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Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol, for the newspaper Northern Dispatch Weekly, wrote an article on the current prospects of the peace talks between the underground National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Philippine government (GPH):
Church leaders from the five major religious federations under the banner of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace in the Philippines (PEPP) appeal to the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to break the impasse on the peace talks through a joint pastoral letter.
The said church leaders gathered for the 3rd Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace at the Little Flower Convent, Baguio City last March 5 to 7. According to PEPP this is the largest gathering of church leaders with 76 church leaders from all over the country.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, chair of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and PEPP co-chair disclosed that pushing for the continuation of the GPH-NDFP peace talks is part of churches’ efforts for peace.
The bishop pointed out that the peace talks should continue to address the continuing human rights violations, violence and social inequity. “We cannot have continuing violence, human rights violations and social inequity,” he stressed.
The church leaders in their joint pastoral statement also called on the GPH to release detained NDFP consultants for the resumption of the peace talks. The statement explained that the GPH should release NDFP consultants, because more than the implementation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) signed by the GPH and NDFP is the humanitarian reason as articulated in the Oslo Joint Statement last February 21, 2011.
The joint pastoral letter was signed by representatives of the five major religious groups that include Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr. of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP); Bishop John Tayoto, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; Sr. Aurora Codiam, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines-Women; Bishop Felixberto L. Calang, Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum and Bishop Ledesma of the CBCP.
NDFP Consultant Randy Malayao, who was invited in the said summit in a separate interview stressed that the GPH is the one stalling the peace talks sating the government does not want to talk about and resolve the socio-economic issues. “The ball is in the hand of the GPH. The NDFP did not stop pursuing the peace talks. It is not true that NDFP is imposing on the government causing the impasse,” he stressed.
Malayao reiterated that the NDFP is only asking the GPH to respect and implement existing joint declarations and agreements such as the JASIG and the Joint Hague Declaration. He pointed out that the GPH’s moves to reconstruct the Joint Hague Declaration, which he said is the framework of the peace talks only brings the peace talks back to zero. He explained that the Hague declaration aside from providing the framework of the peace talks has also resulted to around 15 sub agreements that include the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL).
He also reiterated the call for the release of at least 11 more NDFP consultants. He, however, stressed that the continuing detention of the NDFP consultants did not stop the NDFP to pursue the talks.
According to Bishop Ledesma, the PEPP invited representatives from both the GPH and NDFP to be part of the said summit, however, no representative of the GPH panel came. But he said observers from the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process (OPPAP).