Joma Sison urges Duterte to revive peace talks
DAVAO CITY—Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison on Friday urged President Duterte to allow back-channel meetings between negotiators of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to clear obstacles to the resumption of the peace talks.
Sison, who serves as NDFP’s chief political consultant in the talks, said he understood the President’s decision to terminate the talks, but Mr. Duterte should have reacted with “a measure of restraint” to avoid a deterioration of the situation that stalled the peace process.
“I propose [that he] consult thoroughly with his negotiating panel and the peace advocates in his own Cabinet and others outside of his government, and encourage and allow back-channeling efforts to clarify misunderstandings and solve immediately the current problems,” Sison said.
The communist rebels last week announced they would end their unilateral ceasefire on Friday, accusing the government of reneging on a promise to release hundreds of political prisoners and violating its own truce.
Mr. Duterte reacted angrily, terminating the government ceasefire and ending the talks, saying there could be no peace with the communist rebels, whom he called terrorists, “in this generation.”
The government then canceled the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which gives safe conduct to rebel negotiators and their staff.
The military also declared an all-out war on the New People’s Army, and, with the police, began to hunt down rebel leaders who had been freed to participate in the talks.
Sison said Norway, which brokered the talks, deserved to be informed about what happened to the negotiations so that it could help revive the peace process.
Sison said the two sides could resume the talks even if there was no truce, so that they could continue forging substantial agreements on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms, a bilateral ceasefire, and amnesty for all political prisoners “within 2017.”
He noted that at least 10 major agreements had been sealed during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos despite continued fighting between soldiers and guerrillas.
The communists “wish to pursue with the government the bright prospects that started with the first round of formal talks in August 2016 and overcome the peace spoilers that run counter to the progress that has been achieved in the third round of formal talks,” he said.
The latest round of talks held in Rome ended with some major gains, including an agreement in principle to distribute free land to farmers and farm workers and rebel support for a federal system of government being pushed by Mr. Duterte. —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON AND DELFIN MALLARI
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