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Philippine bishops back call to resume peace talks

MANILA (UCAN): Catholic and Protestant bishops in the Philippines have backed calls from Congress for the government to resume peace negotiations with communist rebels.
Prior to Holy Week, 61 members of the Lower House of Congress signed a resolution calling on the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to resume peace talks with the rebel National Democratic Front.
The resolution urged the president to complete the government’s comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms with the rebels. 
The agreements address issues on agrarian reform and national industrialisation. 
“Continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers,” the House resolution said.
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches commended the legislators, saying that, “a just, lasting, and sustainable peace cannot be achieved through armed means.”
Bishop Noel Pantoja, national director of the Evangelical council, appealed to both the government and the rebels to find “feasible ways to overcome the current impasse.”
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, the former Catholic bishop of Kalookan, Metro Manila, challenged Duterte to carry out his Easter message in which he urged Filipinos to “nurture humility and forgiveness in our hearts,” adding that it will free them “from the shackles of hatred and greed.” 
The bishop called on the president to “rectify his deeds toward peace” and said “should change his ways and find the path to peace.”
Bishop Robert Mallari of San Jose, expressed optimism that the government and the rebels will “find more reasons to talk than to wage war.”
“We are optimistic that sooner or later, both sides will listen to each other,” he said.
Duterte terminated peace negotiations in November last year in response to reported rebel attacks on government forces.
In December, the president signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, terrorist organisations.
Chief rebel negotiator, Fidel Agcaoili, said they are open to the possible resumption of peace talks “without preconditions.”

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