Philippines: Church urges government to end NPA rebellion

 A key member of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the government must exhaust all efforts to end the 38-year Maoist rebellion waged by the communist New People's Army (NPA). While praising the government's move to declare a three-week ceasefire with the NPA, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said an effort should be made to work for a lasting end to the conflict. "It should be ceasefire all the time. (They should also declare a) ceasefire in their word war," the prelate added. Arguelles made the statement after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed to step up the campaign against the NPA in the run-up Christmas. The three-week Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) is said to be the longest in a while. Past ceasefires only covered December 24 to 25 and December 31 to January 1. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, along with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as its political umbrella group, has been waging civil war for almost four decades, with the loss of more than 40,000 lives. The CPP-NPA-NDF withdrew from peace talks with the government in 2005 at the height of Mrs Arroyo's political crisis after the rebels thought that she would be ousted. The three-week truce was seen as part of the government's efforts to revive the negotiations, even as the President remained adamant in her resolve to wipe out the communists by the end of her term in 2010. Peace talks with the communists began in 1986 but very little progress has been made. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the communists will be forced to talk peace if the NPA is completely wiped out. "Only the defeat of the New People's Army can force the Communist Party of the Philippines- National Democratic Front to seriously pursue peace talks with the government," Gonzales said. Jesuit priest Fr Romeo Intengan, one of the co-founders of the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas with Gonzales, said the military, with steadfast commitment to human rights and improved combat skills and intelligence gathering, will eventually defeat the communists. Former CBCP president and canon expert, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for his part, expressed his doubts on whether the military can completely wipe out the communists within three years. "The insurgency in the Philippines is ideological, meaning an ideology dies only with the death of the ideologue," Cruz said in a statement.

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