For the first time in the history of our people and our land, a Philippine president brought together all the revolutionary forces around the table-of-conversation. He even invited all these forces to help govern this nation. And 92% of us welcome this inclusive, transparent governance. For these, we rejoice and celebrate!
I danced with other participants of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) because of this hopeful development in our journey as a people.
But the unjust globalization forces, with the support of local oligarchs and other local powers who benefit from the corrupt status quo, do not want to have peace in this land that is based on justice. The ‘Global Empire’ wants to continue exploiting our natural resources and our people. They want to destroy our government who finally says, “Our foreign policy, our natural resources, our priorities are for our people first, especially the poor and the neglected ones.”
Thousands of our people have been suffering from killings and deaths — both in the past and the present — because of various internal wars, poverty, neglect, historical injustices, massacres, corrupt disaster responses, illegal drugs, crimes, environmental destruction, land grabbing, and corrupt governance. But almost no one shouted for human rights. The global community was not as noisy about human rights when the exploitative designs of the Global Empire for our nation were not being threatened. Now that we have finally chosen to stand for our collective human rights as a nation, we are being painted as an evil country. This is how Libya was destroyed. This is how Iraq was destroyed. This is how Syria is being destroyed.
Last 21 September 2016, I celebrated the International Day of Peace to express my heart and mind along with my peace community and network:
- I support President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s vision for an inclusive government and a nation with people-oriented, equal, multi-lateral foreign relationships;
- I condemn extra-judicial killings and the culture of violence;
- I’m against the burial of dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani because of the terror of the dark days of Martial Law.
On that same day, I was given a time to share before the first plenary discussion at the PEPP Summit about the Doctrine of Discovery and how it was used by the Spanish colonizers in enforcing the Regalian Doctrine of land ownership in the Philippines. The American colonial forces and the present Republic of the Philippines perpetuated this doctrine which is the root cause of the historical injustices and displacement of the indigenous peoples in this land. This doctrinal issue is relevant as the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resume their peace negotiation and one of the major causes of conflict in this country is the absence of genuine land reform.
In the afternoon of the same day, I joined the solidarity walk along with my colleagues at #AllOutPeace to express the following:
- I condemn all forms of terror, violence and atrocities;
- I honor, and seek justice for, all victims of the past and present violence and atrocities;
- I stand up as a member of a resilient community that defies violence and atrocities.
In the evening of 21 September 2016, I joined the whole peace network all over Metro Davao who gathered together to pray, to affirm our continuous commitment to work together, and to celebrate our solidarity as a peace movement coming from differing religious, ideological, ethnic, and sectoral backgrounds.
At the end of the 2016 PEPP Summit, we issued a statement, and I personally resonate with what it says:
We, the 135 leaders of the clergy, religious and laity from the five federations that comprise the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)* have successfully convened the 5th Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace from September 20-22, 2016 under the theme “Celebrating God’s Work for Peace: Journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for Peace”.
We converged in Davao City from all corners of the country to draw strength from each other as we celebrated the first successful round of talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after years of impasse. The positive atmosphere that resulted from the recent resumption of the formal peace talks was carried into the positive mood of our summit and our joy for the growing ecumenical participation in supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Process.
In our gathering, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University, reminded us in his keynote address of the Biblical imperatives and our Christian duty to work towards the common good and accompany the poor in seeking social justice. Our optimism was strengthened by the sharing of Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Office of the Executive Secretary, on the government’s renewed commitment to peace and to the GRP-NDFP negotiations and the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
We were also encouraged by the input of Attorneys Angela Librado and Antonio Arellano of the GRP Peace Panel regarding the serious commitment of the Panel to engage in principled dialogue with the NDFP. The clear commitment to peace has also been observed in the willingness of government to honor previous agreements and through the concerted effort invested in achieving the release of detained NDFP consultants. Mr. Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Peace Panel Chair, reminded summit participants of the indomitable spirit of the Filipino people through the centuries to persevere in the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country. The presence of the NDFP Consultants, Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, and the recently released Mr. Ariel Arbitrario, Mr. Lando Genelsa, Mr. Alfredo Mapano, and Mr. Porferio Tuna, Jr. brought depth to the discussions and strengthened the determination of participants to further support the peace process.
We admire the resolve of both the GRP and NDFP to transcend differences, willingly explore substantive issues and implement working methods that will accelerate the talks. We also appreciate the decision of both parties to declare indefinite unilateral ceasefires towards a possible bilateral ceasefire. The Royal Norwegian Government and Caritas Norway through solidarity messages from the Special Envoy to the Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum and Program Coordinator for Asia, Aron Halfen, reassured the Summit of their common resolve to persevere in the journey with the PEPP and with the GRP-NDFP Peace Process. They highlighted that a political settlement of the armed conflict through principled dialogue is both possible and attainable, even though difficulties and obstacles are to be expected along the way.
We were inspired and challenged by the presence of our Lumad sisters and brothers who kept us attentive to the reality on the ground. Their contributions have shown that peace must be tangible and manifest not only through the silence of arms but even more through food on the table, clothing, shelter, education and access to the means to meet other basic needs and for them to live in their communities without fear or threat. They also underscored the reality that the road to peace is long and arduous, fraught with dangers, but for the sake of the people, especially the most vulnerable, it must be pursued with all our heart and effort.
The Summit concluded with a workshop to consolidate the commitments and concerns of the PEPP, and plans for how these can be presented to both the GRP and the NDFP, and to the Filipino people:
- We support and affirm the intention of both the GRP and the NDFP to meet in Norway on October 6-10 for the Second Round of Formal Talks focusing on Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, while also defining the terms for a common Ceasefire Agreement and General Amnesty for political prisoners.
- We invite support and goodwill from the Filipino people for the Peace Talks between the GRP and NDFP which we consider are sincere and thorough and that as a Nation we should stand vigilant against those whose intentions are to spoil the Peace Process to protect their personal or vested interests against the interests of the Filipino people.
- We call and demand both the GRP and NDFP to respect their existing agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, putting a stop to the practice of manufacturing false charges against clergy, lay people, indigenous people and other human rights defenders who are serving the poor and marginalized.
- We call for the removal of all armed groups and the dismantling of existing para-military groups that divide and terrorize the communities of our Indigenous Peoples.
- We call on all our Christian communities – at the local, regional and national levels – to expand our peace constituency and to continue pushing for the completion of the peace talks and the implementation of any peace agreement.
- We offer and render our services and resources to both panels to help in attaining a just and lasting peace in the country.
“And with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15), we will journey together till peace based on justice reigns in our land. Davao City, Philippines, 22nd day of September 2016.
*The PEPP is a platform for 5 church institutions/groups, namely, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the GRP-NDFP.