By D.L. Mondelo
ULTRECHT, The Netherlands – “The National Democratic Front of the Philippines is very appreciative of the persistent and painstaking efforts of the ‘Sowing the Seeds of Peace’ (Mindanao Movement for a Just and Lasting Peace).” Thus, stated Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDFP peace panel, as he received the manifesto of the movement and the Mindanao People’s Peace Agenda, personally handcarried by Philippine Independent Church Bishop Felixberto Calang.
Bishop Calang met with the NDFP Peace Panel led by Jalandoni last March 14 in Utrecht, The Netherlands to present the Mindanao People’s Peace Agenda. He flew to the Netherlands enroute to Manila, after joining the Karapatan human rights group in Geneva the previous week to make an oral intervention on the human rights situation in the Philippines at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
“The document is very substantial and patriotic and reflects the deep aspirations of peasants, workers, youth, women, especially the indigenous and Moro peoples,” Jalandoni stressed.
The people behind the movement, Jalandoni related, went through a process of consulting a wide range of sectors in Mindanao, and held a big gathering wherein hundreds attended last February 17, while the peace negotiations were ongoing in Oslo, Norway. It was also the day when Angie Ipong, a woman political prisoner, was released.
The manifesto signed March 1, 2011 at the Philtown Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City states:
“We greet with jubilation the announcement of gains and prospects in the first round of formal GPH-NDFP peace talks on 21 February 2011 in Oslo, Norway, which gave premium to social and economic reforms – the core substantive agenda of the peace negotiations. We hope for continued adherence to all previously-signed agreements between the two sides.”
The manifesto was signed by leaders and representatives of multisectoral groups and organizations in Mindanao, church leaders and several prominent local government executives.
Apart from asking how the people in Mindanao could help further in advancing the peace talks, Bishop Calang also asked what could be possible obstacles and threats to the advance of the peace talks. Replying to his question, Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the NDFP in the peace talks, said the Mindanao Movement for a Just and Lasting Peace could press for the release of the more than 300 political prisoners, including the detained NDFP peace consultants, and could call for an independent investigation on the cases of NDFP consultants who were killed or forcibly disappeared.
The intensification of the US counterinsurgency guide-inspired Oplan Bayanihan, ceasefire violations, and direct US military intervention in the Philippines, Professor Sison stressed, are some possible imminent threats to the advance of the peace talks.
Also present at the NDF International Information Office in Utrecht, to receive Bishop Calang, aside from Jalandoni and Sison, were NDFP panel members Julie De Lima and Coni Ledesma, and Ruth De Leon, NDFP peace panel chief of staff.