MANILA, Nov. 14, 2014 — The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday said it will not mediate peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), blasting ongoing dialogues as a “fruitless exercise” brought by the latter’s supposed lack of sincerity and command over Communist groups.
“The CBCP for its part categorically states that it cannot take in the role of initiating, convening, mediating or presiding over a dialogue between the NDF and government representatives,” the bishops said in a statement signed by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
“When the Catholic Bishops Conference mediates, when it engages in dialogue, when it initiates negotiation, when it gets adversaries talking to each other, it does so at all times as herald of the Gospel and servant of the Kingdom of God,” the CBCP said.
“Truth and justice are therefore its primary and non-negotiable guideposts, and when it does not find these present, or when, in its discernment, made in prayer and docility to the prompting of the Spirit, it does not find a disposition to sincerity and trustworthiness in the parties to the dialogue, the CBCP will not lend itself to a fruitless exercise or to a charade visited on the entire country,” it added.
The bishops made this statement “with trepidation,” noting that they are “not sure about the degree of cohesiveness that exists between the top echelons of the Front and local cadres of the New People’s Army.”
“We have been informed by members of the government peace panel that they were under the impression that many of the attacks and raids conducted on the local fronts were hardly ever known and—if ever—only belatedly acknowledged by Utrecht leaders,” they added.
The CBCP further noted that none of the peace talks have produced results as “the cessation of hostilities usually declared on the occasion of negotiations (has) regrettably been used by the rebel forces to recruit membership” in far-flung areas.
Responding to complaints that insurgent leaders are being arrested while on safe-conduct passes, the bishops stressed that “such passes were issued to allow their representatives to attend negotiations and conferences, and not for the purpose of consolidating membership.”
Despite nixing calls to mediate in the peace talks, the CBCP said it will continue to pray for the peaceful resolution of this long-festering problem of insurgency in the country.
“We are of the firm persuasion that under the present circumstances, this cannot be part of our ecclesial mandate as an episcopal conference,” it said.
The bishops then called on qualified members of the laity to contribute in the ongoing peace talks “to foster that spirit of openness and sincerity that alone can make negotiations promising.”
“[We must not] forget Pope Francis’ constant teaching that unbridled and unprincipled capitalism cannot be any better and is as exploitative and oppressive particularly on the marginalized,” they said. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)