The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has urged the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to go back to the peace negotiating table “without delay”.
The NCCP has attributed the increasing cases of human rights violations and the worsening climate of impunity in the country to the “breakdown” of the peace talks between to the two parties.
“The clergy, the religious, and the lay from various denominations and across generations cannot stand idly by watching the reign of terror, due to draconian measures imposed, to continue spreading faster than the unseen virus that has devastated economies and caused untold suffering to the millions of the vulnerable in the Philippines,” the Council said in a statement.
The country’s largest aggrupation of mainline Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches also lamented that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic also affected the peace process, noting that the negotiations were supposed to resume after the successful backchannel talks toward the end of 2019.
“Bringing back to the negotiating table the peace process would allow both parties to resume work on the halted Interim Peace Agreement that would pave the way for a final negotiated settlement,” the NCCP said.
The Council noted during the virtual 9th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace (ECLSP) initiated by the Philippine Ecumenical Platform for Peace (PEPP) on Feb. 18 and 19, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, III, who headed the government peace panel, and Juliet de Lima, NDFP interim chief peace negotiator, “expressed openness to the continuation of the peace process.”
“The Christians firm belief in God’s love yields hope that peace – through principled negotiations – is highly feasible.Peace goes beyond the silence of guns to the active presence of justice, right relationships with others, and the rest of creation. It is tangible and manifested through food on the table, decent jobs, and wages, clothing, shelter, education, and access to basic needs. (cf. Mathew h:32ff),” it said.
“Peace with justice means people living sustainably in their communities without fear or threat to their lives and livelihood. (cf. Micah 4:4).”