12/02/2020, 19.15
PHILIPPINES
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Philippine Churches demand explanations after a peace talk consultant is arrested

Questions are being raised about the arrest of Alfredo Mapano, a former peace talk consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He was taken into custody at work at a government corporation in Misamis Oriental province.

Cagayan de Oro City (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of Christian church leaders advocating for peace is questioning the arrest of Alfredo Mapano, a former peace talk consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), who was taken into custody at his place of work at a government corporation in Misamis Oriental province.

“Is the government’s program of national reconciliation and rebel reintegration all for show?” said the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) in a statement, casting doubt on the sincerity of the government’s call for rebels to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

The statement was signed by PEPP conveners Catholic Archbishop emeritus Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Felixberto Calang of Cagayan de Oro, and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Bishop Ligaya San Francisco of Northwestern Mindanao.

Mapano, who is employed by the Phividec Industrial Authority in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, was arrested by police from Bayugan town, Agusan del Sur province on 27n November in connections of robbery in band.

Mapano served seven years at the Misamis Oriental provincial jail until 2016, when he was freed on bail to serve as consultant in peace talks between the government and the NDFP.

At Phividec, he worked first as a corporate social responsibility officer tasked with dealing with informal settlers within the 3,000-hectare industrial estate that hosted big corporations like SMB Brewery, power plants and international ports. He became security officer after that.

In its statement, PEPP notes that “while leading a normal life with his family,” Mapano also spent time as “active partner in the government program for national reconciliation” and spoke in different forums on peace.

On several occasions, Mapano quietly facilitated the reintegration of former rebels in society and helped those who are threatened, PEPP said.

The bishops said at the time of the alleged crime committed by Mapano in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon provinces in 2017 and 2019, he was already working for Phividec.

“It is mind boggling to think that he could be in these far-away places while working in a government office,” PEPP said.

“We view with alarm and concern that Alfredo Mapano, a former peace negotiator and now a rebel-returnee, government employee and active partner of the government program, has become a victim of the government’s hollow promise,” it said.

“Instead of the promised ‘peaceful return to the fold,’ he is once again subjected to political persecution with these latest trumped-up charges filed against him,” PEPP said.

“We urge the government to abide by its promise to accept our rebel brothers and sisters who have decided to return to the fold of the law and offer them a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to peace-building,” the group said.

Peace cannot be achieved when even those who have given up violence and have chosen to work for peace are still politically persecuted, the bishops added.

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