ORMOC CITY, Leyte – Following the "Peace Forum with the Religious Sector" sponsored by the municipal government of Hinunangan, Southern Leyte, religious leaders agreed to address communist infiltration of the religious sector and support the campaign of the Regional Task Force 8 to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF8-ELCAC) through the whole-of-government and whole-of-nation programs.
The forum on Friday was attended by more than 30 pastors, preachers, council members and laymen of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, local government unit of Hinunangan, the Army's 802nd Infantry (Peerless) Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management Cluster of RTF8-ELCAC, and the Sentrong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Bayan Eastern Visayas at the Las Vegas Resort in Barangay Talisay.
The forum tackled the infiltration, manipulation, and exploitation of the church by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) terrorists and their front organizations.
The almost five-hour dialogue resulted in the agreement that the participants shall cooperate on the following courses of action: find ways to help stop the communist terrorist groups’ (CTG) resource-generation scheme using the church; create awareness among church members on the CTGs’ sinister infiltration and exploitation of the religious sector using the arouse, organize and mobilize methodology; and, prevent CTGs’ deceptive recruitment of the youth that results in the destruction of families by abusing legitimate church programs with so-called youth camps.
The participants unanimously supported the call to sustain and expand the church-government-military-private sectors dialogue in Southern Leyte's so-called pacific towns of Hinunangan, Silago, Hinundayan, Anahawan, St. Bernard, Liloan, and San Francisco in Panaon Island.
In his brief remark, Mayor Sonny Fernandez, also the chair of Hinunangan Municipal Task Force–ELCAC, called on local church members "to be always aware" of the CPP-NPA-NDF manipulation in their sector and "to nip in the bud" any indication of CTG influence in their churches so it will not progress into more serious problems.
Fernandez also declared his all-out support behind the continuing dialogue with the church and any effort that will lead to peace and prosperity.
Brig. Gen. Oliveros, commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, pointed out in his closing speech the need for the people "to work together" in order to address the CTG church infiltration, to avoid the recruitment of young church people into the communist terrorism movement through deception, and to prevent the division and destruction of the church due to CTG invasion.
The Philippines' Anti-Terrorism Council has designated the CPP, NPA, and NDF as terrorist groups.
The United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines also listed the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization. (PR)