Faith-based groups said they will work for the revival of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the rebels even after those involved in the talks have been tagged as “terrorists.”
The Philippines Anti-Terror Council (ATC) has earlier announced that it has designated the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a “terrorist” group.
Bishop Rex Reyes Jr., co-chairperson of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), however, said that they believe “there is no alternative to peace talks” as armed conflict and bloodshed will just go on if both parties will not go back to the negotiating table.
“Whoever is the president, we will push the agenda for the resumption of peace talks,” said Bishop Reyes.
The Protestant bishop said the call for the revival of the peace talks will continue beyond the 2022 local and national elections.
“It is in our culture to talk things out. This is not a political agenda,” said Bishop Reyes.
He said they are “unfazed” by the failure of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to enter into a peace deal with the rebels.
Duterte ordered the termination of the talks with the NDFP after reports that communist insurgents launched a series of attacks against security forces since he assumed office in 2016.
“Whether he [Duterte] listens or not, it is not an issue for us. If they listen to us, then good. If not, we will push for the resumption of the talks. That has been our stand ever since,” said Bishop Reyes.
Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, PEPP co-chairperson, said church groups are planning to make the peace talks “an election issue.”
The prelate told LiCA.news that one of the criteria of voters in choosing candidates should be to elect those who advocate for peace-building.
He said Churches should bring the issue to the people in parishes and small groups and “start with local level conversation and bring the stakeholders to the discussion.”
In an earlier statement, the PEPP expressed dismay over the designation of the NDFP as a “terrorist group.”
The government declaration “tragically closes the door to what is truly called for: a peaceful resolution of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP conflict,” read the PEPP statement.
“We continue to appeal to both parties to return to the negotiating table. We also call on our people to pray and work for peace and support prospective candidates in the coming elections who are committed to genuine peace,” it added.