CBCP President’s statement a disservice to GPH-NDFP peace negotiations

Philippine Peace Center
Press Statement
16 November 2014

cbcp_pres_sv The Philippine Peace Center deplores the recent statement of CBCP President Abp. Socrates Villegas for rendering a disservice to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations that could undermine ongoing efforts being undertaken towards the resumption of formal talks. The statement makes an erroneous and rash judgement that the negotiations have achieved nothing so far. It then blames one party, the NDFP, for this by casting aspersions on its sincerity and integrity on the basis of self-serving reports from the other party, the GPH. The CBCP is thereby unwittingly made to echo false accusations and play into the hands of those who wish and scheme for the peace talks to remain in an impasse until it collapses entirely.

The quest for truth and fairness demands diligently studying the question, especially a contentious one, from many perspectives. In this case one must at least verify the veracity of the GPH claims. Abp. Villegas deplores as a stumbling block to the peace negotiations the purported disunity between the NDFP panel and the NPA as reported by the GPH panel. Has he paused to reflect even for a moment on the deep divisions and deadly rivalries among factions within the GPH, not the least between hawks and doves, and how these have caused the peace talks to falter and stall many times under different administrations since the time of President Corazon Aquino? Is he aware of the big divide between the current Aquino administration, particularly its peace and security cluster on one hand, and previous administrations and government negotiating panels on the other, on whether or not the GPH should return to the negotiating table and honor the GPH’s bilateral agreements with the NDFP?

The statement of Abp. Villegas also echoes the claim of the current GPH panel, the OPAPP and the defense establishment that the peace talks have achieved nothing over the past two decades. We urge His Excellency to examine The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 that sets the framework and foundation for the talks, the subsequent agreements on safety and immunity guarantees, ground rules for the talks, formation of reciprocal working committees tasked to craft tentative agreements, and most especially the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law which, if implemented in earnest by both sides, could significantly reduce human rights violations especially in the conflict areas and mitigate the dire effects of war even while the basic reforms that would lead to a just and lasting peace are still being negotiated.

We wonder how much, if at all, the CBCP President had sought and taken into account the views of the many bishops and archbishops, all of them respected and well known for their wisdom and well-loved for their deep concern for the poor and downtrodden, who have joined — nay, are in the forefront of — calls for the resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, for honoring all the agreements between the two parties, and for addressing the roots of the armed conflict?

We call on the good bishops and archbishops who have diligently followed the developments in the peace negotiations and conscientiously supported and accompanied it the past two decades to inform and update the entire CBCP, especially their President and Permanent Council, on the true state and intricacies of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, and weigh in on the decisions and actions of the CBCP with regard to the entire peace process.

We urge peace advocate groups such as Kapayapaan — Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace, Pilgrims for Peace, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Citizens’ Alliance for Just Peace, among others, to also engage and constantly inform and update the CBCP on the peace process and the peace negotiations in particular.

We implore His Excellency Abp. Villegas to pray and strive for a more informed and enlightened understanding of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. Only in this way could he properly shepherd and guide the clergy and laity under his pastoral watch in playing a positive and welcome role in the negotiations, thereby contributing to the attainment of a just and lasting peace.###

Reference: Rey Claro C. Casambre, Executive Director, Philippine Peace Center (PPC)
Tel: +639436861956 (up to Nov 27); rey.casambre@gmail.com