An ecumenical faith-based group warned that, “based on our history,” the prospects of peace under the incoming administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “seem to us quite dim.”
“But we are inspired … to never give up hope and continue to work for a just and enduring peace,” read a statement released by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on June 29.
PEPP, which is composed of Catholic and Protestant bishops, priests, pastors, nuns and lay people, issued the statement at the end of its 10th summit in Cebu and on the eve of Marcos’ inauguration as the country’s 17th president on June 30.
The Church leaders said that various speakers during the gathering “exhorted us to be creative, use lessons learned, rediscover the resources of our faith and culture, build friendships and bridges, (and) keep speaking truth to power.”
They said they are “encouraged and inspired by the commitment of the women and youth of faith to be PEPP’s co-sojourners for just peace” and vowed to “persistently work” in calling for the resumption of the formal peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
The Church leaders appealed to incoming legislators to pass a resolution in both houses of Congress to support the formal peace talks.
They noted that the incoming administration of Marcos Jr. “has banked on the rhetoric of unity, but there can be no true unity when there is unpeace.”
The group then called the president-elect to resume formal peace talks that will address the roots of the armed conflict.
“Respect the work and agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships and employ a ‘whole-people-and-country approach’” to the peace process.
“We also demand a stop to the practices of red-tagging, filing of trumped-up cases against dissenters, and extrajudicial killings,” read the group’s statement.
They also called for the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
“Above all, we remind the incoming leaders to respect the sovereign Filipino people, and ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected at all times,” said the group.
The Church leaders noted that the six years under President Rodrigo Duterte “have been marked by the war on drugs and the war on ‘terrorism.’”
The statement signed by retired Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. and Protestant Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said that when the Duterte administration terminated the peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels, “human rights violations significantly increased and the climate and culture of impunity in the country worsened.”
“As the war on drugs felled innocents, so did red-tagging, arrests based on trumped-up charges, and other rights violations take place,” it said, adding that there is “desecration of God’s gift of human dignity.”
Meanwhile, a network of research groups this week vowed to be more vigilant, saying it expects more human rights violations in the next six years under Marcos.
“Marcos is expected to protect Duterte from being held accountable in both local and international courts,” Alex Enano, general secretary of the Asia Pacific Research Network.
He said his group is “alarmed with the human rights crisis in the country,” adding that they are “seeing that this will continue in the next administration.”
APRN expressed its commitment to boost efforts in enabling people’s movements and grassroots organizations in asserting their rights.
“With more vigilance, we will continue to document and monitor the state of peoples organizations and civil society organizations in the Philippines,” said Enano in a statement.
“We will challenge the Marcos administration and other governments on issues of civic spaces and people’s rights,” he added. – with a report from Marielle Lucenio
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