PNP says it obtained Church support for localized peace talks with communist rebels

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) — The country's top cop met with the highest leader of the Catholic Church Tuesday to discuss efforts to end the communist movement's five-decade-long armed insurgency.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in a statement on Tuesday said Police General Oscar Albayalde and Manila Archbishop Antonio Cardinal Tagle talked about pursuing localized peace talks with members of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The PNP said Tagle suggested the creation of an "ecumenical fellowship," composed of various religious groups, to which Albayalde agreed that "a broad sector of society" should be involved in peace efforts.

The statement was posted on the PNP's official Facebook page, with photos of the meeting. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and Tagle's office have not released a statement.

"During the same meeting, Albayalde [voiced out' concern over infiltration of some church organizations by the communist terrorist groups. Both leaders vowed to continue collaboration on these issues and other issues relating to national unity and stability," the PNP said.

President Rodrigo Duterte walked away from on-off peace negotiations with the rebels in November 2017 as both sides accused each other of ceasefire violations.

The talks were supposed to resume in June 2018, but Duterte postponed it for a supposed review of all previous agreements with the rebels. This sparked a word war between government officials and the communist leadership, particularly CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison who said they would rather wait for a new government and participate in Duterte's ouster than talk peace with his administration.

Since July 2018, the Duterte administration has been pushing for a policy whereby local government officials will talk peace with rebels, an idea that the CPP has repeatedly rejected. The government has not released guidelines on the conduct of localized peace talks.