By Leslie Ann Aquino
President Duterte’s order to the military to “destroy” the New People’s Army is worrisome for the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), a peace advocate group.
The PEPP, which is composed of five church institutions or groups, said they are particularly worried about the escalation of violence and human rights violation that will surely ensue because of such statement.
“As leaders of churches in the country, we are troubled by this announcement and the escalation of violence and violation of human rights that will surely ensue,” read their statement entitled “Our Enduring Call this Christmas: Resume GRP-NDFP Peace Talks!”
“As we celebrate the day of birth of Jesus Christ, the bearer of hope, we affirm our belief that peace is possible through principled dialogue and that the peace talks are still the most viable option to attain a just and enduring peace in the country,” it further read.
The group said House Resolution 2339 which the House of Representatives adopted urging President Duterte to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was a piece of good news for peace advocates like them.
PEPP called on President Duterte to heed the House Resolution and continue the peace negotiations with the NDFP and resume the formal peace talks.
“We also call for the release of Mr. Rey Casambre and other NDFP peace consultants as a gesture of magnanimity especially during this season of hope and to reciprocate the Christmas ceasefire of the New People’s Army (NPA),” the group said.
According to the group, Casambre, who was arrested earlier this month, is the executive director of the Philippine Peace Center and has contributed to the ministry and advocacy of PEPP as a resource person for their various activities.
Casambre, PEPP said is a publicly known participant in the GRP-NDFP peace talks whose expertise in relation to the peace process has been sought not only by different peace advocacy groups but different media outlets as well.
“We also appeal to the NPA for the peaceful turnover of the CAFGU personnel and enlisted soldiers detained recently in Sibagat and other parts of Caraga Region in order for them to be with their families this holiday season,” said PEPP.
The PEPP, which is composed of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) with organizations of Religious, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), is working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and NDFP.
Meanwhile, Bishop Noel Pantoja of PCEC is hoping that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will inspire people to bring the message of hope to the hopeless, the destitute, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the dying, the cast out, the sinner and to all who need the saving power of God.
“In this dark and sinful world, filled with sin and sinfulness, the coming of the Messiah gives hope. God has done everything, through the coming of Christ, so that people might put their faith and hope in God.” he said in his Christmas message.
“People may disappoint, abandon, betray and forsake you, but God is with you (Immanuel) and working for your sake,” Pantoja added.