PEACETALK: My Take on the Peace Talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 December) — I am glad there are positive rumors about peace talks between the Duterte Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

I know Joma Sison and Luis Jalandoni personally. In early 1999, I went to Utrecht, Netherlands, to negotiate for the release of Philippine Army’s Brig. Gen. Victor Obillo and Captain Eduardo Montealto. They had been kidnapped by the New People’s Army from the military camp in Mintal, Davao City, and held as prisoners. I succeeded.

Without getting into details, I approached the different issues mainly from the human point of view. No politics. No economics. Just the ultimate human personal and family daily need to survive.

I know a little of Marxist ideology. As an activist youth in 1968 onwards, I tried to understand Marxism, Leninism and Mao Tse Tung Thought in an on-and-off company of Luis Jalandoni and other comrades. But when President Marcos proclaimed Martial Law, Louie and the Ilonggo comrades decided to go underground. Invited to join, I refused. But later my brother Romy joined them. He admired me.

The human factor is so important in interactive dialogue that without it, there is no real communication. Robots armed with artificial intelligence do communicate but there is no conscious understanding, no sense of meaning, just technical exactness.

This factor has something to do with the heart and the Self, or simply with personal faith, which helps a person make sense of what’s happening within him and around him. This explains why Digong wept at his mother’s grave. Why Joma had to get the blessing of Cardinal Sin. Ideology has no place here because it’s not about concepts and ideas.

So when I faced a smiling and appreciative Joma, he solemnly intoned in a surprising language foreign to ideologues: “Now that the Archbishop is here we can go into high moral ground” ! ! ! From there, everything was easy.

But will Mayor Digong also go into similar high moral ground? He can and he will, given the opportunity. I have known him closely for more than 25 years. He is human and he can easily be human. Why? He cannot go against himself. Only Digong knows Mayor Digong.

In saying this delicate matter, I am not saying he will get spiritual and wax religious. No. No, he won’t. He would even continue attacking the Church in his usual rough ways. Yes, he will continue his rants against Church beliefs and practices without knowing he is attacking only the externals of the Catholic faith, not the essence of Faith. Faith is something internal, one’s deep personal relationship with God. Digong has it and because of it he responds spontaneously, automatically, sincerely, not always aware and self-conscious.

This is a matter of perception. This is quite common among many of us who unfortunately don’t know the Mayor. And like many of us, he does not know he is attacking the externals, not the Faith, of the Church. Beliefs, practices, the Pope, bishops, clergy, etc. are externals, not the essence of Faith. You can’t criticize what you do not know, what is internal, invisible in all of us.

In short, to describe how Digong would go into high moral ground is to paraphrase a French philosopher on the so-called heart-to -heart human encounter once said, “the heart has its reason which reason does not know.” Joma Sison would agree.

In a Dutch restaurant later after all the release agreements were done, Joma began to talk to me spontaneously about himself, a scene unfamiliar to his comrades. Digong had similar moments with friends, not only with me, several times before.

But will they ever meet on a friendly one-on-one? I hope so. (Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla was born in Leon, Iloilo. He served as Archbishop of Davao from 1996 to 2012. He also served as President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines).