MTRCB exec says Duterte tapped him for back channel talks with Joma
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a former Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) chief to initiate back-channel talks – “in his private capacity” – with exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison and other rebel leaders.
Avelino “Billy” Andal, now a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), said Duterte gave the order to him last week.
“Actually, napag-utusan ang inyong lingkod, utos mula sa Presidente kung maari i-resume ang pag-uusap sapagkat ang kanyang pinagdidiinan bilang Presidente, siya ay kaibigan at ‘di kaaway ng sinuman, kabilang na rebelde,” Andal told reporters in a phone interview.
He said he already sent “feelers” to the communist rebels, who, according to him, were “extremely glad” of the President’s move.
“Nagpaabot agad ako (ng) feeler para makausap sila at actually tuwang-tuwa sila dahil ang gusto nila bumalik sa usapang kapayapaan,” he said.
“Ang malinaw na pwede sabihin, they are extremely glad na open ang Pangulo sa pag-uusap,” he added.
Sought for confirmation, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he has no information on the matter.
“I have no information on that, but I will not be surprised if there is one,” he said in a Palace briefing.
Asked if the President appointed Andal to do backchannel talks, the presidential mouthpiece said: “I do not think so.”
Sought for clarification on the matter, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said there had been no formal order from Duterte to resume peace talks and do back channel talks with Sison.
“Negative. There’s none,” Bello said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon in a text message also said he would “clarify and verify” the matter with the President.
But in a text message, former Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go said Duterte told Andal in an “informal” manner to do back channel talks with CPP leaders.
Andal clarified: “Actually ‘yung atas ni President sa akin is in my private capacity.”
This was precisely the reason, he said, that he did not inform Bello and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process about his task. /kga
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