Ecumenical bishops call on gov’t, NDF to resume peace talks

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 August) —  The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) Northwestern Mindanao has called on the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the NDF panel headed by Luis G. Jalandoni to return to the negotiating table and resume the peace negotiations.
The EBF, headed by Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, is made up of bishops from the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), Methodist Church, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and other churches.

In a statement, the EBF said both parties must make the peace process their top and priority agenda.

But in a statement released by Jalandoni to the EBF, Jalandoni said the Aquino administration “must honor first all the GRP-NDFP agreements which include the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995.
Jalandoni said that while the NDF declared its readiness to resume formal peace talks with the Aquino administration, the NDFP is disappointed with President Aquino’s declaration of “Malawakang tigil-putukan” before holding peace talks. Jalandoni said this is a violation of the Hague Joint Declaration.

But the EBF urged emissaries from the parties to talk even outside the formal conferences if negotiating panels are not yet ready.

The EBF bishops recommended to both parties to constitute their negotiating panels and schedule as soon as possible the resumption of talks.

The EBF also highlighted the need for addressing the root causes of  rebellion rather than extend the militaristic approach with Oplan Bantay Laya, as a national security policy broadened last August 16, 2010.

The bishops said Oplan Bantay Laya I and II have  resulted in extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

The bishops said the President’s declaration of a ceasefire before peace talks could resume is inconsistent with The Hague Joint Declaration that imposes no precondition to talks.

The bishops also urged both parties to adhere to previously signed agreements such as the Joint Hague Declaration, JASIG, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) and for the parties to move forward on its way
to the second substantive agenda: the Comprehensive Agreement on  Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

The bishops also called on the GRP-NDFP to acknowledge that people are essential stakeholders in the issues of peace and that they should recognize and provide venues for their active participation in the peace process. (Bobby Lagsa/MindaNews)