“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:13)

We, Clergy, Religious and Lay from various denominations and generations gathered in Cebu City from June 27 to 29, 2022, for the 10th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)[1]. We come from all over the Philippines for our first physical gathering since the Covid-19 pandemic, which started in 2020.

Our gathering comes on the eve of the end of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. The six years under President Duterte have been marked by the war on drugs and the war on “terrorism.” When the Duterte government unilaterally terminated the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and then created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), human rights violations significantly increased and the climate and culture of impunity in the country worsened. As the war on drugs felled innocents, so did red-tagging, arrests based on trumped-up charges, and other rights violations take place.

There is desecration of God’s gift of human dignity. There is unpeace.

On June 30, 2022, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was sworn into the highest office in the land. Based on our history, the prospects of peace under a Marcos presidency seem to us quite dim. But we are inspired by our guest speakers —former Chief Justice Hilario Davide; Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares; theologian Dr. Melba Maggay of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Cultures; Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, National Director of Caritas Philippines; and our sisters and brothers who brought their testimonies from the ground—to NEVER GIVE UP hope, and continue to work for a just and enduring peace! They exhorted us to be creative, use lessons learned, rediscover the resources of our faith and culture, build friendships and bridges, keep speaking truth to power, continue our critical and principled engagement, and link up and work with the growing movement for change and good governance.

We are encouraged and inspired by the commitment of the women and youth of faith to be PEPP’s co-sojourners for just peace. We will also persistently work with the Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace[2] in calling for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks.

For the formal peace negotiations to proceed in earnest, we appeal to the incoming lawmakers to pass a resolution in both houses of Congress to support the formal peace talks. We also appeal to them to repeal the Anti-terrorism Act of 2020 as a serious impediment to peace.

The incoming administration has banked on the rhetoric of unity, but there can be no true unity when there is no peace. Thus, we call on President-elect Marcos Jr. and his government to resume the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks, which address the roots of the armed conflict; respect the work and agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships; and employ a “whole-people-and-country approach.” We also demand a stop to the practices of red-tagging, filing of trumped-up cases against dissenters, and extrajudicial killings; the release of all political prisoners; and the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC. Above all, we remind the incoming leaders to respect the sovereign Filipino people, and ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected at all times.

This comes with our prayer to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.