The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) has expressed alarm over the designation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a terrorist group by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
In a statement on July 21, the group said the designation tragically closes the door to what is truly called for: “a peaceful resolution of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP conflict.”
“Sadly, with this action the ATC buried 29 years of laborious and painstaking agreements and gradual steps toward peace,” PEPP said.
“The ATC designation demonstrates that the government is using its full resources to subdue the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front. It does not fully recognize that violence will not resolve the conflict, that the most judicious way to address its roots–poverty, landlessness, inequitable access to resources– is to resume the formal peace talks,” it added.
PEPP said the designation and the present course that relies on the use of violent means only increase the likelihood of more violations in human rights and international and humanitarian law.
The group said the latest designation by the ATC also begs the question: Are groups supporting or calling for the resumption of the formal peace talks with “designated terrorists” next in the ATC’s crossfires as well?
“It is not far-fetched since they unjustifiably froze the accounts and properties of church ministries like that of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Haran Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City, allegedly for supporting terrorist activities,” it said.
“As church leaders, we are highly alarmed at these developments. However, we will not falter in our belief and call that the most viable option for a just and lasting peace is through a negotiated peace settlement coupled with meaningful social and economic reforms,” added PEPP.
The group appealed to the government to “rescind its designation of the NDFP as a terrorist organization and recognize the lasting devastation this will have on the Filipino people’s trust in the government’s competence to resolve internal conflicts through peaceful negotiations.”
“We continue to appeal to both parties to return to the negotiating table,” PEPP added.
The PEPP is a platform for five church institutions/groups, namely, 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), in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the GRP-NDFP.