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Philippine Churches fear escalation of conflict

MANILA (UCAN): Failure of the Philippine government and communist rebels into enter into peace talks risks an escalation of violence and rights’ abuses, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, an ecumenical group of Churches, has warned.
The group, composed of leaders of the Catholic bishop’s conference, the Protestant National Council of Churches, the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum, expressed concern over the president, Rodrigo Duterte, directing the military to “destroy” the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) in December.
The ecumenical group of leaders of the nation’s five mainstream Churches called for “principled dialogue” and also expressed support for a resolution filed in the Lower House of Congress urging Duterte to resume peace negotiations with the rebel leftist National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Government and rebel peace negotiators were on their fifth round of talks in 2017 when Duterte ordered its termination after he accused rebels of launching attacks against state forces.
In early January, exiled communist leader, Jose Maria Sison, said the NDFP, of which he is a political consultant, would further “strengthen itself” against government forces.
He said the rebel group would cooperate with allies to isolate and oust the Duterte regime.
Sison added that this would include intensified offensives as a socio-economic and political crisis in the Philippines worsened in 2019.
The Philippine military, however, said it would support the efforts of the administration’s National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency to achieve a complete victory by building community resilience and securing the co-operation of all government agencies.
Church leaders, however, complained that recent developments could derail efforts to re-start peace negotiations.

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