This Lent reminds us of the sacrifice and suffering of Christ for peace, justice, and life. We are reminded that the work of peace for our country is indeed a tumultuous path.

This is true in the ongoing fight for peace to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Nearly a year after calling off the peace talks with the National Democratic Front, President Duterte is now calling for a new government peace panel to be comprised of military officials.

This is a total departure from the path of the previous peace panels. Whereas the past negotiations have brought to the table the agenda of addressing the roots of the conflict such as addressing inequality, poverty and human rights violations. This new panel with the military sector sitting will toe the military line of forcing the NDF to surrender without addressing the roots of the problem.

Even before this announcement, the past few weeks saw the troubling effect of the government’s counter-insurgency drive and Martial Law in Mindanao.

A Manobo leader, Datu Kaylo Bontulan, was killed in the midst of a military aerial attack on villages in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

14 farmers in Negros Oriental were shot in their homes in a police operation to arrest New People’s Army fighters.

This kind of modus happened again last April 15 in Tagum City as state forces allegedly tried to arrest NPAs but ended with the killing of an alleged NPA amazon, Cindy Tirado.

A news report said the mother saw Cindy’s body was brutalized, as her arms were fractured and her genitalia was shattered.

These are disturbing news, condemnable acts, as the government forges their new peace panel. It is alarming that the peace they want is made by force, by surrender, by red-tagging, by silencing dissent, by forsaking human rights and international humanitarian law, by driving out the Lumad, Moro, peasant and workers’ communities.

Far from addressing the roots of the armed conflict, we are being made to suffer as people are further deprived of justice and peace.

As Christ has stood for the message of HOPE and LIFE amidst his violent death that is overcome by resurrection, we are challenged to take on this task, to journey with the poor, the deprived, the oppressed in resisting the rule of tyranny, and speak of justice and peace to power.#

Bishop Hamuel Tequis
Convenor, Exodus for Justice and Peace

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