Bishops’ Forum asks gov’t to resume peace talks with Reds

In order to attain just and long lasting peace, the members of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), an alliance of bishops coming from different Christian denominations in the country, asked the government to resume the pending peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a joint pastoral statement released after the three-day peace conference held in Cebu City last July 24-26, Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kalookan and Rev. Bp. Solito K. Toquero of the United Methodist Church (UMC), said that there is an urgent need for the resumption of the impending peace talks.

“Within this context, we join our people’s calls… To resume the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks aimed at attaining a just and lasting peace by addressing the social, economic and political roots of the armed conflict, reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL),” reads the EBF statement.

Besides the resumption of the formal peace negotiations between the communist insurgents, the EBF also asked for the following: 1) To scrap the VAT, especially the E-VAT on oil products, being unjust and onerous impositions by the IMF designed to ascertain capacity to service foreign debts, and resulting in increasingly unbearable tax burden on the Filipino people; 2) To repeal the oil deregulation law since this law makes the government fully supportive of the transnational corporations’ unstoppable profiteering on oil prices that puts our people in abject poverty; 3) To stop militarization of the countryside as it makes the people victims of state power, especially women and children. This has resulted in numerous cases of human rights violations; 4) To hasten the approval and implementation of the proposed P125 across the board wage increase nationwide; and 5) To demand for an effective and genuine land reform program that will address the long-standing problem of landlessness of poor and marginalized Filipino farmers.

“With the vision of a Philippine society enjoying the fruits of genuine democracy and freedom from dehumanizing poverty, we add our voices to all peace-loving Filipinos in demanding Economic Justice for the sake of Peace!,” the EBF statement further read.

Ending the statement, are passages from Micah 4: 1, 3: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountain. And it shall be lifted up above the hills and peoples shall flow to it. He shall judge between many peoples and shall decide for strong nations afar off and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up swords against nations neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Noel Barcelona)