2 activist priests urge Duterte to call holiday truce
LUCENA CITY — Two activist priests on Saturday made a last-minute appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to observe a truce with communist rebels this holiday season.
“We ask you, especially your poor countrymen and women, for this precious gift of a Christmas ceasefire, of peace this Christmas and the days to come,” Fr. Robert Reyes said.
“After all this is Christmas — the triumph of peace over war and the triumph of generosity and compassion over greed and violence,” he said.
Fr. Pete Montallana, coordinator of Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate of the Diocese of Infanta in Quezon province, said: “Let the ceasefire happen. God will pave the kingdom of peace, justice and love. What we cannot do He will make things happen. For too long, too many have suffered.”
The two priests made the appeal after the military said they had seen no need for a Christmas truce this year. Mr. Duterte concurred and said he would not order a truce.
Communist leader Jose Maria Sison had earlier suggested that the rebel group might call a unilateral ceasefire for the holidays, as had been done several times in the past.
However, the rebels have not declared a truce since the military publicly announced they would not suspend of military operations.
Respite from violence
Mulanay, Quezon, Mayor Joselito Ojeda also appealed to Mr. Duterte and the rebels to call a truce “for the sake of peace, especially in the countryside.”
“A couple of days of gun silence from both armed protagonists is a welcome respite for those in the countryside,” Ojeda, former president of Quezon Mayor’s League, said.
Ojeda recently initiated localized peace talks in Quezon, but the talks are in peril after Mr. Duterte tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
“We’ve temporarily stopped the initiative as we assess the situation,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division operating in Southern Tagalog, said he encouraged local peace talks.
“I’ll still encourage it. The main consideration I think is sincerity. If this is present at the local level, I don’t see why we won’t respect it. After all, peace is what we want,” Parayno said in a phone interview.
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