By Francis Wakefield
“Nobody wins in a cruel and bloody war. This has to stop.”
This was the message of Cagayan de Oro Archbishop and Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) co-chair Antonio Ledesma to representatives of church, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations from Northeastern Mindanao during a gathering in Cagayan de Oro City last Friday.
The event, organized by the Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc. (BMFI) and PEPP, aimed to discuss key peace and security challenges confronting the region and recommend solutions to address them.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Assistant Secretary for Mindanao Concerns Dickson Hermoso said the “agency will continue to implement its mandate and carry out the best steps towards [attaining] peace.”
Hermoso, who represented Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Carlito Galvez Jr. during the event, said President Duterte has directed OPAPRU to open a “little window” for the possible resumption of peace talks once there is already an “enabling environment.”
The President terminated peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in November 2017.
Last December 4, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 authorizing local government units to pursue localized peace engagements with communist rebels.
EO 70 is entitled “Institutionalizing the Whole-of–Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework.”
The task force is headed by the President and co-chaired by the National Security Adviser, with members coming from concerned government agencies and two private sector representatives.
Over the years, the PEPP and BMFI have been supporting the peace process between the government and NDFP to put an end to the decades-long armed conflict by addressing its social, economic and political root causes.
The PEPP is a faith-based network working for the attainment of just and enduring peace across the country, while the BMFI is a Mindanao-based NGO engaged in peace-building and humanitarian work.
PEPP and BMFI have been working together to help transform the poorest and most conflict-torn of the country’s region into a “balay”, a true home for where Christians, Muslims and Lumads can live in peace, solidarity and harmony.