A church-based group asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to heed the Easter call of Pope Francis for “an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world” by reciprocating the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) extension of its truce order.
In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to open the doors to resume the stalled peace talks “especially in the face of an uncertain future brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic.”
The PEPP said that despite accusations from both side that each has violated their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations that simultaneously expired last before midnight of Wednesday, April 15, it still believes that the ceasefires may lead to “healing” and can only provide a good environment for the unhampered flow of services to the Filipino people during the lockdown.
A reciprocal declaration of truce orders may also pave the way for both side to again engage in “principled dialogue toward lasting peace,” it added.
The PEPP statement, signed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes, was issued after the CPP announced its order to extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30.
The PEPP also volunteered to provide custodial guarantee to vulnerable and elderly prisoners, such as several NDFP consultants, it said should be released on humanitarian grounds as reports of contagion and deaths of detainees have hit various prisons.
“PEPP stands by our longstanding offer to enable and facilitate a conducive atmosphere for restarting the peace talks by providing custodial guarantee through the church network of PEPP should the process of Release on Recognizance be followed in relation to the detained consultants of the NDFP,” it said.
“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to put a heavy premium on peace and the release on humanitarian grounds the vulnerable during this time of crisis. Today, more than ever—as our nation and the whole world prays for healing—is the time to ‘seek peace and pursue it,” PEPP said, quoting the Bible.
AFP offensives continue
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said military offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) have resumed as of April 16.
AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters last Friday, April 17, the military offensives shall continue even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Malacañan Palace’s has yet to react to efforts by Kodao to seek its comment on the CPP’s truce order extension.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison on the hand said he highly appreciates PEPP’s appeal to Duterte to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP to the NPA, to release the political prisoners on recognizance to the church leaders, and to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.
“I hope that Duterte heeds the appeal of the PEPP. The war hawks of the Duterte regime and the military violate Duterte’s own avowal for healing,” Sison said.
He added that the AFP has only shown “their hatred for the people by denying the violations of their own ceasefire and by launching more offensives against the NPA and the people at the time of the Covid-19 contagion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)