STATEMENT| Abound in Hope by the Power of the Holy Spirit! Support the Call for Resumption of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks!

Sep. 13, 2019

Statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform issued on September 13, 2019

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) is gravely concerned and alarmed over the escalating atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in our national life brought about by speeches and public discourses that sow hate and war. We are also saddened by the daily doses of news reports of anomalies and corruption. In recent days, the Bureau of Corrections and the plunge of the price of palay were highlighted. We lament the worsening animosity over an already fractured social fabric and the scourge of misery that continue to plague a majority of our fellow citizens.

This concern also springs from the pronouncement of the President of an “all-out war against communist insurgents” and the statements of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials to employ lethal and non-lethal means “to hit the enemy hard”. Apparently, part of the strategy is to target and vilify schools, revive the anti-subversion law, red tag church people, journalists, human rights defenders and other critics of the government among others. That bishops and priests are among the respondents in a case of sedition and a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Negros is in jail along with some of his members based on trumped up charges, for instance, are also portents.

The climate is different from that three years ago. Then, at the onset of the Duterte presidency there was vibrant optimism as the formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines resumed in earnest. In that brief span we actually experienced ceasefires. Then, there was reason to believe that both panels involved in the peace talks were hard at work to hammer out details of the peace agenda. Now, the counter-insurgency strategy through Oplan Kapanatagan, the “whole-of-nation approach”, Martial Law in Mindanao and the deployment of more military troops in many areas like Negros, Bicol and Samar is disheartening as it breeds more animosity and espouses more violence.

We know that every administration since the Marcos dictatorship adopted their respective counter-insurgency programs designed to wipe out the enemy through military might. But the armed conflict still continues to rage, notwithstanding occasional pronouncements that there were only a few hundreds of insurgents. This supports our view that addressing the roots of dissent is at the core of the search for peace and justice.

As church leaders, we pray and work for peace because we believe in God who sent Jesus Christ, our peace. By his resurrection he triumphed over death and the demonic. We are all children of the resurrection unless we reject it. Consequently, we believe that a negotiated peace settlement, based on fundamental social, economic and political reforms,is what our nation yearns for. It is a resurrection experience.

We urge the Government and the NDFP to return to the negotiating table and resume the formal peace talks. We invite all Filipinos to continue praying for and supporting the resumption. Together, let us break the barriers to our journey towards a just and enduring peace. Saint Paul reminds us today:“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD

Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro

PEPP Co-chairperson

The Right Revd. Bishop Rex B. Reyes, Jr.

National Council of Churches in the Philippines

PEPP Co-chairperson

Bishop Noel A. Pantoja

National Director

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

Bishop Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., DD

Co-chairperson, Ecumenical Bishops Forum

Sr. Mary John D. Mananzan, OSB

Women and Gender Commission – AMRSP

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