Church officials hope peace talks’ ‘second life’ won’t be in vain

CALLING it the “second life” of the peace talks, church-based advocates are calling on the people to help ensure the resumption of the negotiations between the government and Communist rebels will finally push through.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, a ranking official of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao main convenor, said the revival of the negotiations, is “the second life for the peace talks” and that citizens must ensure that it will not be hampered again, as what had happened in the past.

“The Filipino people must not allow hawkish vultures to lead it astray again to a tragic end. A just and lasting peace based on the resolution of the causes of armed conflict is the only way to our nation’s bright future,” Calang said in a statement.

While peace advocates join the jubilant voices that are welcoming the resumption of the talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Calang said they share in the “guarded optimism” expressed by members of the country’s legislature whose resolution pushing for the talks further highlighted the growing clamor of the people for the peace process to prevent all-out war.

“Our ‘optimism’ is based on the prospect of reviving hopes for the eventual signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), the release of political prisoners, and the upholding of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl),” he said.

He added: “Our being ‘guarded’ is in view of the continuing dark clouds that hover above the peace talks such as the terrorist-witch-hunt list, Martial Law in Mindanao, and the widespread militarization of Lumad [indigenous people] communities. All of these need to be addressed or considered if we wish for the talks to proceed with a good start.”

The resumption of the peace talks, the prelate said, shows that Duterte is the “decisive protagonist who can provide the ‘enabling environment’ for the sustainability of the process.”

Through the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government, Calang said they are confident that the talks can now be allowed to build in the hard work already put into by both parties.

For his part, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, head of the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), said “this is most welcome,” in reference to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that the talks will resume, last week.

Both sides, Ledesma said, have legitimate concerns that should be “reconciled through negotiations and listening to the aspirations of the basic sectors of Phil. Society.”
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