CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The declaration of a ceasefire in the Christmas season by both government and Communist rebels is a cause for celebration for Filipinos, a peace advocate group said.
“We greet with much jubilation the unilateral reciprocal ceasefire declarations and the impending resumption of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP],” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao.
Both parties issued their respective ceasefire pronouncements on Sunday December 22.
As posted on the Philippine Revolution Web Central online site, the CPP’s central committee has directed all commands and units of its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the people’s militias to cease all forms of hostilities against the members of the state security forces starting on the midnight of Dec. 23 until Jan. 7, 2020.
The CPP said the directive is being issued simultaneously with and shall be effective upon the corresponding reciprocal ceasefire orders in the form of the suspension of military and police operations by the government “as a gesture of goodwill and confidence building measure.”
On the government side, President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night issued the same ceasefire order, which took effect December 23 and will end Jan. 7, 2020, to concerned government agencies.
Duterte instructed the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police “to issue an official declaration therefor and communicate the directive for a national armistice with the CPP-NPA-NDF to their respective agents and armed units for due observance during the period.”
“Three gifts” for peace talks resumption
The declaration of the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire came following the announcement by Duterte that he wants the peace negotiations to resume after two years of being stalled.
Duterte declared the termination of peace negotiations with the NDF on November 23, 2017 through Proclamation No. 360.
Calang said the reciprocal ceasefire “gives the Filipino people reason to celebrate with greater hope and joy [during] the Christmas and New Year holidays, in keeping with our Christian traditions and our people’s decades-long quest for peace based on social justice.”
“As Christians, we see the impending resumption of the peace talks as a time to deepen our faith in Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The liberation of God’s people from oppression and injustice was at the core of Jesus’ ministry for peace,” the church leader said.
Calang said his group has laid out three points addressed to the government and the CPP, which is likened to the three gifts brought by the Three Wise Men and offered them Jesus Christ upon his nativity in Bethlehem, according to the story from Bible.
He said, “Give the talks its ‘second wind’ by not allowing warmongers to shoot it before it takes off from the ground anew. This rumor-mongering about the assassination of President Duterte at a time both parties are coming to terms with each other only serve to ‘spoil the peace.’”
Secondly, Calang has challenged Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the new member of the government panel, “to stand for the civilian voice and authority in the negotiations, being the alter ego of the President.”
The third point the group directed at both parties is to “take off from where the talks have started and honor previous agreements. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The peace talks were going well in hammering out agreements on Social and Economic Reforms, until it was thrown into limbo by Proclamation 360.”
“This means,” Calang said, “revisiting the issues of release of political prisoners and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”
“An enduring peace that is based on social justice is what we anticipate for every Christmas. It is the truly tangible and lasting wish that we make on our noche buena table. Let us include in our prayers that the peace talks usher in a truly peace-filled New Year,” the bishop added.(davaotoday.com)