By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Trinity Biglang Awa
MANILA, Philippines -The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to support the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the communist led-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the 117 archbishops and bishops of CBCP are morally and spiritually obliged to support the resumption of the talks between the GRP and NDFP and mobilize all its the justice and peace desks to provide healthy political and moral atmosphere to the talks.
“In the name of our people’s collective and national interest, we appeal to CBCP to strongly endorse and support the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP. The Roman Catholic community has a stake in the peace talks and therefore it is morally and politically proper for the bishops and archbishops to express interest and perform collective action for the resumption of the talks,” said Hicap.
However, the Pamalakaya leader said the CBCP must be extra vigilant on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other hardline militarists in Aquino administration because they always wanted to sabotage the talks and prefer the military and total war approach in rooting out the cause of armed conflict in the country
“While President Aquino is churning press releases after press releases regarding his intention to resume the talks with the NDFP, the 50-year old President is doing the exact opposite. President Aquino is sabotaging the peace talks by imposing ceasefire and in bizarre and blatant mode rejected the call to drop the terrorist tag on CPP-NPA-NDFP,” stressed Hicap.
“The resumption of peace talks again will depend on the political attitude and mindset of the Aquino administration, and given the last visit of Aquino the United States where he was able to get $ 434 million counter-insurgency aid and the 89 percent increase in the defense budget for 2011, the government is gearing for another episode of all-out war and the resumption of peace talks is more a political double talk,” the Pamalakaya official added.
Pamalakaya said the CBCP should convince the Aquino administration should proceed with confidence building measures like the unconditional and immediate release of more than 400 political prisoners, including the 43 health workers known as Morong 43, the dropping of criminal charges against political activists.
The gorup said the CBCP should also persuade the Aquino government to work hard for the removal of CPP-NPA in the terror list of the United States, European Union and New Zealand, uphold the Joint Hague Declaration as the main frame work for the peace talks and recognize 16 other bilateral agreements reached from 1992 to 2004.
“The CBCP should actively work for the removal of all legal and political obstacles to the resumption of the talks. We believe that’s their calling as far as the resumption of peace talks is concerned, nothing more, nothing less,” the militant group said.
At a Palace briefing yesterday, President Aquino’s adviser on the peace process, Teresita Deles, announced that the government had reconstituted its panel for the resumption of talks with the NDFP. The government panel will be led by Health undersecretary Alexander Padilla, a known human rights lawyer, peace advocates Atty. Pablito Sanidad of Baguio City, Ednar Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Lourdes Tison of Negros Occidental and Jurgette Honculada of Zamboanga.
Deles indicated that the government would no longer demand for a ceasefire with CPP and the NPA, however she admitted that President Aquino cannot do anything with terrorist tag the against the communist guerillas labeled by the US government and the European Union.But Pamalakaya said the first thing the Aquino government should do is to announce to the Filipino people and the international community that the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP are not terrorist groups but belligerent forces engaged in civil war with the GRP and its armed forces.
“It is not tough task to follow. That is easy as ABC because the Aquino government will just tell the truth and that would help in the campaign to remove the CPP-NPA-NDFP in the list of foreign terrorist organizations of the US and the European Union. Ms Deles is missing the point,” the group added. Pamalakaya said it wants the peace talks to resume so that both panels could thoroughly discussed the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law (CARHRIHL).
The group said the talks should proceed with the second substantive agenda which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reform (CASER) in which a number of issues on agrarian, agriculture and fisheries would be discussed which are deemed helpful in uplifting the poor conditions of farmers, fishermen and other rural people all over the country.