From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28, 2019): Peace group calls for calm as gov’t, NPA observe truce (By Jigger Jerusalem)
LONG ROAD TO PEACE. Bishop Felixberto Calang of Iglesia Filipina Independente (2nd from right) talks with former Secretary Jesus Dureza of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. They are joined by other Philippine government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines representatives. (Photo courtesy of Sowing the Seeds of Peace Mindanao)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A peace advocate group has appealed to the Duterte administration and Communist rebels to honor the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefire the two parties have respectively declared, amid reports of attacks allegedly being carried out by New People’s Army (NPA) fighters against state forces and law enforcers in two separate occasions recently.
“I am calling on both parties, especially the government, to remain calm and sober as the truce is in effect,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang, a leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao, in a text message on Friday night.
According to reports, government forces engaged communist insurgents in Barangay Baay, Labo, Camarines Norte, and Barangay Singon, Tubungan, Iloilo provinces on Dec. 23, the first day of the ceasefire.
An Army soldier was killed and six others were wounded in the encounter in Baay, while two police officers were injured in the Singon attack.
In a separate pronouncement, the NPA said the incidents were only “defensive actions” and that their fighters did not commit any ceasefire violation.
Calang, in a Dec. 23 statement, said his group welcomed the 15-day ceasefire “with much jubilation” and the impending revival of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In reaction to the alleged NPA-initiated attacks, Calang said there is a mechanism in the implementation of the unilateral ceasefire.
“There is a joint monitoring committee to investigation violations,” he said, referring to the armed aggression reportedly perpetrated by the NPA.
The bishop added that he hopes the incidents will not hinder the looming resumption of the peace talks.
As Christians, he said, the continuation of the negotiations is 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.”
Balay Mindanaw, another peace group, expressed its optimism to the reopening of the talks.
“We hope that this becomes an irreversible step towards the transformation of this decades-old armed conflict as the two Parties resume their work in addressing the roots of the conflict,” said Charlito Manlupig of Balay Mindanaw, in a recent statement.