Leaders of various religious organizations have expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to resume peace talks with communist rebels.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the country, said it welcomed the recent statement of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza that the President had directed government negotiators to work on the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“As leaders of churches in the country, we appreciate these developments … We hope that the atmosphere for the resumption of the stalled talks will continue to spread positively,” PEPP said in a statement.
“PEPP has always championed principled dialogue over the negotiating table to resolve this 50-year-old conflict,” it added.
The statement was signed by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, and Fr. Rex Reyes Jr. of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. and Bishop Noel A. Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; and Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, of the Office of Women and Gender Concerns of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.
The group called on both the Philippine government and the NDFP to resume formal peace talks, through the third-party facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government.
“We also call on both parties to fully implement the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and respect previously signed agreements,” it added.
Joma avoids word war
With the possible resumption of the stalled peace talks, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is avoiding engaging the President in another word war.
“I let him go in sounding tough and bellicose. At this time, I prefer to avoid exchanging harsh hyperboles with PRRD (President Duterte),” Sison said in an online interview on Saturday.
He said “let us give a chance to peace negotiations” to emphasize that like the President, he also wanted to revive the peace negotiation straightaway.
“The important thing now is that he allows his negotiating panel to negotiate and make agreements with its NDFP part,” Sison said.
The President has given a two-month deadline for the peace talks to resume.
He said he would want the resumption of the peace talks to be held in the country.
He also declared that he would give Sison and other rebel negotiators the freedom to move around while the peace talks were ongoing.
But in an earlier interview, Sison made it clear that the peace talks should be held in a foreign neutral venue as agreed upon by both parties to ensure the safety and protection of rebel negotiators. —With a report from Delfin T. Mallari Jr.