A GROUP of religious leaders have called on the communist rebels and the government to continue the peace negotiations as it urged both sides for the release of their captives.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) made this appeal amid the resolution filed recently by Tawi-tawi Representative Ruby Sahali, chairperson of the House special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.
“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to heed House Resolution 2339 and continue the peace negotiations with the NDFP and resume the formal peace talks,” the group said.
The government peace panel was on its fifth round of negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017 when Duterte ordered its termination after he accused the Maoist rebels of launching attacks against the state forces in various parts of the country.
The Sahali-authored resolution, PEPP said, “is a piece of good news for peace advocates after recent events that have threatened to further derail the peace negotiations.”
An article posted in the House of Representatives website noted that “peace negotiations under [Duterte] have reached remarkable and unparalleled headway after the success of the four rounds of negotiation.”
“HR 2339 further states that continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreements on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their plight and concerns and help provide relief to their economic hardships,” the article added.
Aside from asking both parties to go back to the negotiating table, PEPP has also pled the Duterte administration to release Rey Casambre and other NDFP peace consultants “as a gesture of magnanimity especially during this season of hope.”
Casambre is the executive director of the Philippine Peace Center, and PEPP said he has contributed to the ministry and advocacy of PEPP as a resource person for its various activities.
“We also appeal to the [New People’s Army] for the peaceful turn-over of the Cafgu personnel detained recently in Sibagat and other parts of Caraga Region in order for them to be with their families this holiday season,” the group said.
PEPP was referring to the attack staged by NPA rebels in a military detachment in New Tubigon, Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur where they captured two soldiers and 12 members of the militia known as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) on December 19, 2018.
The appeal was made by PEPP in the form of a manifesto signed by its officials, namely, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Bishop Rex Reyes, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr., Bishop Noel Pantoja, and Sr. Mary John Mananzan.
The PEPP is a platform for five church institutions and groups, such as 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.