“Let us start rebuilding” (Nehemiah 2: 18)
We are church leaders and shepherds of the flock from the five religious federations gathered in Baguio City, March 5-7, 2013, for the 3rd Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace. This has been the largest gathering of church leaders brought together by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), with 76 church leaders from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. We are for the continuing of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and we are concerned with the continuing impasse. We have gathered to bring our collective strength together in an effort to encourage a breakthrough in the impasse that has stalled the Peace Talks since February 2011.
As we recall, the PEPP issued a statement last year, pleading for the government “to release on recognizance (ROR) under the collective custodial guarantee the NDFP consultants who are willing to be under the sanctuary of the churches”. This plea to release the detained consultants in order for the formal peace talks to resume is not hinged solely on the contested issue of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) but also on “the basis of humanitarian and other practical reasons” as stated in the Oslo Joint Statement of 21 February 2011. However, a condition required by the GPH with regard to the ROR proposal has discouraged the consultants to avail themselves of this remedy, saying that it would expose them to greater threats.
We have been made aware of a Special Track in the negotiation to hasten the peace process. We were hoping for good news about this development that we first heard about in December 2012. We understand that the special track has not prospered. Thus, the impasse remains.
But we will not falter. Together with organizations with similar calls like Sulong CARHRIHL, Pilgrims for Peace and Waging Peace, we are here to show the country that there is a strong constituency supporting the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. As written in the book of Nehemiah, God’s people said, “let us start rebuilding” the walls of Jerusalem. We therefore exhort both panels to REBUILD! Break the impasse now!
Our call to rebuild is also an appeal to President Benigno S. Aquino III to shepherd the formal peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP just like the way he did with the MILF. His commitment to the negotiations can help create a positive atmosphere to resume the formal talks.
We also reiterate our appeal to the government to release the detained NDFP consultants as articulated in the Oslo Joint Statement of 21 February 2011, “on the basis of humanitarian and other practical reasons” to enable the talks to resume. If need be, we support that both panels immediately reconstruct the JASIG list to ensure that the security of all those involved from both sides is respected and guaranteed.
We enjoin our faithful to work and persevere in guarding the commitment of the GPH and NDFP to uphold the four substantive issues framed in the Hague Joint Declaration especially the Social and Economic Reforms.
We pray for both sides to pursue all tracks to peace. We keep our kindred spirits high and we will “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14, 1 Peter 3:11).
Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Baguio City, March 7, 2013.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Rev. Fr. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Bishop John R. Tayoto
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
Sr. Aurora A. Codiam, SIHM
Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines – Women
Bishop Felixberto L. Calang
Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum