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Church leaders in the Philippines welcome rebooting of peace talks

MANILA (UCAN): The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, said at the beginning of April that he was giving the government and rebel peace panels “a timeline of two months” to resume the talks that bogged down last year.
He claimed that it was the rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines that had been pressing for the resumption of negotiations.
Talks broke down in November after Duterte accused the rebels of attacking government installations especially in the provinces.
The country’s Church leaders immediately expressed support for the new opportunity to talk peace.
In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform expressed hope that “the atmosphere for the resumption of the stalled talks will continue to spread positively.”
The grouping of Catholic and Protestant bishops has repeatedly championed what they described as “principled dialogue across the negotiating table” to resolve the conflict.
“It’s very good that they resume the talks. With peace, there is development,” Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz, said.
Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi said, “dialogue is the way to solve the country’s problems.”
The Protestant National Council of Churches in the Philippines also expressed hope that “ the peace negotiations resume and that the peace process will draw to a successful end.” 
Reverend Rex Reyes, secretary-general of the council said, “We are almost there. Enough killing and strife. There is by far no better alternative to peace talks.” 
He appealed to Duterte to withdraw the terrorist label on at least 600 individuals, saying that the list is a “potential threat to human rights defenders and peace advocates.”
Reyes said, “Labelling peace advocates as terrorists leaves them vulnerable.” 
The list includes the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz; tribal rights advocates Beverly Longid and Windel Bolinget, and about 20 tribal leaders from Mindanao.
Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, welcomed Duterte’s statement, saying, “We are sincere in striving to negotiate and forge with the (government) comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict,” Sison said.
Duterte said he would allow Sison and other rebel negotiators to return home during the truce.
“And if we fail, then I will be happy to send you off to the airport. But do not ever, ever come again, because the next time, I will personally shoot you,” the president added in his typical, aggressive manner.

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