Church leaders’ Christmas call: Resume government-NDF peace talks

Dec. 25, 2015

DAVAO CITY – The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) called on the government and the National DemocraticFront (NDF) to resume peace talks this Yuletide season.

The joint statement, signed by Bishop Noel A. Pantoja, national president of Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, Cagayan de Oro City Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, S.J., D.D., co-chairperson of PEPP, Rev. Fr. Rex RB Reyes, Jr general secretary of National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr,. D.D., said that this season, they “hope to inspire both parties to break down the dividing wall of hostility and engage in principled negotiations to end the decades-old armed conflict in the country.”

Both parties, NDFP and the GPH, already declared ceasefire from December 23 up to January 3 of 2016.

The statement said, “we hope that both parties will respect and remain faithful to their declaration of ceasefire to ensure a peaceful holiday season.”

The church leaders said that they welcome the release of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) prisoner of war (Pow), Private First Class Jess Adonis Lupiba and added that “we hope for other POWs to be released before the year ends.”

“We call on the government to reciprocate this goodwill from the NDF by also releasing political prisoners. The PEPP is especially concerned with the case of NDF Consultant Eduardo Serrano, 62 years old, who was rushed to the hospital last 16 December due heart attack and that needs to undergo angioplasty,” the statement said.

“We appeal to the good graces of Pres. Benigno Aquino III for humanitarian reasons, to order the release of Mr. Serrano,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, civil society network Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) issued an open letter on December 10, during the International Human Rights Day, to the two parties to “go back to the peace table and resume the talks until a just political settlement is reached.”

The open letter said, “while acknowledging that conflict is part of a society’s dynamic, the network members reiterate the urgency to take actions that would prevent the conflict from becoming more violent and further wantonly affecting thousands of innocent civilians.”

“The participants call on both parties to pursue the path of negotiation, to communicate openly and heed and regard principled compromises instead of resorting to violent confrontations and heightened offensives,” the letter read.

PMPI National Coordinator Yolanda Esguerra said, “PMPI has initially sent the said letter to the chairpersons of both panels and later decided to make its demands public to encourage response from both parties.”

PMPI also said that the 12-day ceasefire, “may be the best starting confidence-building measure for the two camps.”

“They can consider it as a gift to the affected communities as a ceasefire is a sure respite from the conflict, and a chance to address human rights violations and abuses,” Esguerra said. (

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