Church group opposes localized peace talks

A PEACE advocacy group has joined calls from different sectors for President Rodrigo Duterte to pursue the peace talks with the Communist rebels but expressed opposition to the localized initiative now being pushed by the government.

“We understand that Davao City is home to the President. But in the peace talks the NDF is into negotiation with the national government which represents a policy of inequality and oppression that bred armed revolutionary response from the people,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, an official of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and co-convenor of the Phil. Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a group composed of civilian and church leaders supporting the peace efforts in the country.

It can be recalled that Duterte had ordered the government’s peace panelists to discontinue negotiating with their counterparts in the National Democratic Front (NDF) stalling the talks just as it reached the fourth round.

Resumption of the peace negotiations with the Communist rebels was one of the President’s agenda but was put on hold following the series of attacks carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA) against government forces in the past few months.

Last week, Duterte said he is supporting the localized peace talks created by his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as he urged the NPA to return to the fold of the law with promise of jobs and housing should the insurgents lay down their arms and surrender.

Reacting to the creation of the Davao City Peace Committee (DC Peace), the body tasked by Duterte-Carpio to initiate the localized peace talks, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has criticized this initiative which it said will not succeed.

“Duterte’s local peace talks will surely fail in its aim of dividing the revolutionary forces waging a nationwide people’s war. The Duterte regime is wasting time and the people’s money in setting up these useless local peace committees which will go nowhere and achieve nothing,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP said the localized peace talks are “mere rehashes of worn-out [psychological warfare] surrender programs such as the ‘balik-baril program’ and the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) riding on the popular clamor for peace talks.”

Calang said he is still optimistic that the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF will continue through political will.

“We hope the President combines this political will with the national government’s commitment to forge social and economic reforms which the people have long been struggling for,” Calang said Monday.

Even with the breakdown of the talks, Calang said the Initiatives for Peace, together with the PEPP, continues calling for the two parties to go back to the negotiating table and talk about the roots of the armed conflict and come up with measures to resolve this conflict.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is not shutting the door to the resumption of talks but wants "to feel the sincerity of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)."

"The President has not completely ruled out the resumption of peace talks. What he wants to see is sincerity on the part of CPP-NPA," Roque told a press conference in Palace press briefing room.

Roque said the talks could only resume if the communist rebels stop their hostile activities.

"So as I said, the doors are not completely closed but he (Duterte) wants to see sincerity on the part CPP-NPA. And he said it over and over again [that] he wants all fighting to stop during his administration," he said. (With SunStar Philippines)
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