MANILA, Jan. 27, 2014— The Catholic hierarchy is elated as peace process to resolve the decades-long conflict in Southern Philippines hurdles ahead.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, said the signing of the historic firearms deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a “positive step” towards peace.
“The Church exists so there may be peace among men and women. And any step towards peace is blessed by God and is blessed by the Church,” he said.
Villegas was speaking in a press conference at the end of the bishops’ 108th plenary assembly at the Pius XII Center in Manila on Monday afternoon.
Last Saturday, the government peace panel and the MILF finally agreed on the Annex on Normalization, resulting to the completion of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
Both parties said that they are eyeing to sign the final peace pact either next month of March this year which will be the basis for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Officials said the basic law would then pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro region that will be replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to Villegas, the bishops would be more than willing to pray so that there will be no more hindrances in the peace efforts in Mindanao.
“The first contribution of the Church to anything is always prayer… even if they are not willing to ask for it, we are praying for the success of their negotiations,” he said.
He added that the CBCP is also willing to extend other forms of help the parties will ask from them as long as it is “within our means.”
Meanwhile, the prelates are saddened over the resurgence of violence in Maguindanao following the signing of the final annex in Malaysia.
“Unfortunately, another conflict erupted again in Maguindanao… this is another threat to our peace,” said Villegas.
The incident spurred Cotabato Archbishop and Cardinal-designate Orlando Quevedo, who was attending the plenary meeting, to leave for Cotabato early this morning.
“Cardinal Quevedo is there right now trying to see what the Church can do in order to bring back the peace in the area,” Villegas said.
On Saturday night, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (set off bombs in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, which forced residents to flee from the area. (CBCPNews)