“Christ is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the walls of hostility.” –Eph 2.14
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) expresses concern over Presidential Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDFP). While the NDFP has yet to accept the procedural formal termination, we are nonetheless alarmed at the prospect of intensified armed conflict following the termination. It would lay ( to waste previous gains of the formal peace talks and the painstaking work of both negotiating parties. It shuts the door for the three remaining agenda of the peace talks. More importantly, we are most concerned at the human toll if the peace process is terminated.
We understand the frustrations of the President over continuing armed encounters and other obstacles that cause impasse on the formal negotiations. But, we maintain that the road to a just and lasting peace is arduous and that a negotiated process where both parties are engaged in principled talks provides a better alternative over a protracted war. Let us do right. Let us seek peace and pursue it. (cf. IPeter 3.11)
The 25 years of the peace process produced outstanding agreements, with much of those achieved within the last two years alone. The enthusiasm for a settlement was vibrant as never before. Drafts on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development were drawn up. These are positive moves towards addressing the core issues of the long-drawn civil strife. The conversations between both parties since President Duterte assumed the presidency surpassed the last three dispensations in terms of buoying up hope that peace is in the realm of the possible and not a mere remote end.
Of equal concern to us in this regard are the implications of the terminated peace talks to the advocates of human rights and principled dissent, the latter being part of what makes for a democratic society. We are not impervious to the repression likely to pervade as a result of a situation where the mechanism to talk peace is not in place.
The NCCP speaks thus because of our affirmation of human dignity and the right of every person that need to be upheld at all times. The programs of the NCCP be it humanitarian work in response to disasters, solidarity with migrant workers and indigenous peoples, HIV and AIDS ministry, Vacation church school and other activities for children, promoting Christian unity and inter-faith cooperation, the advocacy of human rights and just and lasting peace among others, are all towards the building up of the body of Christ, who is our peace.
We thus appeal to the President to reconsider Proclamation 360. In the name of peace and the future of this republic, we urge both the GRP and the NDFP to pursue relentless an environment conducive to peace building starting with the resumption of the formal peace negotiations.
We call on our member churches and associates to remain steadfast in the advocacy for just and lasting peace. We urge the Filipino people to pray and work for peace without ceasing. Let us pray that God who sent Jesus Christ to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near (Eph 2.17) will direct our hearts to seek God, to bring all nations in subjection to Christ’s will and to pour out God’s Spirit upon all of us.###
JUSTICE RAOUL V. VICTORINO, Ret.
Rev. REX RB REYES, JR.
November 24, 2017