After Communist and government negotiators agreed over the weekend to resume peace talks next month, a senator is prodding the two sides to make good on their promise to observe a truce before the Holy Week in April.
“Whether unilaterally declared or mutually agreed, the people will welcome a break from fighting,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said.
Lenten week this year begins on April 9, Palm Sunday, and ends on Easter, April 16.
“If their time frame of brokering a ceasefire before April will be met, the peace negotiators couldn’t have picked a better time,” Recto said.
A ceasefire during Holy Week, Recto said, will give soldiers and rebels the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones during the important Catholic holiday and for strife-torn communities to observe it in peace.
“It is the right time because we don’t want the solemnity of Lent broken by needless bloodletting among brothers,” Recto said.
Recto said government officials and communist leaders may also take the Lenten ceasefire as an opportunity to find common ground on how to heed the people’s call for an end to the almost five decades of armed conflict.
“Our people have spoken loud and clear: we need to stop this violence. I am glad that negotiators from the GRP and the NDF stood firm and defied the odds to bring peace back to our land,” the senator said.
“If there is one lesson learned in this negotiation, it is useless to talk peace if both sides continue to shoot at each other. Let the hawks take a rest,” he added.
A reinstatement of a ceasefire, Recto said, will allow both sides to focus “on substantive issues such as socio-economic and political reforms that will uproot the causes of insurgency.”
“With guns silent, perhaps they will be able to hear clearly the proposals that will bring just and lasting peace in the country,” Recto said.
“More people from the communities, particularly those from the conflict-affected areas, can now participate in the discussion of reforms without fear of harassment,” the senator added.
Recto noted that a ceasefire with communist guerillas will also allow government forces to pour more resources, manpower and materiel, into the all-out war being waged against the Abu Sayyaf.
“We support the President’s effort to wave the olive branch to those willing to talk peace. But we also support his call for arms against bandits and terrorists like the Abu Sayaff,” Recto said.