CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A Catholic leader advised the government to push through with the peace negotiations with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) instead of pursuing local peace talks undertaken by some local government units.
Aglipayan Bishop Felixberto Calang, co-convener of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), said “localized peace talks do not resolve the bigger picture.”
Calang said the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should go back to the negotiating table and address the roots of the armed conflict.
“We understand that Davao City is home to the President, but in the peace talks the NDFP is into negotiation with the national government which represents a policy of inequality and oppression that bred armed revolutionary response from the people,” said Calang.
Calang’s statement came four days after the CPP rejected the idea of conducting localized peace talks between its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and members of the newly-established Davao City Localized Peace Committee.
Apart from Davao City, Northern Samar also expressed its intent to mount a dialogue between the NPA, the Philippine Army, and the local government.
The CPP call these initiatives as a “divisive” measure by the government to push for the surrender of the NPA fighters without substantial reforms in place.
Calang, who was among the independent observers of the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP said peace talks are supposed to be aimed at reforming, if not transforming “oppressive and exploitative systems.”
It can be recalled that President Duterte has ordered the government’s peace panelists to discontinue negotiating with their counterparts in the NDFP stalling the talks just as it reached the fifth round when the Parties are about to discuss on the table the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).
Resumption of the peace negotiations with the Communists was one of the President’s agenda but was put on hold following the series of attacks carried out by the NPAs against government forces in the past few months following the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Last week, Duterte said he is supporting the localized peace talks created by his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as he urged the NPA to return to the fold of the law with promise of jobs and housing should the NPA fighters lay down their arms and surrender.
Calang said he is still optimistic that the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF will continue through political will.
“We hope the President combines this political will with the national government’s commitment to forge social and economic reforms which the people have long been struggling for,” Calang said. (with reports from Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/davaotoday.com)