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Duterte wants talks in PH; Joma sees sabotage

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison on Friday accused President Duterte of sabotaging the peace talks to lay the ground for imposing martial law nationwide by indefinitely postponing the negotiations and insisting on holding them in the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte on Thursday said he wanted the resumption of the peace talks with communist rebels to be held in the Philippines next month, not late in June as was previously agreed upon during informal talks in the Netherlands, according to his peace adviser Jesus Dureza.

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In response to the government’s announcement, Sison late on Thursday reminded Mr. Duterte that the negotiators from the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed to resume talks on June 28.

The start of the talks would have followed a week after the announcement of a stand-down agreement, or a preliminary truce, between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA), said Sison, the chief political consultant for the NDFP in the talks.

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“Duterte has plans of sabotaging the peace negotiations so he could use the CPP, NPA and NDFP as scapegoats and fake reasons to declare emergency rule or martial law nationwide,” Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he lives in exile.

He said Mr. Duterte knew that he would not return to Manila without the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), and sufficient legal and security guarantees for him.

During the back-channel talks, the two sides approved the agrarian reform, rural development, national industrialization and economic development components of Caser, according to Sison. Caser calls for, among other solutions to the country’s social problems, free land distribution and rural industrialization.

Sison on Wednesday said he may return to the Philippines within the last week of July or first week of August.

But his plan was aborted by the cancellation of the resumption of the formal talks.

Public consultation

Dureza told reporters the government needed to first conduct a public consultation concerning the negotiations to end the nearly 50-year-old communist insurgency.

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“Duterte and Dureza are lying when they said they are going to consult the people,” Sison said.

He said both the government and the NDFP knew that the talks should be restarted in the last week of June so they would not be affected by the holidays for Norwegian officials in July.

Sison added that the cancellation of the talks “disrespected” the Norwegian government and the government’s own peace panel led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

In a statement late on Thursday, he said that the cancellation of the talks showed that the Duterte government was only interested in the “capitulation” of the rebels.

He said a previous agreement required the talks to be held in a neutral country.

Because of this “the revolutionary forces and the people have no choice but to singlemindedly wage people’s war to achieve the national and social liberation of the Filipino people,” Sison said.

Dureza on Friday said Sison was “entitled to his own opinion and we respect it.”

He argued that postponing formal negotiations would help strengthen and protect the gains achieved by both sides and “win public goodwill” for the talks.

Six senior CPP leaders, including one whom custodians had refused to release from detention despite orders from two courts, were unsure when they would be allowed to leave for Europe to participate in the talks, according to their lawyer and NDFP legal consultant Edre Olalia. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING

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TAGS: CPP, Dureza, duterte, Joma Sison, Peace Talks
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