DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 October) – Members of the Davao City Peace Committee, a body created by City Mayor Sara Duterte to hold localized peace talks with the New People’s Army, will convene for the first time on October 24, committee member and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said.
Valles said in a press conference on the last day of the four-day Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao Thursday that it will be more of an “organizational meeting” to allow them to know the other committee members.
Valles, who will assume as president of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines on December 1, said he accepted the invitation to be part of the committee because a “sit-down” with the rebels is always a welcome development.
He said the city government tapped the church to join the negotiation because they “see the moral influence of the church, that the church has the good of everyone as her interest”.
“Those in the mountains and those on the ground are also sons and daughter of God. That’s a very important interest. Walang hidden agenda ang church (the church has no hidden agenda) except that interest is for the peace, development and well-being of each one will be achieved,” he added.
Valles said they view the negotiation as a positive way to bring peace rather than resorting to “firing and killing each other.”
“I, with consultation, said yes to invitation. Strong implication is that gisaligan pa intawon ang simbahan. Naa pa syay influence, ginapaminaw pa ang iyang voice (there is still trust in the church. It has the influence and its voice is being listened to),” he said.
He said he will need to prepare for the negotiation so he may contribute fruitfully to its success, as he acknowledged the possible difficulties of bringing the two parties together to talk peace.
He said being able to participate in the peace process is the church’s contribution in a bid to attain a long-lasting peace.
He added he was unaware whether the rebels have already accepted the invitation which Mayor Duterte initiated after the the supposed 5th round of talks last May in The Netherlands with the National Democratic Front was canceled.
“Maybe that’s the task no. 1 – to invite them,” he said. “I think the challenge is so obvious to facilitate, to create, to inspire them to talk. That’s a challenge.”
In a statement issued on February 26, NPA-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rigoberto F. Sanchez said they were open to hold talks with Mayor Duterte, saying these are “auspicious” in light of a series of gunfights between communist rebels and government troops in Paquibato and Calinan Districts early this year.
“The NPA would gladly discuss any matter that she would like to take up with the revolutionary movement, the duties and responsibilities of the people’s democratic government, the role of the NPA, the on-going all-out war of the AFP and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” he said.
He added they recognize the mayor’s willingness to talk to the NPA as a group and not as individuals to achieve substantial gains in the peace process. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)