Indian Catholic News

Philippine communist rebels declare truce for holidays, pope visit

Declaration follows announcement by government that it will observe a month-long ceasefire.

 
Davao City: 

Philippine communist rebels on Wednesday declared a Christmas and New Year ceasefire as well as another during the visit of Pope Francis to the country in January.

The ceasefire declaration issued by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will be in effect December 24-26, December 31-January 1, and January 15-19.

In a statement, the rebel group said members of the New People's Army and people's militias are prohibited from launching tactical offensives against government forces during those dates.

The rebel group said it also recognizes the papal visit "as an opportunity for religious celebration and to popularize people's issues considering that [Pope Francis] is known for his advocacy for social justice".

The Philippine government earlier this week announced a month-long unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels starting Thursday until January 19 to highlight its "sincerity to pursue peace".

Government peace advisor Teresita Quintos Deles said the month-long ceasefire would help create a better atmosphere for people to fully enjoy the rare opportunity to see Pope Francis.

The rebels, however, said that despite the ceasefire declaration "all units must always be prepared to take the option of engaging aggressive units of the enemy in self-defense".

The CPP warned that the government might use Pope Francis' visit as a "pretext to deploy large numbers of armed troops to prevent the people from organizing and collectively expressing their national and democratic aspirations" during the occasion.

Meanwhile, political prisoners announced that they will stage a fast starting a week before the pope's arrival to highlight calls for their release. Several political prisoners have earlier written letters addressed to the pope calling for support.

"I long for freedom for the sake of my baby who needs to be with me. I hope you can help me," wrote Maria Miradel Torres, a female political prisoner in Taguig City Jail.

Torres was three months pregnant when the military arrested her in June. She has been charged with murder.

"I could not think of doing the things they have charged me with," Torres wrote in a letter to the pope. "I am just an ordinary citizen and a single mother," she added.

According to human rights group Karapatan, there are currently 491 political prisoners in the Philippines.

Jigs Clamor, national coordinator of Selda, an organization of former and current political detainees, is seeking the help of Pope Francis to echo calls against unjust and unwarranted detention "because the pope is known for his progressive views and bias [in favor of] the poor and the oppressed".

Source: ucanews.com

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