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‘We joined NTF-ELCAC to help the people’—CBCP exec

LE September 4, 2023

An executive of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday appealed to the public to be more “prudent” on issuing statements against the group’s decision to join the Executive Committee of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), stressing that any collaboration with the government is done with the sole intention “to help the people.”

“We meant well sa aming engagement na ito. We’re allowing ourselves to be a member of the NTF-ELCAC in good faith…Sa pagiging member namin dito sa NTF-ELCAC, we’re provided with a platform for the betterment of the people in the country,” said Rev. Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA) of the CBCP.

Fr. Secillano is also the alternate representative for Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista also from ECPA.

Speaking during the weekly TAGGED RELOADED press conference organized by the NTF-ELCAC Media Bureau, Secillano clarified that only the ECPA and “not the whole CBCP” would be the point of convergence for the Task Force because the commission’s mandate is to deal with issues and concerns on public and private matters that affect the Church.

“We don’t want to be myopic in joining the NTF-ELCAC…Sana magkaroon tayo ng bukas na kaisipan at malawak na pang-unawa. Nakita naman namin ‘yung shift tulad ng development,” he said, referring to the “paradigm shift” the government has been aggressively implementing in CTG-cleared barangays in far-flung areas through the flagship project, Barangay Development Pogram (BDP).

On the issue of the so-called “red-tagging” and alleged human rights violations by government units, Secillano pointed out that the ECPA’s membership in the NTF-ELCAC will serve as an opportunity for closer dialogue.

“Everytime may red-tagging that also includes some of our priests and even bishops, we always reach out naman sa kanila at napapansin naman,” Secillano admitted, adding he sees the venue as the proper forum to prod the government to always give paramount for the promotion and protection of human rights.

“We also would want in the ExeCom (to give importance) to human rights. Mahalaga po itong component na ito dahil kabahagi po sa adbokasya ng ating Simbahan,” he empahasized.

For NTF-ELCAC Executive Director Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr., the CBCP-ECPA’s membership in the Execom is a “blessing” that provides an enormous boost in finding peaceful solutions to put an end to the decades-old violence espoused by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“We’re blessed to have the CBCP,” Torres said, adding that critics should “listen to the voice of reason rather than throw stones” at the task force and the CBCP.

Last week, the government announced the inclusion of the CBCP into the NTF-ELCAC Execom, a development that drew a slew of negative reactions from different groups, including the front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF like the so-called “Makabayan bloc” in Congress. Usec. Torres further explained that there is nothing new about the “collective mission” of the Task Force and members of the CBCP when it comes to the government’s programs on peace, unity and development in the country.

“Hindi naman nabago ‘yung participation ng religious sector sa NTF-ELCAC. Sa Region 8 ay merong Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development or SIPPAD. Through the SIPPAD, na-recognize ang religious sector to lead and have a significant part in countering insurgency,” the official pointed out. He was referring to the SIPPAD participation of the Dioceses of Borongan, Calbayog and Catarman.

Torres said the inclusion of ECPA serves as an “umbrella for closer collaboration” with the Church that could expand to other religious denominations because they are critical components and the government cannot just exclude them from the equation in finding “better strategies” to effectively address the root causes of the armed conflict.

“They are narrowing the understanding of NTF-ELCAC, ang tingin nila ang ginagawa lang ito ay ending the armed component of the CTG (communist terrorist group). Napakallit lang po ang role (nito) sa NTF-ELCAC. Karamihan po ng pinag-uusapan doon ay more on (the delivery of basic services and) development,” Torres further stressed.

Torres assured that the government has the constitutional mandate for the protection of human rights and also, the government has the duty to give the people the right information.

“Unfortunately, the CPP-NPA-NDF (has devised) the term ‘red-tag’. We really have to continue telling the truth to the public and explain (their) dual tactics. We really need to put out the right information so they can make their own judgment. To let the people know of the duplicity of the CTG,” Torres further stressed. ###


Ref: Joel M. Sy Egco 09155506969 September 4, 2023


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