I STILL call him Fr. Frank Fernandez because he was once an associate parish priest of San Diego Parish in Silay City. He was under the late Msgr. Jose Silverio (parish priest) together with the other co-associates: Fr. Felix Pasquin and Fr. Gerson Balitor (+). Fr. Frank was the spiritual adviser of my adult education class in Hacienda Adela.

As a priest, he was an active organizer of the diocesan program “Balaan nga Tuig” (Holy Year). He was also a regular speaker for the holy retreat of the students of St. Joseph Academy in E. B. Magalona managed by the Dominican Sisters. He was attending religiously to his Christian Basic Communities in the shorelines of Silay and upland sitios in Patag. He is down to earth and has a peculiar sense of humor.

In the February 7 issue of SunStar Bacolod, he hit the headline again and I am happy to know that he is pushing for peace. President Digong called the communist rebels as “spoiled brats.” The president decided to entirely scrap the ongoing peace talks between the government and the communists. The situation is still not hopeless because if there is a “compelling reason,” the president may still resume the peace talks.

Knowing President Digong for having a changeable mind, he might find a “compelling reason” in the near future to go back to the negotiating table with his “fellow leftists” (he said it). Some politicians and advisers closer to Digong do not favor the entire scrapping of the ongoing peace talks. Only fools do not change their mind. President Digong believes that he is not fool.

I agree with Ka Frank that we have to capture the elusive peace. When peace is not tamed, it would be like a bridge over troubled water. Can our politicians, armed forces, Philippine National Police, church leaders, businessmen and civic clubs start building peace in Negros Occidental first? Let as have a narrow look at the socio-economic-political situations in our province. Peace can be achieved only when equality and truth exist. The New People’s Army, Communist Party of the Philippines, and National Democratic Front are very keen on this.

How is the countryside? Are our hacienda workers (“dumaans” and “sacadas”) receiving the minimum wage? Are the houses of “dumaans” and the “kwartels” of the “sacadas” worth living by human beings? Are the health, nutrition needs, and sanitation needs of children well attended by the hacienda administration? We are not asking much. Let us call it “social responsibility” from the end of the “agalon nga may duta” (landlords).

Our leaders in the province, towns, and cities (also barangay officials) have their big share to achieve peace. Have they organized livelihood programs and provided employment opportunities for their constituents? Have they eliminated graft and corruption in all levels? Is justice administered to all or we still have selective justice for political allies only. Do we still have red tapes in our offices? Are our parish priests serving the rich and the poor with equal consideration?

We don’t want to believe that our priests are closer to rich parishioners only. We don’t want to agree also that some priests are womanizing or victimizing the young kids. That holds true also for pastors and ministers of other religions. Their sexual urge should be placed in “silent mode” not “battle mode.”

Is the business sector committed to serve the customers and willing to share their profit for a social cause? I still have to hear from them. Are policemen in towns and cities dedicated to serve and to protect the life and property of the people? We don’t want to see policemen who become cock breeders, watchmen of businessmen, bodyguards of politicians, and coffee shop retainers. We want to see them swinging their balls running after criminals. Congratulations.

If civilians, government officials, government employees, businessmen, landlords, and members of religions do what is just and fair … no discontented members of society will become rebels. Most rebels have a cause. It is not easy for a rebel to leave his family and home, live in the hills, carry a gun, and shoot a fellow Filipino. It is easy to kill a chicken than to kill a land grabber. A chicken has no name. A land grabber has wife and children.

Ka Frank could be right or wrong in his ideology. We could not judge him. His personal and vicarious experiences as a priest and leader of the community made him embrace his ideology. We cannot kill that ideology. On the other hand, Ka Frank is perfect in pushing for peace. Let us find a “compelling reason” for President Digong to give peace another chance.

We love our soldiers. We love our policemen. We love our brothers in the hills. Filipinos are not savages. We can solve our problems with our hearts and minds, not with balls and bullets. If peace is hard to attain, we don’t need to jump to hell. Hell is never full. There is always room for one more! Father Frank? President Digong?