Affirming Economic Justice…for Peace!

By the Ecumenical Bishops Forum
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Volume VIII, No. 26, August 3 – 9, 2008

Longing for food, many are hungry…
Longing for water, many still thirst…
Longing for peace, our world is troubled…
Longing for hope, many despair…
Christ be our Light!
Shine in our hearts, shine in the darkness…

We, Bishops, Priests, Pastors and Lay Leaders from different churches and ecumenical bodies convened by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum at the Center for Development, Education and Training (CENDET), United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Compound, #85 Osmena Blvd., Cebu City from July 23-25, 2008 to pray and reflect on the current State of our Nation, steadfastly affirm our unequivocal stance for JUST AND LASTING PEACE.

We are witnesses to the continuing state of un-PEACE in the country today.

We are very much saddened that while our nation is richly endowed with vast natural resources and hard working and resilient human resources, most of our farmers are landless and hungry, our sisters and brothers in workplaces are denied of their right to just wages, our indigenous peoples are denied of their rights to ancestral domain and self-determination, our fisherfolk are left without enjoying God-given marine resources, our women and children are subject to commodification and abuse and many of our young workers and professionals are forced to earn a living abroad away from their homes and families.

We are alarmed that the neoliberal economic policies in the past two decades have aggravated and institutionalized the plunder by foreign corporations of our human and natural resources while our people suffer in poverty and want.

We are outraged that in the midst of serious socio-economic and political crisis besetting the country, the highest government officials are engaged in corruption, self-aggrandizement, and political maneuvering .Furthermore, they collude with big foreign and local businesses such as oil companies, mining corporations, rice cartel and pharmaceutical firms in acquiring bigger profits at the expense of and in gross disregard for the welfare and interest of the people.

We are disturbed that our peoples’ collective action to express peacefully their discontentment and desire for meaningful social change are subjected to repression by the government resulting in various human rights violations such as, coercion, intimidation, political persecution, , forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings against those who voice dissent including peace advocates and church people.

We are further disturbed that the armed conflict continues to intensify due to the worsening social, economic and political crisis. . This is all the more aggravated by the growing militarization of the countryside in the name of development aggression resulting in displacement of entire communities, with thousands of families denied of their rights to land, livelihood and life.

As shepherds of our flocks, we are aware, that many of our people have lost their hope in our national and political leaders but we know in our hearts that they have never lost hope in God.

As The Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep (John 10:11), Jesus calls us to commit ourselves to take concrete steps to address the situation of un-peace in our country.

As Church People we long for a kind of peace in our country that is fundamentally based on justice. We firmly believe that there will be no peace when our people live in hunger and misery, when the tillers remain landless, when workers do not receive just wages, when urban and rural communities are dislocated to cater to big business interests. There will be no peace as long as the peoples’ fundamental socio-economic rights are grossly subordinated if not utterly neglected in favor of power, profits and privileges for the rich few.

Within this context, we join our people’s calls for the following:

1. To resume the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks aimed at attaining a just and lasting peace by addressing the social, economic and political roots of the armed conflict, reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee and the full implementation of CARHRIHL.

2. To scrap the VAT, especially the E-VAT on oil products, being unjust and onerous impositions by the IMF designed to ascertain capacity to service foreign debts, and resulting in increasingly unbearable tax burden on the Filipino people.

3. To repeal the oil deregulation law since this law makes the government fully supportive of the transnational corporations’ unstoppable profiteering on oil prices that puts our people in abject poverty.

4. To stop militarization of the countryside as it makes the people victims of state power, especially women and children. This has resulted in numerous cases of human rights violations.

5. To hasten the approval and implementation of the proposed P125 across the board wage increase nationwide.

6. To demand for an effective and genuine land reform program that will address the long-standing problem of landlessness of poor and marginalized Filipino farmers.

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