CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 December 2017

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Duterte moves to avoid peace

MANILA (UCAN): An upsurge in violence around The Philippines is anticipated following a decision by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to formally declare a termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front and the Communist Party.
 
The three parties have been locked in an informal war for decades which has left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes over the years.
 
On November 24, both Catholic and Protestant Churches said the government decision will only incite more violence and virtually close the door to the peace talks.
 
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, an alliance of four Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church support the peace process and described their cancellation as tragic.
 
“We find nothing more tragic than the refusal of warring parties to continue to open the doors for dialogue that can result in a further escalation of violence,” the group said.
 
Duterte formally terminated negotiations on November 23, accusing the two parties of engaging in acts of violence and hostility while the door was still open.
 
The Democratic Front is an umbrella organisation of the Communist-led underground movements, but the New People’s Army upset the government by staging attacks that have killed civilians.
 
Last week, Duterte announced that he would issue a proclamation that will classify the Communist groups as terrorists and criminals.
 
“I will remove them from the category of a legal entity or at least a semi-movement, which would merit our attention, placing them as terrorists,” he said.
 
He said on the previous day that he would order the arrest for terrorism of members of the legal fronts of the Communist Party as well.
 
The Churches warned that the war is intensifying and it can only get worse, adding it believes positive results that have come out of the talks so far should be pursued and not abandoned.
 
“The roots of the armed conflict should be addressed and this could be achieved through the negotiations,” it added.
 
Only last week, government and peace negotiators drafted documents reflecting substantial agreements on agrarian reform and rural development, as well as national industrialisation and economic development.
 
The drafts include significant reforms pursued by the Duterte administration, including the free distribution of land to farmers.
 
Formal negotiations between the government and the Communist affiliates opened in Norway in August 2016 after years of suspension.

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