STANDPOINT |Bishops back resumption of GRP-NDF formal peace talks

Aug. 15, 2016

(A statement by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum issued on August 8, 2016)

Genuine and lasting peace has always been an urgent need as far as our country and people are concerned. The non-stop offensive and defensive armed conflict between the armed forces of the Government of the Philippines and the New People’s Army led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has been going on for more than four decades now, and has caused thousands of precious Filipino lives to perish.

Considering that life is God’s gift, death is always senseless; it is not the Creator’s will. God wants only the best for all. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18, English Standard Version).

But delivering death and/or accepting death becomes meaningful and relevant to those who do it fighting for a cause against something and/or for something. A government soldier who truly believes that he is putting his life on the line because he is defending his country from those who seek to destroy it will be ready to kill a fellow Filipino. A brilliant young student who sees the vast difference between the ideal he/she learns from the university and the actual reality of life which is hellish, will not hesitate going up the mountains to make sure that his/her beloved country will be free from the rapacious greed of big foreign mining companies who ruin our land and destroy the future the next generations of our people in spite of his/her full consciousness of the danger of his/her decision. He/she is well aware that he/she is bound to face military people armed to the teeth to protect the violators of Mother Nature.

The factory worker who receives less than the minimum wage cannot use his most effective weapon to protest as the worker’s unions have effective been defanged. Where will he to go and what is he to do? The poor peasants and the indigenous peoples whose small family farm and ancestral lands respectively, had been taken away from them by rich businessmen protected by the military lost their livelihood. What will they do to regain their property and ensure the future of their children? Then small fisher-folks who can no longer catch fish as they used to because the lakes are full of fish pens of the wealthy and powerful politicians and because they are being driven away and threatened by the Chinese have nothing to support their families. They are among those to find meaning in taking up arms in order to simply live.

There are root causes to the armed conflict. Unless and until these root causes are addressed, armed conflict is bound to continue.

As far as the bible is concerned, “the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10, Revised Standard Version). The love of money or the greed for it has led to all kinds of evil, including invading nations and oppressing and exploiting peoples, wrecking havoc to the whole of life that God has wonderfully formed.

How does this greed manifest in Philippine politics, economy and culture? How come that our officialdom is reserved to the rich and powerful? Why is the vast majority of Filipinos poor? Why are education, sports and mainline music being tailored to cater to the needs of the foreign and local elite? Won’t the presence of all these things ensure the perpetuity of people’s perplexity and strife?

Only an honest-to-goodness discussion to address the root causes of the armed conflict will resolve our age long situation of bondage. Rooting out these root causes will render the struggle meaningless and irrelevant. Fighting shall cease, death shall be avoided, life shall persist. And this state of things will be in accordance with the will of the Lord.

“And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid…” (Leviticus 26:5b-6a, ESV).

We therefore appreciate the decision of the GRP and the NDFP to resume the formal peace talks. The return to the negotiation table and agree on how to bring peace to our people is most important. There may be obstacles to the talks. There may be lots of differences. But that is precisely why talking is made necessary.

Both claiming to represent the Filipino people and their interest, it is incumbent upon them to do all things in their power so that genuine and lasting peace will descend upon our land.


Editor’s note: The statement is signed by EBF Executive Secretary, Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Co-chairperson Most Reverend Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr. D.D. and Co-Chairperson Bishop Felixberto L. Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

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