Church leaders in Northern Mindanao urge gov’t, rebels to resume talks

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY-- More than 100 ministers and lay leaders of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Northern Mindanao on Thursday urged the government and the communist rebels to resume the formal peace talks in order to end armed insurgency in the country.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, a ranking IFI leader, said the church would maintain its role as the "Third Party Facilitator" to ensure that the talks would proceed smoothly.

The appeal for the resumption of talks between the government and the communist rebels was signed by 140 IFI delegates during the church's convention held at IFI convent in Bulua, this city, Tuesday.

Calang said that the IFI leaders and ministers had expressed the "optimism by the recent statement by President Rodrigo Duterte, during a discussion with a few of his negotiating panel members and "left-nominated" Cabinet members, reiterating their desire and passion of bringing about just, lasting, and inclusive peace in the land."

The reassurance of the President to the peace negotiations, Calang said, not only with the CPP-NPA-NDF, but also with the Bangsamoro and Cordillera people, was "a positive spark that will keep our candle of hopes burning."

IFI has been on the forefront to negotiate for the release of police officers and soldiers held captive by the New People's Army (NPA) following the Maoist rebels' declaration of suspension of the unilateral ceasefire.

Just recently, the wife of PO2 Anthony Natividad, who was captured in Talakag, Bukidnon by the NPA, had sought assistance from the IFI.

"As peacemakers, we will continue to offer ourselves as among Third Party Facilitators working the way for a safe release of the same NPA captives," Calang said.

He said there are "a hundred and one compelling reason we can enumerate for the peace negotiations to move forward."

"That is why we do not want spoilers to jeopardize the gains of the three-decade-old peace negotiations, especially the substantive agenda agreed upon by both parties on the 3rd round of talks in Italy," he added.

Calang, who was one of the observers of the talks in Rome, Italy, said that despite the breakdown of the negotiations, he is still optimistic that it will push through notwithstanding the hardships along the way. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency