Mindanao, no Christmas truce between government and rebels. Christians speak out

Rodrigo Duterte says there will be no more ceasefires as long as he is president. The NPA "forced" to resume fighting against the army and police. The Ecumenical Platform for Peace in the Philippines is concerned "about the deterioration of the prospects for peace in our land". Criticisms of Duterte's “rhetoric”.

Cagayan de Oro (AsiaNews) - There will be no Christmas truce in Mindanao between the government troops and those of the Marxist rebels of the New People's Army (NPA), after both sides declaration of their intent to continue the fighting. The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), which gathers religious leaders from different communities, criticized the decision, expressing its "concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace in our land".

On December 7, President Rodrigo Duterte (photo 2) ruled out a ceasefire with the rebels and indeed promised to destroy their guerrillas. In past years, on the occasion of Christmas, he had instead launched a truce of the fighting.

Duterte, who began his mandate opening up to dialogue, after a few months rejected all peace talks between the government and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines), which includes several groups and unions fighting for justice and lands in Mindanao, which also includes NPA rebels (photo 3).

“There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term as president. For all intents and purposes, the ceasefire is dead” Duterte said.

In turn, the NDFP said it was "forced to exempt its members from the ceasefire" even during the Christmas period. Refusing a truce, it asked its armed wing, the NPA, to continue an offensive against soldiers and police.

In a statement signed by the president Msgr. Antonio Ledesma, emeritus archbishop of Cagayan de Oro (see photo 1) and other Christian leaders, PEPP criticizes "the rhetoric that abounds" in the president's words and regrets that a few days before Christmas "non-peace reigns”.

In an obvious reference to Duterte's policy, the ecumenical group said the situation is caused by a total lack of respect for human rights, "demonized as an obstacle to 'peace and order'". Furthermore, it recalls, "several activists have been arrested or killed in recent months, while numerous lives are being taken in the name of the anti-drug campaign".