Soldiers’ welfare over majority’s plight
A few days before President Duterte announced the termination of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front (NDF), a religious community gathered and prayed for unity and expressed its support for the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.
But after the New People’s Army announced it would lift a ceasefire it had unilaterally declared, an incensed President ended the peace talks. Charges and countercharges have been made by both parties as to the disconnect between commanders on the ground and their representatives in the peace talks. Instead of immediately calling for an investigation, the President’s knee-jerk reflex jolted him into terminating an ongoing and seemingly succeeding peace talks. In so doing, he exposed his primary concern for the welfare of men in uniform over the plight of the majority of the Filipino people who are suffering injustice and penury. Such concern may have influenced him into giving undue consideration to martial forces against peace. And peace negotiations collapsed for the umpteenth time.
The College of Bishops and the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church and Society urge, nay, appeal to President Duterte to reconsider the decision, change his mind about terminating the peace talks with the NDF, pave the way for the resumption of discussions, return to the negotiating table, and pursue with the NDF the next rounds of talks.
Mr. Duterte should not allow to go to waste the positive and substantial gains made in the three rounds of discussions with the revolutionary movement since the negotiations were resumed last year.
The termination of the peace talks will only resurrect the perils that an all-out war has brought into our midst since it began, leaving tens of thousands of combatants and civilians dead. Human rights violations will only increase in number without resolving the roots of conflict.
People, especially the poor who are the real stakeholders in the talks, are expecting that the next steps would tackle significant issues relating to socioeconomic reforms. But most importantly, as long as the peace talks continue, the people will keep on finding hope in the prospects for peace.
The Philippine government must not lose sight of the goal. It must keep on listening to the cry of the poor. Peace negotiations must continue. Give peace a chance.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.”
We are also making an appeal to the peace-wreckers. You are involved in what is really happening in the countryside, which is directly affected by the obstacles you place to ruin peace. With every pull of the trigger, you deprive children, women, indigenous peoples and other communities of the peace and justice they have been hungering and thirsting for so long. Please desist from violence. Now. Stop killing the poor. You are not pursuing the interest of the poor or of the public, but the interest of the few ruling class.
BISHOP RODOLFO JUAN, BISHOP CIRIACO FRANCISCO, BISHOP PEDRO TORIO, REV. ISRAEL PAINIT, REV. ANICETO VILLALON JR. for the College of Bishops and the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
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