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LET US JOURNEY TOGETHER IN SUPPORT OF THE GRP-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

We, the 135 leaders of the clergy, religious and laity from the five federations that comprise the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)* have successfully convened the 5 th Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace from September 20-22, 2016 under the theme “Celebrating God’s Work for Peace: Journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for Peace”. We converged in Davao City from all corners of the country to draw strength from each other as we celebrated the first successful round of talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after years of impasse. The positive atmosphere that resulted from the recent resumption of the formal peace talks was carried into the positive mood of our summit and our joy for the growing ecumenical participation in supporting the GRPNDFP Peace Process. In our gathering, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University, reminded us in his keynote address of the Biblical imperatives and our Christian duty to work towards the common good and accompany the poor in seeking social justice. Our optimism was strengthened by the sharing of Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Office of the Executive Secretary, on the government’s renewed commitment to peace and to the GRP-NDFP negotiations and the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). We were also encouraged by the input of Attorneys Angela Librado and Antonio Arellano of the GRP Peace Panel regarding the serious commitment of the Panel to engage in principled dialogue with the NDFP. The clear commitment to peace has also been observed in the willingness of government to honor previous agreements and through the concerted effort invested in achieving the release of detained NDFP consultants. Mr. Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Peace Panel Chair, reminded summit participants of the indomitable spirit of the Filipino people through the centuries to persevere in the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country. The presence of the NDFP Consultants, Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, and the recently released Mr. Ariel Arbitrario, Mr. Lando Genelsa, Mr. Alfredo Mapano, and Mr. Porferio Tuna, Jr. brought depth to the discussions and strengthened the determination of participants to further support the peace process.

We admire the resolve of both the GRP and NDFP to transcend differences, willingly explore substantive issues and implement working methods that will accelerate the talks. We also appreciate the decision of both parties to declare indefinite unilateral ceasefires towards a possible bilateral ceasefire. The Royal Norwegian Government and Caritas Norway through solidarity messages from the Special Envoy to the Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum and Program Coordinator for Asia, Aron Halfen, reassured the Summit of their common resolve to persevere in the journey with the PEPP and with the GRP-NDFP Peace Process. They highlighted that a political settlement of the armed conflict through principled dialogue is both possible and attainable, even though difficulties and obstacles are to be expected along the way. We were inspired and challenged by the presence of our Lumad sisters and brothers who kept us attentive to the reality on the ground. Their contributions have shown that peace must be tangible and manifest not only through the silence of arms but even more through food on the table, clothing, shelter, education and access to the means to meet other basic needs and for them to live in their communities without fear or threat. They also underscored the reality that the road to peace is long and arduous, fraught with dangers, but for the sake of the people, especially the most vulnerable, it must be pursued with all our heart and effort. The Summit concluded with a workshop to consolidate the commitments and concerns of the PEPP, and plans for how these can be presented to both the GRP and the NDFP, and to the Filipino people:

· We support and affirm the intention of both the GRP and the NDFP to meet in Norway on October 6-10 for the Second Round of Formal Talks focusing on Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, while also defining the terms for a common Ceasefire Agreement and General Amnesty for political prisoners.

· We invite support and goodwill from the Filipino people for the Peace Talks between the GRP and NDFP which we consider are sincere and thorough and that as a Nation we should stand vigilant against those whose intentions are to spoil the Peace Process to protect their personal or vested interests against the interests of the Filipino people.

· We call and demand both the GRP and NDFP to respect their existing agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, putting a stop to the practice of manufacturing false charges against clergy, lay people, indigenous people and other human rights defenders who are serving the poor and marginalized.

· We call for the removal of all armed groups and the dismantling of existing para-military groups that divide and terrorize the communities of our Indigenous Peoples.

· We call on all our Christian communities – at the local, regional and national levels – to expand our peace constituency and to continue pushing for the completion of the peace talks and the implementation of any peace agreement.

· We offer and render our services and resources to both panels to help in attaining a just and lasting peace in the country. “And with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15), we will journey together till peace based on justice reigns in our land. Davao City, Philippines, 22nd day of September 2016.

ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO LEDESMA, S.J., D.D

Co – chairperson, PEPP

Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City

 

REV. FR. REX RB REYE JR.

Co – chairperson, PEPP

National Council of Churches in the Philippines

 

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. INIGUEZ JR., D.D

PEPP Head of Secretariat

Ecumenical Bishops Forum

 

BISHOP NOEL A. PANTOJA

National Director

Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

 

SR. MARY JOHN D. MANANZAN, OSB

OGWDC – AMRSP

 

BISHOP FELIXBERTO L. CALANG

Co –Chairperson

Ecumenical Bishops Forum