BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is keeping a distance from resumption of negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the leftist National Democratic Front (NDF) saying that mediating in the talks is not “part of its mandate” at the moment.
“The CBCP categorically states that it cannot take in the role of initiating, convening, mediating or presiding over a dialogue between the National Democratic Front and government representatives,” said the CBCP in a statement released on November 10.
Earlier on November 9, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP, said the CBCP issued the statement following a request for CBCP to mediate in the talks but he was mum on who made the request.
“We are of the firm persuasion that under the present circumstances, this cannot be part of our ecclesial mandate,” the CBCP said. In the November 10 statement.
But despite saying it will shun a mediator’s role, the CBCP said bishops will continue to pray for a peaceful resolution to the country’s insurgency problem.
The off-and-on peace talks between the government and the NDF have been ongoing for years.
In 2010, President Benigno Aquino revived the talks but negotiations ended in a deadlock in 2013 leading the NDF to abandon the talks.
Other than saying that mediating in the talks Is out of its mandate, CBCP also said it has doubts about the NDF and its local leaders being on the same wave length with regards to the peace negotiations.
“We 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,” said the CBCP.
CBCP hinted that the NDF appears to have no control over the NPA forces on the ground.
CBCP cited, as an example, the “belated” acknowledgement by the NDF leadership of raids and attacks carried out by local fronts.
CBCP also said the GPH-NDF peace talks have not gained headway despite “prolonged and expensive” negotiations in the past.
CBCP added that bilateral ceasefires declared while past talks were ongoing were taken advantage of by the NPA by reinforcing its base.
The truce, CBCP said, were used by the NPA to “recruit membership.”
In the statement, CBCP said “truth and justice are primary and non-negotiable guideposts” for the talks.
If there is no “sincerity and trustworthiness,” the CBCP “will not lend itself to a fruitless exercise or a charade.”