Bishop asks Duterte to reconsider military offensive against rebels

Nov. 22, 2017

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace Movement in Mindanao chats with Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza after the opening ceremony of the fourth round of the GRP-NDFP peace talks in Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The peace negotiations have gained strides under the Duterte administration so it comes as a surprise to a church leader and peace advocate why the President has to discontinue it.

President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his pronouncement of cancelling the talks with Communist rebels branding them as terrorists and extortionists as he warned companies not to give the so-called “revolutionary tax” to the insurgents.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, an official of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and co-convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), said on Wednesday, November 22, that negotiators from both the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) were effective in their task of tackling the peace agenda.

Calang, who sat as observer to the rounds of negotiations in Italy and Netherlands, said the peace panelists had adopted a two-pronged approach in the talks and it was working so far.

READ: Mindanao bishop hopeful of resumption of talks between gov’t, Reds

He said that while the chief negotiators discuss the main issues, another group would sit down and talk about concerns that were brought by both parties at the reciprocal committee level.

This approach, he added, was helpful in ironing out any kinks in the talks.

Calang observed that the series of dialogues between the two panels bore promising results as issues that were manifested were “properly dealt with.”

The bishop said the peace negotiations are still the best way to finally end the decades-long conflict waged by the Maoist rebels against the government.

He said Duterte should reconsider putting aside the military options and put premium on the talks if he is serious in achieving peace, especially in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Datu Jomorito Goaynon, regional chairperson of the Lumad group Kalumbay, echoed Calang’s call for the resumption of the peace talks.

Goaynon said if the government abandons the peace negotiations, it is likely that Duterte will declare an all-out war against the NPA and this would impact the lives of the tribal minorities living the countryside.

READ: ‘Declaring NPAs terrorist a threat to Lumad children’

“We fear that if the military will go on offensive against the rebels, the Lumad communities are the first to be affected,” Goaynon said in a separate interview Wednesday.

He said war would mean the imminent displacement of thousands of lumads who will have to flee for fear of being caught in the crossfire.

The tribal leader added aside from the massive civilian evacuation, he will also expect reports of human rights abuses perpetrated by government troops as what happened in the past.

“It is a cause for concern and worry for us if there is a failure of peace talks. That’s why we are asking President Duterte to continue the peace talks with the NDF,” Goaynon said. (

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