Mindanao bishops call for extended Christmas truce

Activists hope cease-fire is prelude to new round of negotiations
Mindanao bishops call for extended Christmas truce

Wounded soldiers await rescue after communist rebels ambushed a relief convoy in the Philippines' Northern Samar province on Dec. 22. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

Several Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines called for an extended Christmas truce between government forces and communist rebels "to allow for peace talks to resume."

"Enough of war and let us have more of understanding and cooperation," said Bishop Martin Jumoad of Isabela in Basilan province.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro said he is hoping that the Christmas truce will be an opportunity for peace negotiations to resume.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel said with the cease-fire, "people can now spend time to pray and be with their family and do acts of love and justice."

In the northern Philippine region of Cordillera, peace groups urged the warring parties to extend the truce until next May’s elections.

"We need an extended cease-fire to ensure the safety of the voters and candidates," said Francisco Lara Jr., country manager of the International Alert Philippines, a peace advocacy group.

At least two government soldiers were killed and three others wounded when communist rebels ambushed a government humanitarian mission in the province of Northern Samar on Dec. 22, the day before the start of the Christmas truce.

Despite the incident, the Philippine military said it will observe the Christmas cease-fire.

Communist rebels in the Philippines announced a 12-day Christmas truce on Dec. 17 "in solidarity with the Filipino people's traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holiday."

The military has also declared a unilateral suspension of operations starting Dec. 23 until Jan. 3.

"In behalf of the poor people whom the government and the [rebels] love to represent, this war must stop," Bishop Jumoad told ucanews.com Dec. 23.

Peace negotiations between the government and rebels have been stalled since 2004 with both parties pushing for preconditions before the start of another round of formal talks to end more than four decades of war. 

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