Statement from the Philippines: Now more than ever, resume the peace talks!
*Statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform calling for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform* calls on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume the formal peace talks in order to address the roots of the armed conflict despite recent developments that threaten to scuttle it for good. Over the weekend, the light of hope for a just and enduring peace through a negotiated political settlement that started on a very positive and upbeat note was suddenly snuffed out.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the termination of the formal talks and ordered the arrest of the NDFP consultants whom he labelled as “terrorists”. He also instructed the military to go on an offensive which is virtually a declaration for all-out war.
This was his response to the deaths of six soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and following the statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) that they will terminate their unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10. The CPP-NPA cited the AFP’s abuse of the ceasefire to enter NPA territories and the non-release of political prisoners as reasons.
Negotiations should not be bogged down by accusations and counter-accusations. Outstanding issues should be threshed out in principled dialogue over the negotiating table where great strides towards peace have been made in the last three formal rounds of talks between the two parties facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG).
One such move is the signing of the supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The CARHRIHL and the supplementary agreement is a viable instrument to address the accusations of both parties that have led to the present breakdown.
Another positive result of the talks was on social and economic reforms where the parties reached an agreement on the first three sections of the draft. They also agreed to form bilateral working teams to meet continuously before the resumption of the formal talks in April. There were also positive developments on the proposed agreement on political and constitutional reforms. These are testaments to the desire of both parties to transcend their differences towards a much larger goal.
The PEPP has always maintained that all signed agreements that were painstakingly negotiated by both parties are signs of hope and should be honored to serve as building blocks for a better future. This recent crisis in the peace talks shows how fragile the peace negotiations are and the people’s vigilance is needed to see to it that the parties involved stay on course. But all is not lost as there is a people’s clamor for the peace talks to continue. Let us be reminded that God blesses those who work for peace (Matthew 5:9), let us all pray and work for it starting with the call to resume the peace talks!
Issued and signed on this 8th day of February, 2017.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, D.D.
Co-chair, PEPP – CBCP
Rev. Fr. Rex RBReyes, Jr.
Co-chair, PEPP – NCCP
Bishop Noel A. Pantoja
Bishop Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., D.D.
PEPP – EBF
Sr. Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB
PEPP – AMRSP-OWGCD
*The PEPP is a platform for 5 church institutions/groups, namely, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the GRP-NDFP.