EBF Mindanao: Imperative calls for GRP-NDFP to resume peace talks

Jun. 15, 2010

We, the participants in the peace forum composed of religious sectors, lay academe, clergy and bishops, conducted by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum on May 11 – 13, 2010 at United Church of hrist in the Philippines (UCCP)-Haran, Madapo Hills, Davao City, call on the attention of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panels to return the negotiation table, and urge both panels to discuss and address the root causes of the armed conflict.

We arrived at this call after noting the peace situation in the island of Mindanao, particularly its southeastern part (Caraga region, SocSKSarGen, Cotabato). The participants, after sharing and discussion, noted the following:

1.           Massive militarization in the areas, which affect the lives of innocent civilians.

2.           Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, abduction, torture of leaders of people’s organizations and progressive party list groups’ members and supporters, and other forms of human rights violation.

3.           Violations of human rights of leaders and mass evacuation of Lumads (indigenous peoples), whereby the Lumads are forced to ask for alms.

4.           Forced recruitment to become members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and Task Force Gantangan.

5.           Widespread poverty, with the economy being controlled by only a few people.

6.           Presence of foreign mining corporations, which bring about destruction to forests and forest covers including protected areas.

7.           Dislocation of fisherfolk in the foreshore areas due to eco-tourism.

8.           Widespread prostitution due to poverty.

9.           Reign of political dynasties with their private armies scaring the civilian populace.

10.       Rampant use of illegal drugs and illegal gambling, victimizing the poor making them even poorer.

11.       Latest and most brutal — the Maguindanao massacre of 57 innocent people, majority being journalists.

More than these, there is the 42-year armed conflict between the government and rebel forces. Such conflict has claimed lives of many fighters from sides, brother and sister Filipinos that they are and even civilians caught in the crossfire.

The primary response of the GRP to the conflict is military action, with its various operation plans since the time of President Cory Aquino after the toppling of the hated Marcos dictatorship. The Arroyo regime continues to implement Operational Plan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch) 1 and 2, targeting not only the armed group but even the open legal progressive movement. Thousands of its leaders and supporters have been extrajudicially liquidated, abducted, tortured, have involuntarily disappeared and suffered all kinds of human rights violations. But military solution has never succeeded. It has in fact exacerbated the conflict. Innocent civilians are caught in between the two warring armies causing massive evacuation and internal refugees. Military solution does more evil than good.

While the NDFP, through its representative, says that it is ready to resume formal peace talks with the new GRP administration, it is sad to note that the NDFP-GRP peace talk is not in the priority list of the incoming Aquino administration, according to its representative to the forum. “There is no policy paper yet on peace talks and low level of consensus on how to proceed,” said Ging Delles, Noynoy’s adviser on peace, in another forum.

Interestingly, the Philippine government and the military are aware of the inadequacy and uselessness if not folly of military approach. General Delfin Bangit, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, admitted that the insurgency could only be crushed if its root causes were addressed. “We should be able to address a large portion of the problem, which are the root causes of insurgency. We have to go back to poverty, the administration of health, literacy,” Gen. Bangit said. “If we list the causes of the insurgency, you will see that many do not call for military solution,” he added (PDI, 05/18/10).

We are therefore calling on the incoming government of President Benigno C. Aquino III to terminate the military solution by doing away with Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2, and by never resurrecting these under different names and to instead pursue the path of peace. We strongly recommend to the incoming Aquino government to work for the resumption of formal peace talks and discuss the second substantive agenda which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms for the attainment of genuine and lasting peace for the socio-economic development, cultural and political reforms. These agenda shall address the issue of poverty, landlessness, ill-health and illiteracy among other distressing and demoralizing issues confronting the Filipino people.

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalms 34:14, NRSV).

Signed this 19th day of May, Two Thousand and Ten by correspondence among the participants:

Bishop Constante D. Claro
Bishop, South East Mindanao Jurisdiction

The Right Reverend Delfin Callao
Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Diocese of Davao

Rev. Modesto D. Villasanta
Deputy Conference Minister, Surigao District Conference

Rev. Vicente Almeyda
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Rev. Elpidio R. Tangunan
United Methodist Church

Rev. Rodolfo Baslot
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Fr. Julito S. Estrebilla, Jr.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Ms. Leticia Saligumba
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Rev. Jimmy A. Bigaran
United Methodist Church

Fr. Ellie A. Cayao, Jr.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Miss Rosanna N. Gamutan
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Marivie S. Bigaran
United Methodist Church

Rev. Ariel Baladjay
Conference Minister

Ms. Annie Calvez
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Annaliza E. Casurra
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Fr. Vic Polesco
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Ms. Susan Claro
Executive Director

Rev. Abraham P. Perasol
United Methodist Church

Ms. Edebeth C. Tumulak
South East Mindanao Jurisdiction

Fr. Ben A. Bacalso
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Rev. Leah C. Benemeño
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Jurie Jaico
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Sr. Elsa Compuesto, MSM
Executive Secretary, Sisters Association of Mindanao (Samin)

Rev. Pablo de la Cruz
Conference Minister- UCCP CAC

Rev. Amelito Ello
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Isaac Kim
Mission Co-worker
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Richard C. Estestes
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Lorenzo M. Talim
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Angelico F. Cofreros, Jr.
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Ruth C. Janoras
Conference Minister- UCCP NDDC

Fr. Wylan Rey Pinera
Episcopal Church of the Philippines

Rev. Pio Mercado
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Oliver T. Paraiso
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Sr. Franz Blando, RGS

Fr. Larry O. Ramovan
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Rev. Rolando S. Rana
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Renato J. Gana
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Fr. Dennis P. Maquerme
Iglesia Filipina Independiente

Pastor Allen Bill M. Veloso
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Pastor Edgar A. Ugal
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Pastor Danilo A. Ruen

Pastor Marlyn Baladjay
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Rev. Jerusa Semacio
United Church of Christ in the Philippines

Ms. Hazel Corro-Navarra
Program Coordinator
Southeastrn Mindanao Jurisdiction (Semjur), UCCP

Ms. Darlene M. Caramanzana
Assistant Program Secretary, Women’s Desk
Acting Program Secretary, Ecumenical, Education and Nurture

Ms. Ofelia A. Cantor
Ecumenical Bishops Forum

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