On January 30, Randy Felix Malayao, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), was shot dead by unknown assailants. Malayao, who was on a bus ride in the northern province of Nueva Vizcaya in the Cagayan Valley, was reportedly shot by the assassins at 2:30 am while he was asleep. The Cagayan Valley branch of the NDF, the political arm of the banned Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), condemned the murder and termed the gunmen as the “death squad elements of the 5th Infantry Division” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The local police are reported to have shown gross indifference while investigating the murder, and even claimed that it was Malayao’s “fellow comrades” who were behind the murder. No evidence for that claim is yet to be furnished by the same.
49-year-old Malayao was one of the peace consultants that represented the communists in the peace talks with the government of president Rodrigo Duterte. He was one of the few prominent NDF activists who did not have any criminal charges against them at the time of the negotiations, and hence was eligible to freely move within and outside the Philippines for peace negotiations. Even though the peace process has fallen apart, with the Duterte government announcing martial rule in southern Philippines, documents retrieved from his person by the police indicated that he was still recognized as a negotiator. He is reported to have held the immunity card issued under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity between the NDF and the government, which was supposed to keep him immune from any actions from the police or the military.
The CPP and NDF alleged that the AFP was behind the assassination, and was an indication of the government’s attack on avenues for a peaceful resolution to the five-decade long conflict. The murder also comes barely within two months of the Congress extending the martial law in Mindanao for another year, prolonging the conflict and undermining civilian rule for around a quarter of the nation. The lax attitude of the police in investigation of the murder of the negotiator came out when two of the provincial police were transferred from their posting, after concerns were raised over the inconsistencies with the investigation.
Rappler.com reported that Malayo, after a distinguished career as a student activist and journalist, had returned to the Cagayan Valley to take up people’s issues. In 2008, he was abducted, allegedly by the army, and was then detained for over three years on charges of murder and ambushing soldiers. All these charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence. The NDF statement called him,”an indefatigable worker in the service of the people..[who] was ever ready to present the side of the NDFP in fora, seminars and consultations on the peace talks in the Philippines and overseas.” When asked by a local newspaper on how he felt about the possibility of not living long enough to see peace achieved, he said, “You know, that’s no longer important. It’s what our nation really needs. My time will pass, but “just and lasting peace” won’t. That’s why it’s called lasting peace, right?”