By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Ecumenical leaders from dominant church denominations urged the government to release the detained peace consultants of the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) through their recognizance.
These detained consultants are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP.
Fr. Rex Reyes, secretary-general of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), revealed in an interview that the call was contained in a statement as a result of a 2nd Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on the GPH-NDFP Peace Negotiations held at the Betania Retreat House, Lahug, Cebu City last week.
Reyes said that it was their standing call for the contending government and NDFP to sit down and continue the peace process. For the sake of reconvening the peace talks, the leaders are willing to have these detained NDFP consultants released through their recognizance so that the talks will push through, he added.
“We call on the government to release in recognizance under the collective custodial guarantee of the member churches of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the NDFP consultants who are willing to be under the sanctuary of churches”, said the statement.
The PEPP is composed of church leaders from five major religious federations.
They claimed that their recognizance of the NDFP consultants is their way of proclaiming the gospel of peace, the statement was signed by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesam, S.J., DD, as the co-chairperson, Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes as co-chairperson, and Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., DD, head of Secretariat.
They said “there are positive prospects that bolster our hopes for the talks to continue but there are certain issues brought out that may hinder the process of the said talks.”
One issue they identified which would hinder the process concerns the detained consultants of the NDFP who are covered by the JASIG.
Their statement shared that the NDFP called for a postponement of the talks last June 2011 to give time for the GPH to release the consultants. While the GPH has only released some consultants, the NDFP is firm that the GPH honor the February 21, 2011 Joint Statement by releasing most if not all consultants covered by the JASIG.
The GPH recently stated that until the reciprocal working committees on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) shall have completed the common tentative agreement on social and economic reforms, the talks may not resume. They also stated that there will be no formal talks on issues concerning the JASIG.
This in turn was seen by the NDFP as a move to scuttle the negotiations.
“We deeply understand the concerns of both parties,” the church leaders added in their statement.
To affirm their commitment to support the formal peace talks and to break the current impasse, the summit called on the GPH and the NDFP to consider their offer of recognizance of the detained NDFP consultants so that the process may go on.
“As Church people, we recognize that the road to a just and lasting peace is complex. But we persevere because we are certain that nothing is impossible with God and especially if we take the interests of the people at heart.
We believe that there are times when we need to dare and innovate, seize the Kairos moment, so that the formal talks may continue,” added the statement. # nordis.net