Tell it to SunStar: Keep watch: Goodwill, peace on Earth

Bishop Reuel N.O. Marigza, Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace

AS the Advent season ebbs to Christmastide, we continue our work as peace-builders. The renewed energy toward resuming peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines should inspire us to fan the flames of peace this Christmas season.

We commend both parties for their issuance of unilateral ceasefires beginning Dec. 23, 2019 and spanning to Jan. 7, 2020. Such concrete correlating measures raise hopes and bring peace advocates into a positive frame for supporting and raising community interests in GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

As we have continued to ring the bells as a sign of our collective call for the killings to stop in heavily affected areas like Negros island as well as throughout the archipelago, we have also been clamoring that peace talks would be a better action altogether. This Christmas season we encourage both parties to engage in confidence building measures, as they prepare and strive to resume the formal peace negotiations.

We renew our call for the parties to respect previously signed agreements, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and encourage them to continue their peace negotiations towards an agreement on socio-economic reforms. Addressing the roots of the armed conflict through socio-economic reforms can contribute significantly in building peace for the toiling majority, marginalized and under-served sectors of society. The Christmas spirit should enliven us all to think and act in Goodwill and proclaim peace in our land.

Still, we must be watchful, like the shepherds over their sheep, to recognize the moves of those who do not share our common Goodwill for Peace on Earth. There are those who are earning from the government “war machinery,” including methods like the “surrenderee” ECLIP program that has been exposed as vulnerable to corruption and coercion. These persons should be persuaded to give up their warmongering and to participate in peace efforts or else they must simply be held at bay to prohibit their interference with the peace negotiations.

In this watchfulness, we raise loudly the concern of families who have been denied visitation to the political prisoners in the Bagong Diwa-Annex 4 Taguig City Jail on Dec. 21 and 22, 2019. We urge responsible persons in the Duterte administration to address this matter immediately. Among the hundreds of political prisoners in this facility, seven of them are NDFP peace consultants. Denying visitation from families is a flagrant violation of the rights of detained persons; however, in this situation it also runs counter to ongoing positive work for peace. We must resist the tall tales of peace spoilers, likely intended to undermine the work of Goodwill that has been engaged to push forward possible formal peace talks.

Peace advocates vigil like the Shepherds in the fields this Christmas season: We are hoping and keeping watch for signs that God’s peace—peace based in justice, righteousness, and fullness of life—will be made known in the Philippines. As we look to the heavens, we find courage for our work here on Earth, knowing that each and every Filipino can participate in building peace for our people and our land.

Goodwill to Each and All! Peace on Earth!