NPA in Cotabato areas to extend ceasefire until after Papal visit

SOMEWHERE IN NORTH COTABATO (MindaNews / 8 Jan) – Communist rebels in Southwestern Mindanao announced Wednesday it will extend its ceasefire with the military in deference to the Papal visit next week.

Speaking in a clandestine interview in his mountain hideout in the region, “Ka Efren,” spokesperson of five New Peoples’ Army (NPA) guerilla fronts, said most of their guerillas are Catholics and it was thus fitting to pay respect during Pope Francis’ visit in the country from January 15 to 19.

In observance of the Christmas holidays and the visit of the Argentine pontiff, the Philippine military declared on Dec. 15 a month-long suspension of military and police offensives against communist guerillas.

Catholic church leaders described the Pope’s visit as “privilege as we start the New Year.”

“Since most of our members are Catholics, we are extending the ceasefire until after the visit of Pope Francis,” Ka Efren said to select journalists.

Ka Efren also revealed the NPA is ready to resume talking peace with the Aquino government, especially if Pope Francis would ask them to do so, and as long as the government shows sincerity.

Like every Catholic in the country, Ka Efren said the NPAs are also excited for the Papal visit.

Speaking in Cebuano, Ka Efren said: “Many groups are pushing for peace in Mindanao. We are ready. If Pope Francis would ask us, we are ready to respond to his call.”