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Preliminary talks with Reds set before Duterte assumes office

DAVAO city—Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte said he will issue a safe-conduct to exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison so he could return to the country and participate in the peace talks with the government.

“I will be at that time president and I will give him (Sison)  a safe-conduct and also those in prison like the Tiamzons because they have to participate in the peace talks,”  Duterte said in a press conference late Saturday evening here.

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Benito and Wilma Tiamzon are leftist leaders who are detained on charges of kidnapping, murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives after their arrest in March 2014.

Sison, who was Duterte’s university professor, has been in self-exile for almost three decades as the protracted communist insurgency in the country has remained unresolved.

Duterte said he asked Silvestre Bello, whom he had nominated to be chief peace negotiator with the communist  National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and  presidential adviser to the peace process Jesus Dureza, to hold a preliminary dialogue with Sison in Oslo, Norway.

“I have commissioned them to go to Oslo, to go there for the framework and agenda that they will talk about,” Duterte said.

He said Bello and Dureza may also accompany Sison on his way home from Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Middle of June

Dureza said he and Bello will  fly to Oslo around the middle of June, or even before Duterte and his Cabinet formally assume office.

Duterte said that if both contending parties, in their preliminary talks, could hammer out an initial agreement, then he would release all the political prisoners.

“As long as I am satisfied that the agreement would enhance and not jeopardize the republic of the Philippines, and eventually be a plus factor in our lives,” Duterte said.

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Human rights group Karapatan has documented at least 543 political prisoners, including 18 NDFP consultants. Of the 543 political prisoners, 88 are sick while 48 are elderly.

Duterte earlier said confidence was high between the two parties, and that he had no other agenda in pursuing the peace talks other than resolving the conflict.

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TAGS: Communist Party of the Philippines, Nation, news, Peace Talks, Rodrigo Duterte
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