LTE: Transcend the present impasse and continue to bridge the peace: Resume the formal talks now

October 20, 2011
Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

It is not an overstatement to say that faith communities expressed jubilation at the resumption of the formal peace talks. More elation and renewed hopes followed soon after the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines panels issued their joint statement in February. The road was clear for more rounds of talks ahead. Or so it seemed.

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Last September, both panels met with Mr. Ture Lundh representing the Royal Norwegian Government.The meeting ended with an optimistic air that the formal talks will resume.

Of late, however, were news reports quoting Atty. Alex Padilla, Chairperson of the GPH panel that the scheduled talks in October 31 will not push through. Atty. Padilla said that he did not want any precondition for the resumption on the talks such as the release of more consultants. The NDFP spokesperson,Fidel Agcaoili however, said that among the “positive steps” for the resumption of the formal talks is the release of the 13 consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety & Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Oslo Joint Statements of January and February, 2011.

As it is, the JASIG seems to be the bone of contention between the two parties. This is a very sad development. The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the country,exhorts both panels to stay on course and resume the formal talks. If the JASIG is the hindrance, then the two sides must return to the negotiating table and try to resolve the impasse created by the differing perspectives on JASIG. We urge the two sides to review and discuss the JASIG further, with the guiding dictum that the essence of that agreement is that it lays down the principles and modalities for safety and immunity guarantees for the personnel, consultants and other people involved in the formal peace negotiations.

The PEPP reiterates its call for both sides to take heart and not erode the bridges built through the years. Peace is what this country needs and the two panels owe it to the Filipino people to remain steadfast in formal conversations towards a final peace agreement.

Recent events in our country have highlighted the compelling need to pursue the formal talks with urgency. Filipinos cannot be pitted against each other for an indefinite period of time. The human toll is grave and the accountability of the present to the future must be one of hope. Let it be said again that the resumption of the formal talks is a hopeful testimony to our resolve to pursue a just and enduring peace for our country.

Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., D.D.
Head of the Secretariat

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ., DD

Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes

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