We, a community of peace and reconciliation field missionaries and volunteers, respectfully call on all parties and stakeholders to resume the formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Our call is primarily from a faith-perspective. We are making this call from the perspective of a faith-community seeking to follow Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace. “We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God’s peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world. Led by the Holy Spirit, we follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing nonresistance, even in the face of violence and warfare.”
Our call is informed by what we have been hearing from both the GRP and the NDFP. Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokeman of the New People’s Army (NPA), announced last 01 February 2017 that it has terminated its unilateral ceasefire with the government. In 04 February 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the formal peace negotiations between the GRP the NDFP. Immediately after such cancellation of the formal peace talks, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the first public declaration of the Duterte regime’s all-out war against the NPA. After a few days, Sec. Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) sent a letter to his NDFP counterparts to formally notify them that, following the cancellation of the peace talks, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) has been terminated. In response, the NDFP released a statement saying that there is no fair and just reason for the GRP to terminate the JASIG and in effect the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. They believe that the peace talks must continue because the two Negotiating Panels had successfully concluded their third round of talks in Rome, Italy last 19-25 January 2017.
Our call is prompted by the voices of the people we’ve heard in the field. The stories we hear on the ground are always two-sided. On one hand, we hear soldiers and government-trained paramilitary units complaining that the New People’s Army (NPA) are present in their areas of responsibility. On the other hand, we also hear local community folks complaining that elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and their paramilitary groups are present in their areas of residence and livelihood. Depending on who is the dominant influence in a certain geographical context, we hear about the common folks’ fear of the “other side.” The other side may be the AFP when such place is part of an NPA mass base. The other side maybe the NPA in areas where the government has more stable presence and control. It is through these set of lenses that we read the mutual blaming we often hear from each side. It is through this set of lenses that we have decided to be on the side of the civilians and that, in this conflict, we will be focusing on the protection of the civilians and we will seek to help make their voices be heard locally and globally.
We, therefore, respectfully call on both the GRP and the NDFP to return to the negotiating table. Along with other civil society groups advocating for a justice-oriented peace, we request both parties of this conflict to continue the peace talks and preserve the gains of the past three rounds of talks. We appeal to both parties to pursue with their agreement to meet for the fourth round of formal talks in Oslo, Norway on April 2-6, 2017.
- For the sake of immediate security of the civilians and trust-building among all stakeholders, we call on both the GRP and the NDFP to return to their ceasefire-mode that was effective during the third round talks in Rome, 19-25 January 2017.
- For the sake of the protection and security of consultants of both parties, and for the sake of giving them freedom to continually discuss and promote the peace negotiations across the country, we call on both the GRP and the NDFP Peace Panels to reinstate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
- For the sake of the long-term protection and comprehensive security of the civilians on the ground, we call on both the GRP and the NDFP Peace Panels to continue their work on strengthening the mechanisms in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
- For the sake of genuine, holistic, and lasting justice-based peace of our people in our land, we call on both parties to continue working on the unification of the drafts of Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR).
May the God of Peace, the One who guides and sustains the history of humanity, lead us all to justice and peace.
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14