“Peace! Be Still!

(Statement on the Cancellation of the 5th Round of Peace Talks)

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines remains optimistic that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines  (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) shall stay the course towards lasting peace and justice notwithstanding the failure of the fifth round of the formal peace talks to take off in the Noordwijk, The Netherlands, May 27, 2017.

The GRP through Secretary Jesus Dureza said, its panel will not “participate in the scheduled fifth round of talks unless there were clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace in the land through peace negotiations across this table shall prevail.”

The NDFP through its Chief Negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the “NDFP is ready to resume the fifth round of formal talks on the substantive agenda of social and economic reforms when the other side is willing to do so.” We are encouraged by the optimism likewise expressed by Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum of the Royal Norwegian Government and third party facilitator of the peace talks.

Our optimism is bouyed by the affirmation of both sides that the peace talks has not been terminated. The setback in this round only serves to support the call for both parties to continue the conversations all the more. The great strides achieved in the last nine months are proof enough that talking to each other is the best way to clear matters. We also commend the Reciprocal Working Groups of both panels for the socio-economic reform agenda for their zeal in producing  the working papers that were supposed to be the focus of this round of formal talks.

Nothing should stand in the way now as both parties deal with the most crucial item of the substantive agenda. An agreement on socio-economic reforms hopes to address the issues that have propped up this civil unrest for a long time. Even as we pray that both panels will take to heart the yearnings of the people for peace, we renew our call that all previously signed agreements should be respected. Especially do we urge that both parties uphold the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). To be sure, terrorists with foreign affiliations must be terminated. The NCCP supports the action of the Armed Forces of the Philippines towards this end. We also urge both parties to honor the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Concretely, we support the call for the release of NDFP consultant Rommel Salinas arrested on May 11, 2017 along with The Rt. Reverend Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Both are currently detained in Ozamis City. The CARHRIHL and the JASIG are important agreements that are not voided insofar as the 5th round of formal peace talks’ failure to take off is concerned.

Faced by rough waters rocking the boat violently, Jesus Christ stilled the situation by uttering peace. Christ is urging us all this time to rein in our discordant voices, talk about our differences, unite on the best interest and common good and to pray to God for discernment and enlightenment in these trying times.

May the God of peace fill us with hope.


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