Religious groups press for peace talks


THE Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on Thursday, May 19, released an open letter addressed to presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte calling for the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Signed at Assumption College in Davao City on May 18 after the Mindanao-wide assembly of PEPP members in Mindanao, the letter laid down two concerns in island that the group wants the incoming Duterte administration to be addressed: peace talks with the NDFP and issues concerning the Lumads.

The group said Duterte's involvement in the release of a number of prisoners of war (POW) puts the incoming President in a position to push for the resumption of peace talks.

"We maintain that talks should adhere to and honor the Hague Joint Declaration and all other previous agreements as framework of the Talks. We also believe that the release of political prisoners shall serve as confidence building measure that shall prime up the talks. The naming of Atty. Silvestre Bello III Bello and Atty. Rene Sarmiento as members of the GPH panel; their track records give fresh hope to the success of peace talks," part of the letter reads.

PEPP also appealed to Duterte to keep the people abreast of developments in the peace talks as well as hold consultations with all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, on the issues besetting the Lumads, the PEPP statement demanded the arrest and prosecution of the suspects of the Alcadev massacre, Pangantucan Massacre, Paquibato Massacre, Kidapawan Massacre, among others.

Disarm, dismantle, disband

The group also called on the incoming President to disarm, dismantle and disband paramilitary groups.

The group also plead for the safe and orderly return of the Lumads to their respective communities, the suspension of military and police operations to pave the way for a safe and secure return of the Lumad evacuees to their communities, and the support the Lumads to rebuild their communities and their economy.

The group also wants a probe on the accountability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the proliferation of paramilitary groups and their atrocities as well as demands the pullout of military troops in the Lumad communities and schools.

"The church will support the effort of the President to address these issues. We are also willing to help in any means towards this end," the letter furthers.

The letter was signed by 28 religious leaders and officers of PEPP.

Members of the PEPP include the Catholic Bishop's Conference in the Philippines, Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Ecumenical Bishops' Forum and Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

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