Don’t Allow the Treaty to be Broken! Resume Peace Negotiations Without Delay!

Apr. 04, 2014

(A Challenge of the Ecumenical Bishops Forumto the Government of the Philippines [GPH] and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines [NDFP] to Resume the Hanging Formal Peace Negotiations Now)

Isaiah 33:7-9: 7. Listen! The valiants  cry in the streets The envoys of peace weep bitterly. 8. The highways are deserted The travelers have quit the road. The treaty is broken, its oaths are despised, its obligation is disregarded. 9. The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert; And Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves. (New Revised Standard Version) This passage seems to be the fate of our land and people. The envoys of peace, i.e., those who pray and call for peace, feel discouraged with the ceaseless efforts of those who frustrate their dream. Official agreements had already been signed by both parties, the GPH and the NDFP, after 21 years (NDFP’s version) or 27 years (GPH version) of formal peace negotiations. In our own reckoning, from 1988 to the present, the 26 years-talks yielded eighteen major written agreements, unity on nineteen outstanding Issues, and five items of the work of the Joint Monitoring Committee. All these are leading towards forging a lasting peace. Agenda of the talks have been identified in their order, processes to ensure that the talks will go on unhampered have been defined, way of addressing violations by either side were put in place, the safety and immunity of participants to the talks in any capacity were mutually agreed upon, and various rules and regulations were signed for the smooth and efficient flow of the talks. But it seems that these agreements are not being honored today. The gains of the past seem to evaporate to thin air. “The treaty is broken.” The Ecumenical Bishops Forum is deeply disheartened with the unilateral suspension of the formal peace negotiations by the GPH. Three golden years had been wasted. Had the talks continued as provided for in The Hague Joint Declaration, the people should now be witnessing agreements on socio-economic reforms, after which the political and constitutional reforms, and finally the end to hostilities and disposition of forces. And then the long awaited peace, lasting and meaningful peace, in the land and among our people. With peace, progress and prosperity shall follow. No more poverty, no more squatter colonies, no more beggars loitering the streets, no more Filipinos leaving the country to find work in other lands, our industry can accommodate our labor force. We are not saying that all these will happen overnight. It will take years, painful years of honest to goodness reforms in all areas of governance, of implementing genuine land reform, of building national industry, of people’s servants working for the good of the people (cf. Romans 13:4a). This will even necessitate a values re-orientation of the leadership from the national to the local government units including the barangay levels. The Church and the academe shall have serious and difficult role to play here given that the so-called “people’s servants” had been acting like kings and queens and princes and princesses who expect “to be served rather than to serve” (cf. Mark 10:42-44) all their  years in public office, except for a handful honest and dedicated ones. But before this dream can come to pass, the talks must continue. We therefore challenge the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to send back their negotiating panels to the negotiation table without further delay! Issued and signed this 3rd day of April in the year of the Lord 2014.                                                              MOST REV. DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ, JR., D.D.          BISHOP FELIXBERTO L. CALANG, IFI Co-chairperson                                                                        Co-chairperson

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