NDFP welcomes Pope Francis; urges pontiff to ‘listen to cry of Yolanda victims’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 Jan) – Even the communist-led revolutionary movement has been obliged to join the rest of the country in welcoming Pope Francis, who arrived late afternoon Thursday amid a rousing reception not just by Roman Catholics but also by Filipinos belonging to other faiths.

In a statement Thursday, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao “joins the Filipino people in welcoming Pope Francis to the Philippines, especially to areas heavily affected by super typhoon Yolanda.”

“We yearn for the Pope to listen to the cry of millions of victims of typhoon Yolanda who continue to wait for the immediate delivery of social services and rehabilitation; the victims continue to suffer because of government neglect and corruption,” the statement signed by NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said.

Pope Francis will visit Tacloban City, the area hit hardest by Yolanda in November 2013, to say mass and for an audience with typhoon victims on Jan. 17.

“In deference to the Papal visit, the NDFP-Mindanao has reiterated to the New People’s Army (NPA) in the island to strictly comply with the 10-day ceasefire declared by the NDFP at the national level, which includes in its coverage the 4-day stay of the Pope in the country. During such time, the NPA, while in defensive mode, shall cease all its tactical offensive military operations,” Madlos said.

The rebel leader also said they are hoping that “as a world leader whose office holds considerable influence over the Filipino populace,” the Pope will inspire the people to push the struggle for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

Madlos further used the occasion to hit the government’s alleged human rights violations in the wake of the military campaign in the Mindanao countryside.

He alleged that military operations have resulted in the displacement of rural villages, particularly indigenous communities in northern and southern Mindanao.

“The Pope’s Filipino flock should also take this rare opportunity of his visit to bring to his attention the AFP’s terror campaign of extra-judicial killings, which, in the last decade, has unspeakably murdered hundreds of activists, lawyers, media persons and, most appallingly, even members of the religious and inflamed the condemnation of the whole nation and the world,” he added.

Madlos said the Pope’s visit could spark anew the people’s interest in pushing for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDFP.

But Madlos said it is crucial to release detained “NDFP consultants” before the resumption of talks.

He cited the NDFP and the NPA has been releasing “prisoners of war” since the second half of last year as a confidence-building measure for the resumption of the talks.