonomy to exercise its inherent right to self-determination addresses the fundamental historical injustices against them and is an effective antidote to violent extremism. Implementing Martial Law is a counter-productive measure that hurts not only Mindanao but the whole country.

At this particular juncture, when our rights and peace are being challenged, and amidst disturbing signs of a creeping martial law in the Philippines, fear of speaking up against any hint of authoritarian rule is not an option. Instead, the time calls for us to summon and reignite our collective courage to defy any threat to our peace and human rights.

We believe that our peace and human rights are not gifts or favors from those who govern us–they are byproducts of those who struggled before us and it is our duty to defend them at all costs against those who will try to obliterate it for their selfish ends. Our struggle against Martial Law and the triumphs we achieved will all become meaningless if we, at the moment, allow a culture of impunity to persist and the continuing violation of human rights remain unabated.

On the occasion of International Day of Peace 2017, we call for vigilance and pledge our unrelenting commitment to continuously struggle for a just peace, democracy and human rights. ###