Church leaders call for resumption of peace talks

CHURCH leaders are calling on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to revive the talks to end the conflict and achieve lasting peace in the country, most particularly in Mindanao.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), in a statement, said “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... ”

Both parties have been engaged in three formal rounds of talks facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government in Norway and Italy.

One of the initial successes the negotiators achieved was the signing of the supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

PEPP said 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, the group said, was on social and economic reforms where the parties reached an agreement on the first three sections of the draft. The panelists also agreed to form bilateral working teams to meet continuously before the resumption of the formal talks in April.

PEPP noted there were also encouraging developments on the proposed agreement on political and constitutional reforms.

“These are testaments to the desire of both parties to transcend their differences toward a much larger goal,” PEPP added.

The group said it 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,” it added.

The PEPP statement was signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes Jr., Bishop Noel Pantoja, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., and Sr. Mary John Mananzan.

The PEPP is a platform for five church institutions, namely, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum.
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