peace talks

Cagayan de Oro clergy, groups cheer peace talks restart, call for red-tagging halt

Cong Corrales

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Cagayan de Oro clergy, groups cheer peace talks restart, call for red-tagging halt

Students and faculty members wear black as they display their messages during a protest at the University of the Philippines Cebu on September 30, 2022. The group stands with Chancellor Leo Malagar and Judge Marlo Malagar, against the blatant red-tagging, terror-tagging and harassment by NTF-ELCAC former spokesperson Lorraine Badoy. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

Rappler.com

'I hope that, with the resumption of peace talks, red-tagging against peace advocates would cease,' says IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Clergy and civil society groups in Cagayan de Oro hailed the joint decision of the national government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume peace negotiations.

But in order for the peace negotiations to work, they said the red-taggings of peace advocates, activists, journalists, and just about anyone who criticizes government policies and actions need to stop for starters.

In a statement on Tuesday, November 28, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma said he and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) commend the Joint Oslo Communiqué signed at Oslo City Hall on November 23.

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PH gov’t, NDFP agree to restart peace talks

PH gov’t, NDFP agree to restart peace talks

“We hope that various barriers to peace will be resolved through dialogue and principled negotiations,” Ledesma said.

He said the joint communiqué is also a positive sign marking the approaching 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ledesma said the PEPP had written to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on September 1, 2022, urging him to “reconstitute the GRP Peace Panel and resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, respecting the work and upholding the agreements that have been entered into by past leaderships.”

In the same letter to the President, the group emphasized the need for the national government and the NDFP to return to the negotiating table as a means of mitigating the rising human rights violations and the loss of lives due to the armed conflict.

“We affirm the letter with renewed enthusiasm,” Ledesma said.

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Cagayan de Oro also hailed the decision of the government and NDFP to return to the negotiations panel.

IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang, “It is our earnest prayer, as we stand in solidarity with the two parties, that the Joint Statement will be concretized into formal peace talks at the soonest, with the framework of achieving the aforementioned reforms towards a just and lasting peace and the vision of a country where a united people can live in peace and prosperity.” 

Calang called the move the best and only viable means to address the socio-political, economic, and environmental ills confronting the country. But he stressed that success can only come through principled negotiations.

“I hope that, with the resumption of peace talks, red-tagging against peace advocates would cease because the more inclusive the support for the peace talks, the better the chance we have of achieving just peace and unity,” Calang told Rappler.

Cagayan de Oro-based non-governmental organization Balay Mindanaw also expressed renewed hope for the resumption of peace talks.

“We recognize and understand the possible challenges that these renewed talks could face. We call on negotiators from both sides to remain steadfast as they navigate the difficult road to peace,” Balay Mindanao president Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig told Rappler.

Manlupig said Balay Mindanaw will continue its work in creating safe spaces for community peace dialogues.

“We call on everyone to give peace another chance,” said Manlupig.

Beverly Selim-Musni, secretary general of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), told Rappler that she saw the joint communiqué as an “early Christmas gift” for Filipinos.

“The prospects of the perpetual silencing of guns between the New People’s Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, no matter how small, are enough reason for us, peace advocates and taxpayers alike, to heave a sigh of relief,” she said.

Musni urged both panels to stay the course of negotiations, emphasizing that the framework of negotiations, which involves the environmental crisis, external security threats, and political transformation, is already substantive in character. 

She said such a framework is crucial for finally addressing the root causes of the internal armed conflict.

The UPLM also called on the parties to address the serious matter of red-tagging, harassment, and the filing of trumped-up cases against peace advocates and human rights defenders.

“These are roadblocks to the peace accord that the people have been working for,” Musni said.

The Joint Oslo Communiqué resulted from backdoor talks in The Netherlands and Norway between representatives of the national government and the NDFP, facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) since 2022.

The communiqué acknowledges the nation’s severe socioeconomic and environmental challenges, along with external threats, emphasizing the need for a united effort to address these issues and tackle the underlying causes of the armed conflict.

Part of the communiqué states, “The parties agree to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict.”

The representatives from the national government included Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr., Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito Galvez Jr., and Emmanuel Bautista. The NDFP delegation, meanwhile, is composed of Luis Jalandoni, Julieta de Lima, and Coni Ledesma.

The joint communiqué signing was witnessed by RNG Special Envoy Kristina Lie Revheim, and RNG Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide affirmed their government’s ongoing commitment as a third-party facilitator. – Rappler.com

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