Duterte resets talks with Reds
President Duterte has ordered the start of formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) reset, according to Jesus Dureza.
Dureza, presidential peace adviser, said President Duterte gave the order after meeting members of the team that held back-channel talks with the NDFP to revive the talks.
The President had said the talks could resume in July but Dureza said the President wanted it moved to a later date but without a definite timeline.
Dureza said the timeline that government and NDFP panels agreed on “had to be necessarily adjusted.”
Citing President Duterte, Dureza said there was a need to win popular support for the success of what the president had said was the “last chance” to end the insurgency through peaceful means.
“Stakeholders on the ground must also be equally engaged,” said Dureza, citing the President.
Not closing the door
He said, however, that the President’s order did not mean the government was closing its door to the talks.
Meetings with the NDFP would continue until negotiators agreed on the best time to start the formal talks, Dureza said.
The talks were originally scheduled to start on June 28 in Oslo, Norway.
Jose Maria Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair, had said a stand-down agreement between the military and the New People’s Army, armed wing of CPP, would begin on June 21 “to create a favorable atmosphere” for the talks.
The truce was originally set to start on June 14 but was reset because of a delay in the court order to let NDFP peace panelists Benito Tiamzon and five other consultants to travel abroad for the talks.
The consultants included Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Randal Echanis, Adelberto Silva and Alan Jazmines.
At a briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday night, Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte had met with top military and police officials at a command conference and asked them to “give peace a chance.”
“The President wants the cooperation of our men in uniform in the peace talks,” said Roque, former human rights lawyer and now presidential spokesperson.
Roque said “it appears” that the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines were “fully supportive of the peace talks.”
During the command conference, concern was raised over the possibility of rebels just taking advantage of the talks to “regroup and strengthen,” according to Roque.
Another concern raised was the possibility that rebels would continue collecting revolutionary taxes during the talks, Roque said. This would violate one of President Duterte’s conditions.
“But the President assured them that we needed to give the peace talks a chance,” Roque said.
The President, Roque said, told the police and military to give rebels “the presumption of good faith.”
“Let’s allow the process to continue,” Roque said, citing President Duterte.
Sison’s return to the country was also discussed at the command conference, Roque said. But it was because Sison was on a list of terrorists.
Roque, however, said there was no outstanding arrest warrant for Sison and “there is no impediment” for his return.
“There’s also a preference for the peace talks to proceed in the Philippines,” Roque said.
Sison had expressed preference for the talks to be held in Norway, which had been hosting the talks for years now. —WITH A REPORT FROM CHRISTINE AVENDAÑO
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