Church group bucks local peace talks with Reds

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines —  A church-based peace advocacy group has expressed opposition to the localized peace talk initiative now being pushed by the government.

While they support the continuation of peace talks between the goverment and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said the talks must be negotiated on a national scale. PEPP is a group composed of cause-oriented and religious groups supporting peace efforts in the country.

“We understand that Davao City is home to the President. But in the peace talks, the NDF is into negotiation with the national government which represents a policy of inequality and oppression that bred armed revolutionary response from the people,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente who is a PEPP co-convenor.

Calang was referring to the localized peace talk initiative championed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, which President Rodrigo has openly supported.

Earlier, President Duterte ordered the government’s peace panelists to discontinue negotiating with their NDF counterparts stalling the talks just as it reached the fourth round.

Resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDF was one of Duterte’s agenda, but was put on hold following the series of attacks carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA) against government forces.

The CPP has also rejected the creation of the Davao City Peace Committee (DC Peace), the body tasked by Duterte-Carpio to initiate the localized peace talks with the communist group in the Davao area.

“Duterte-Carpio’s local peace talks will surely fail in its aim of dividing the revolutionary forces waging a nationwide people’s war. The Duterte regime is wasting time and the people’s money in setting up these useless local peace committees which will go nowhere and achieve nothing,” the CPP said in a statement.

For his part, Calang said he is confident the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF will continue through political will.

Even with the breakdown of the talks, Calang said the Initiatives for Peace, together with the PEPP, continues calling for the two parties to go back to the negotiating table and talk about the roots of the armed conflict and come up with measures to resolve this conflict. –Jigger J. Jerusalem/PNA