Church dialog group finds peace talks termination, terrorist tag ‘tragic’

Calls for peace talks resumption, Christmas ceasefire

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform mulled the setback in the peace process in the recent actions of President Rodrigo Duterte: Proclamation 360 that announced his desire to terminate the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the terrorist tag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), especially that Christmas is approaching.

“This new development is indeed very tragic as there were high hopes a year ago that peace will be achieved through the negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP after five decades of armed conflict,” the PEPP said in a statement signed on December 8.

The PEPP called on the government to rescind Proclamation 360 and to reconsider the terrorist tag of the NPA.

The group also called on the GRP and the NDFP to declare and observe the yearly ceasefire during Christmas.

On December 5, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he will not ask Duterte to declare a ceasefire with the NPA.

“No, I will not. Because there was an order by their commanders to intensify operations against us,” Lorenzana told reporters.

The PEPP is a platform for five church institutions, which include 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) with organizations of Religious, 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.

In the 25th anniversary of the framework agreement of the peace talks, The Hague Joint Declaration Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr., speaking on behalf of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, shared how church people have come to support the peace talks.

“As church people and peace advocates, we have come to admire this wisdom: address the root causes of the armed conflict…It has come to encapsulate our desire for the GRP-NDFP peace talks,” Bp. Iñiguez said in the anniversary gathering.

The statement was signed by Catholic Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro City and Episcopal Church Fr. Rex RB Reyes Jr., co-chairmen of the PEPP. Fr. Reyes represents the Protestants’ National Council of Church in the Philippines. The statement was also signed by Bishop Noel A. Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, national director of the Philippine Council of Churches in the Philippines;  Catholic Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez Jr., group head of the secretariat of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum; and Sr. Mary John D. Mananzan of the Catholic’s Association of the Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines.

Read the full statement of the PEPP below.

PEPP Statement on the Terrorist Tagging of CPP-NPA

Just as a significant portion of our nation look toward the birth of a child that reigns as the Prince of Peace to the Christian faithful, we were greeted by the news that President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a “terror organization.” This followed on the heels of Proclamation No. 360 which formally terminated the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This new development is indeed very tragic as there were high hopes a year ago that peace will be achieved through the negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP after five decades of armed conflict.

This new proclamation will have far reaching and adverse repercussions on the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations which the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) has faithfully supported and advocated. It is always the policy of the government not to negotiate with “terrorists” and this will seal the fate of the peace talks. As leaders of churches in the country, we are troubled by this announcement and the escalation of violence that will surely ensue. Abandoning principled dialogue and relying on purely military might will be very costly, both in terms of lives and resources. A militarist approach will only fan the flames of the conflict instead of truly addressing it.

We thus call on President Duterte to rescind both proclamations and we implore both the GRP and the NDFP to return to the negotiating table – to talk peace instead of waging war. We also call on both parties to declare and observe the yearly Christmas ceasefire.

As we approach the day of birth of Jesus Christ, the bearer of hope, let us all pray and work for a just and enduring peace, starting on the call to resume the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks. “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” (Galatians 6:9).

Issued and signed on this day, December 8, 2017.

(Sgd.)

ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, S.J., D.D.

Co-chairperson, PEPP                                                        

Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City

(Sgd.)

REV. FR. REX RB REYES, JR.

Co-chairperson, PEPP

National Council of Churches in the Philippines

(Sgd.)

BISHOP NOEL A. PANTOJA

National President

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

(Sgd.)

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, JR., D.D.

PEPP Head of the Secretariat

Ecumenical Bishops Forum

(Sgd.)

MARY JOHN D. MANANZAN, OSB

OWGC-AMRSP

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