“But those who hope for the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
We are the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the country today. As peace advocates, compelled by the gospel mandate, we see it within the ambit of our mission to accompany the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
We held our 4th Church Leaders’ Summit in Cebu City this June 29 to July 1, 2015 with sixty-three (63) participants representing the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP-men and women), Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) coming from all over the country to express our support for the resumption of the peace talks between the parties. As we journey with the GPH-NDFP peace process, we resolved to amplify the call to both parties to resume the formal peace talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that has been in an impasse since February 2011.
The former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chair, Atty. Christian Monsod and former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Chief, Dr. Cielito Habito briefed us on the challenges of social justice and the need for fundamental socio-economic reforms that will address the issues of poverty and inequity – the roots of the armed conflict. We heard the explanations of former GPH Peace Panel member, Atty. Rene Sarmiento on how the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was crafted through an arduous process of negotiations including the contentious issue of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which underwent a total of 17 drafts.
We were likewise moved by the testimonies of a health worker, a farmer and a LUMAD about their experiences of injustice and the violation of their fundamental rights in their communities. We also engaged in profound conversations on how we as church leaders and our flock, can contribute to the peace negotiations in order to attain the peace our people cry for. This sharing of insights and experiences by our resource persons and our own conversations has inspired us to remain committed and steadfast in our accompaniment work with the GPH-NDFP Peace Process.
Recent developments have also strengthened our resolve. We are enthused by the recent pronouncements of the GPH and NDFP that they are open to the possibility of going back to the negotiating table. We are similarly encouraged by the perseverance and ready involvement of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) in its role as third party facilitator with the appointment of a new special envoy in the person of Ms. Elisabeth Slattum, as we also call for a more proactive facilitation.
We call on the GPH and NDFP to immediately resume the formal peace talks in order to address the roots of the armed conflict. Along with this call is our appeal to both parties to make themselves more visible and accessible to the public, especially to the organizations accompanying this process.
As an expression of our commitment, we will help spread the good news of peace through the creative education of our people on the GPH-NDFP process. We will do innovative approaches to peace in our churches like popularizing peace sports, songs, dances and other art forms in support of the peace process. We will encourage our young people to be involved in different fora. We will likewise make our church leaders more visible in the public media expressing their full support to the talks. We will use the time and space during the election months to consolidate our ranks, strengthen our collective strategies, dialogue with different stakeholders to sustain the peace process and be more pro-active when an opportunity opens up for the resumption of the talks.
We affirm that all signed agreements that were painstakingly negotiated by both parties in the past are signs of hope and should be honored to serve as building blocks for future agreements.
We will journey with the parties and our people until the day we see the dawning of peace.
We enjoin all peace-loving Filipinos to continually pray and tirelessly work for peace.
Issued and signed this day, July 1, 2015