Duterte, Sison to talk peace on phone
LUCENA CITY—After a one-on-one meeting failed to materialize, a phone conversation between President Duterte and top rebel leader Jose Maria Sison is now being arranged to help pave the way for the revival of peace talks.
In an online interview on Friday, Sison told the Inquirer that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government’s chief peace negotiator, and Fidel Agcaoili, chair of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel, were organizing the phone conversation, scheduled sometime this week.
“If they can arrange the phone conversation, I am still willing to converse with Duterte,” Sison said.
Sison, the founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), added: “I think that the limited but necessary objective of the phone conversation is to lay a positive basis and set the agenda for the subsequent long conversation.”
He said he could yet meet with Mr. Duterte “in a country near the Philippines.”
The last time the President and Sison had a phone conversation was in December 2016, when they discussed how to help advance the stalled peace negotiation between the government and NDFP, the political umbrella of all communist-led rebel groups in the country.
From the Netherlands, where he has been living in exile, Sison said he could fly to neutral countries like Vietnam, China and North Korea to avoid the interference of the United States, once his meeting with Mr. Duterte pushes through.
Sison is on the US terror list and could be barred from reentering Europe if he travels outside European Union countries. The US could request the arrest of Sison outside Europe through Interpol (International Police).
“I can travel on laissez passer provided by the Dutch government … And I can avoid going to any non-EU country in which the US can interfere with my travel or temporary stay,” Sison said.
Mr. Duterte suspended peace talks with the NDFP in May, dashing hopes of ending the almost five decades of communist rebellion in the country.
On Nov. 23, Mr. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that terminated peace talks with the NDFP. Eleven days later, he issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque denied a news report last week in “Mindanews” that Mr. Duterte had offered to personally see Sison.
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