CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Local church leaders have expressed their optimism that the planned revival of the peace negotiations will continue for good this time following the announcement of President Duterte that he wants to revive the talks with the Communist rebels.
“We are glad that peace still has a place in the President’s heart, and we are happy for that,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, an Iglesia Filipina Independiente leader and convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao, in an interview Monday (Dec.9).
But, Calang said, “it must be Duterte who will be calling the shots” so as not to muddle the process of the peace talks.
“Let him (Duterte) decide what is best. The advisers are just there to advise, but the final say is on him,” the prelate said.
He added that the peace talks is a “political matter that must be decided by the civilian authority.”
In a statement it posted on social media Monday, the Phil. Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomed Duterte’s pronouncement, saying that they support “a peace that is not won by the barrel of a gun, nor by demonizing the enemy, but through constructive dialogue. This is through the pursuit of a peace agreement that is mutually acceptable and will address the root causes of the longest-running armed conflict in Asia to date.”
During the three-day 8th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace organized by PEPP in Silang, Cavite and attended by 110 church leaders that started on Dec. 6, the group reiterated its call for the resumption of the negotiations “to address the roots of the armed conflict.”
In a statement, PEPP also urged both the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to work for the signing and approval of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic reforms (Caser) and for the declaration of the bilateral ceasefire agreement.
The church leaders have also urged the government to release political detainees including NDFP peace consultants on humanitarian grounds and for the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and NDFP to release their prisoners of war as well.
In addition, the PEPP also instructed “faith communities to expand the effort to conduct creative activities (formal and non-formal education, both in public and private schools) and dialogue under the banner of PEPP, and to further broaden the support for resumption of the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks.”
“We vow to continue to use our faith resources and moral leadership to further expand the work of PEPP throughout the Philippines. We will not stop and we will break the walls among religions and build bridges instead,” the group said.
The PEPP statement was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, co-chairperson; The Right Reverend Rex Reyes Jr, co-chairperson; Bishop Noel Pantoja, national president of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC); Bishop Diogracias Iniguez Jr., co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum (EBF); and Sr. Mary John Mananzan, of the Women and Gender Commission, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).
The PEPP is a platform for five church institutions and groups, namely, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), PCEC, AMRSP, and EBF, in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the government and NDFP. (davaotoday.com)