DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Church leaders called on both government and the National Democratic Front to “silence their guns” this Christmas season, despite declarations from both sides that there will be no ceasefire in the holidays.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) issued a statement saying they are concerned over the “deteriorating prospects for peace”, especially with the recent arrests and killings of peace consultants and activists.
“The advent season is upon us, yet unpeace reigns. Respect for human rights, which is a primary requisite for peace, is ignored, or worse, demonized as a barrier to “peace and order,” Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma, head of PEPP, said.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared during a broadcast last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire during the Christmas holidays with the communist groups under his term until June 2022.
“There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term as President. For all intents and purposes, the ceasefire is dead,” Duterte said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee responded that they are “forced to dispense with the traditional holiday ceasefire this year” amid possible offensives to be carried out by military and police forces in the cities and countryside.
It ordered the NPA units to carry out offensives against government troops.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is on alert ahead of CPP’s 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.
Ledesma said that this situation is in sharp contrast to last year’s backchannel negotiations between the two parties that resulted in a Christmas ceasefire.
The group also raised alarm over the relentless “red tagging” of the government and its anti-communist task force against organizations and individuals, including churches and church leaders.
PEPP is an ecumenical group that have engaged its constituents and the public in dialogue on issues around the peace talks between the government and the NDF, and have invited both panels on these dialogues.
The PEPP statements was signed by Reverend Rex Reyes Jr. of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Bishop Reuel Norman Mananzan of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Rv. Dr. Aldrin Penamora, and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr. (davaotoday.com)AFP, armed forces of the philippines, ceasefire, NPA, peace talks, PEPP, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform