CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Church-based peace advocates questioned the government’s sincerity to peace with the arrest of Alfred Mapano, a former consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) on the peace talks who “retired” and was working with the government.
“Is the government program of national reconciliation and rebel reintegration all for a show?” said the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) in their statement.
The PEPP is a group of leaders from Christian denominations working to promote dialogue on the peace talks between the government and the NDF.
The statement was signed by PEPP conveners Archbishop-emeritus Antonio Ledesma, of the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro; Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Diocese of Cagayan de Oro; and Bishop Ligaya San Francisco, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Northwestern Mindanao District.
They said the arrest of Mapano “casts doubt on the sincerity of the present government call to rebels to lay down their arms and peacefully return to the fold.”
Calang, in an interview, recalled in one occasion that he was an observer for the peace talks in Rome in 2017, Mapano told him he has sought permission from the NDF leadership to retire as a peace consultant.
“He said he wanted to retire so he can be with his family and find work to support his family,” Calang said.
After his “retirement”, Mapano worked for the Phividec Industrial Authority based in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. He became its corporate social responsibility officer, tasked to deal with informal settlers in the 3,000 hectare industrial estate that hosts several billions of investments including big corporations like San Miguel Brewery, power plants, and international ports, all vital to the local and national economy. Just recently, he was reassigned as a security officer at Phividec.
Aside from working in Phividec, Mapano was also a speaker for government programs for rebel returnees.
“While finally leading a normal life with his family, he also devoted time and effort working as an active partner in the government program for national reconciliation and rebel returnee as a speaker in different peace and reconciliation fora,” the PEPP said.
The group said Mapano reached out to many former rebels and their families, facilitated their organization to gain legal personality and helped these groups link with government agencies for the improvement of their economic well-being and welfare through livelihood and technical assistance, and helped those who were politically persecuted.
The bishops also noted something irregular with the robbery case slapped against Mapano. The case, filed in a court in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur, said Mapano did the alleged crimes in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon, in 2017 and 2019, respectively, a period when he was already working at Phividec.
“It is mindboggling to think that he could be in these far-away places while working in a government office,” the group said.
PEPP added: “We view with alarm and concern that Alfredo Mapano, a former peace negotiator and now a rebel-returnee, government employee and active partner of the government program, who the government’s offer in good faith, has become a victim of the the government’s hollow promise.”
“Instead of the promised ‘peaceful return to the fold,’ he is once again subjected to political persecution with these latest trumped-up charges filed against him,” PEPP said.
“We urge the government to abide by its promise to accept our rebel brothers and sisters who have decided to return to the fold of the law and to offer them a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to peacebuilding,” the group said.
The bishops said, “Peace cannot be achieved by a purely militaristic solution of jailing people indiscriminately or murdering them, like what happened to other NDF consultants Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis.”
What happened to Mapano may lend credence to the claims of the NDF and other peace advocates about the falsehood of President Duterte’s call for national reconciliation, they said.
“We urge the government to show its sincerity of giving those who give up violence a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to nation building — particularly during these days of our observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, 2020,” PEPP said. (davaotoday.com)