Bishops support calls for resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 Nov) —  Church leaders and a peace movement here are supporting  the call for resumption of peace talks between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Bishop Modesto Villasanta, convenor of Exodus for Justice and Peace, told  MindaNews in a telephone interview Sunday that he supports the call for resumption of the talks, especially on the socio-economic reforms that will be the “meat” of the peace process as it would include discussions, among others, on  land reform and distribution, and national industrialization.

Villasanta’s comment came a day after Bishop Delfin Callao of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, co-convenor of Sowing Seeds for Peace, that they hope the talks peace talks will resume and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

“We hope for the resumption of the peace talks, for the full and sincere implementation of the CARHIHL which until now has been repeatedly violated every so often especially in the context of worsening state of impunity in Mindanao,” Callao said.

Villasanta said that from their perspective, the government has not expressed a clear position on socio-economic reforms.

He said it is important to have a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) to address socio-economic conditions of the people such as employment, land and other basic necessities.

But Villasanta noted that while there is an ongoing negotiation for the CASER, there should be a full implementation of the previously-signed agreement of both parties, particularly the CARHRIHL.

Callao said “the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations such as human rights and international humanitarian law, socio – economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces are crucial in the attainment of peace and social justice.”

“The very foundations of peace— social justice, respect of human rights, and human dignity — have been destroyed by the systemic and institutional systems that allow the exploitation and oppression of man. The great inequality in society has severely widened the gap between the poor from the rich, the landless from the landed few, the ones who languish in much profit against the underpaid workers,” he said.

Callao said the systems have “caused a terrible breach of the very foundations of peace and democracy.”

“Only then can we talk peace when the government is ready to admit and address the root causes of the armed conflict in the country,” he said.

Sowing the Seeds for Peace is a multi-sectoral movement of advocates for peace and justice pushing for the “sustained and sincere “ conduct of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations.

The peace movement said the NDF asked the group’s help to educate the public on the benefits of the CARHRIHL, which “could be a powerful tool in defense of the people’s rights.”

In a forum here last Saturday, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia, NDF legal consultant, said the economic crisis “will necessitate that the NDFP and GPH will have to discuss these problems and find solutions.  The armed conflict will always be there.  The solutions to the roots of the armed conflict are always an urgent matter.  The question is timing,” he said.

He said there are “subjective factors and even objective conditions that will compel either parties or both to go back to the negotiating table and probably yield certain non-negotiable positions that have stalled the negotiations up to now.”    (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)