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Philippine bishops back call to resume peace talks

Members of Congress cross party lines to call on President Duterte to resume negotiations with communists
Philippine bishops back call to resume peace talks

Communist rebels mark their 49th anniversary in a hinterland village in December 2017. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

 

Published: April 04, 2018 06:58 AM GMT
Updated: April 04, 2018 07:04 AM GMT

Philippine Catholic and Protestant bishops have backed calls from Congress for the government to resume peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Before Holy Week, 61 members of the Lower House of Congress signed a resolution calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to resume peace talks with the rebel National Democratic Front.

The resolution urged the president to complete the government's comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms with the rebels. 

The agreements address issues on agrarian reform and national industrialization. 

"Continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers," read the House resolution.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches commended the legislators, saying that, "a just, lasting, and sustainable peace cannot be achieved through armed means."

Bishop Noel Pantoja, national director of the Evangelical council, appealed to both the government and the rebels to find "feasible ways to overcome the current impasse."

A Catholic bishop, meanwhile, challenged Duterte to carry out his Easter message and "rectify his deeds toward peace."

Retired Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan said the president "should change his ways and find the path to peace."

In his Easter Sunday message, Duterte urged Filipinos to "nurture humility and forgiveness in our hearts," adding that it will free them "from the shackles of hatred and greed."

Bishop Robert Mallari of San Jose expressed optimism that the government and the rebels will "find more reasons to talk than to wage war."

"We are optimistic that sooner or later, both sides will listen to each other," said the prelate.

Duterte terminated peace negotiations in November in response to reported rebel attacks on government forces.

In December, the president signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorist organizations.

Rebel chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they are open to the possible resumption of peace talks "without preconditions."

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