(Statement of Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, main convenor of Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao and observer in the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks)
ROME, Italy (MindaNews/ 20 January) — We welcome the high level of optimism that marked the opening of the talks in Rome yesterday. As observers in the peace talks, we express our gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for facilitating the process. We appreciate Special Envoy Elisabeth Slattum’s emphasis of highlighting the common goals of the peace process. We believe that consistent with these common goals come commitments and obligations.
As President Duterte’s ‘steady hand’ of guidance in the talks was stressed by DFA Sec. Perfecto Yasay and OPAPP Sec. Jesus Dureza, we were actually expecting a last-minute release of political prisoners in congruence with the CARHRIHL and the spirit of the 1st and 2nd round of talks.
We are hoping that this 3rd round will bring about the realization of the release of political prisoners as this is a critical issue in the sustainability of the process.
We are aware that despite the high level of optimism during the opening of the talks, there are strong undercurrents that affect the smooth direction of the talks. The realization of PPs releases, the cessation of militarization especially in Lumad and peasant communities in Mindanao, and issues related to the unilateral and bilateral ceasefires, need to be appropriately addressed at this juncture of the talks. For now, these issues appear to affect the relevant focus needed for the discussion and eventual signing of the SER.
As a people’s movement for a just and lasting peace, we at Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao are encouraging both parties to hurdle the snags in the current round of talks and give focus on the SER. We congratulate both the GRP and the NDFP, with the facilitation of the RNG, for bringing about the fruition of this 3rd round of talks. We share in the optimism and commitment of RNG Manila Ambassador Erik Forner that “we are in this for the long haul.”