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PRESIDENT Duterte led the lighting of the Christmas tree in Malacañang Monday night. Christmas Day was still about three weeks away but his words that night could well be the core of his Christmas message to the nation.
“I plead for the unity of the country, that we shall be freed of communal wars,” he said, referring to the continued fighting in Mindanao. He lauded the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which, he said, “has shown its sincerity to talk to us about peace.” Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) “has also said he will work with us in government to find peace.”
“So maligaya ako, except for the extremists,” he said, referring to the Maute, but even then, he said, he would not want to wage a war against them “since they are also Filipinos.” The government is prospecting for things that would end hostilities, he said. “Sana lang naman, makinig sila…. Naghahanap kami ng paraan para ma-accommodate kayo…. We are looking below and above for a compromise.”
As for the age-old communist insurgency, the President expressed optimism on the ongoing peace talks. But, he assured the nation, “the negotiators will not abandon the things that we crave for our country” – referring to some demands that appear counter to the country’s democratic traditions.
The President spoke on his administration’s other concerns. “I ask everybody in government that together we stop corruption,” he said. He said he will not stop until he has put an end to the problem of illegal drugs.
And the President declared, “I plead for peace, so that our citizens can move around any time of day or night.” Peace will come with unity in the conflict areas of Mindanao, but peace is equally important to other parts of the country.
Peace and unity – this was the core of the President’s message as he led the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Malacañang grounds.
Today is the third of the four Sundays of Advent before Christmas Day. Candles of hope, love, joy, and peace are lighted on these four Sundays leading to the lighting of the Christ Candle on Christmas Day which this year falls on a Sunday.
President Dutere’s appeal for peace and unity last Monday, like the messages of Advent, are at the heart of Christmas which is our most revered tradition and celebration in this country. It is an appeal which we hope our people, especially those in the conflict areas of Mindanao, will respond to and help bring about for our country.