I yield this space to the press statement of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) on the resumption of peace negotiations because of its relevance.The statement was issued some days after the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front started blaming each other for the collapse of the talks.
From the beginning, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), has been praying for and supporting the peace negotiations. We celebrated every step forward both parties made. We were disappointed each time peace negotiations were suspended or fell into an impasse. But, we never lost hope. Our statement in November 13, 2002, affirmed this prayerful support saying “it is better to talk peace rather than engage in war”. The NCCP supports the principled negotiations to thresh out the issues, unearth and address the root causes of the conflict. The peace negotiation is a way to just and lasting peace. It is a way to end the armed conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of Filipinos, combatants and non-combatants alike.
The NCCP is very much concerned over the recent statements of the Chairperson of the Philippine government panel, Atty. Alex Padilla of the “collapse” of the peace talks between the Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). From our perspective, a government instituted for the peace and welfare of the people, should be the last to give up on any measure intended for a just and lasting peace. The NCCP recognizes the frustrations arising from the interruptions and we hold no illusion that the process is easy. But we know that obstacles are surmountable. The peace negotiation is itself our example. The statement of Atty. Padilla that “nothing happened in the last 27 years” fails to take into account of the achievements of the peace negotiations.
Most assuredly, the people have long awaited the current segment of the peace negotiations. On top of its agenda is the second one – a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms. Beyond doubt, this agenda is the most essential of the substantive agenda agreed on by both parties in The Hague Joint Declaration. A comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms is a major breakthrough in addressing the issue why there is an armed conflict in the first place. We hope the statement that the peace negotiations collapsed is not an indication of a refusal to address the fundamental issue that has fostered unpeace and injustice in our country for a long time.
The NCCP holds that the approach taken by both panels from the start of the peace negotiations was painstaking but worth holding on to. These are mutually agreed principles which when complied with faithfully by both parties, can propel our country to what we all long for – Shalom upon our land. This approach, we maintain, leads to peace.
We urge both parties to hold on to mutually agreed processes and persevere in talking and walking peace. Beyond the exigencies of the present is our serious accountability to future generations. Their welfare cannot be ensured by calling for the elimination of Filipinos who dissent with government on principled grounds. Rather, it is for government to take leadership that future generations will not “learn of war anymore”.
Even as we make this appeal, we likewise call on the churches, faith communities and the general public to pray and support the resumption of the formal peace talks. Just and lasting peace is our collective legacy to those after us. We have everything to gain especially if the panels of both parties are resolute in ushering in the peace of God, which may be beyond our understanding but which we can experience when there is justice.
Let us, everyone, unite our voices and efforts for the common good and “because everyone will work for justice, there will be peace and security forever”. (Isaiah 32:17)
Rev. Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary, NCCP
The Most Reverend Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo XII
Iglesia Filipina Independiente
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is the largest aggrupation of non-Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines which includes the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.