Joma: Duterte’s demands should be brought to negotiating table

By Chad de Guzman, CNN Philippines
Updated 09:13 AM PHT Thu, April 5, 2018

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — The chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) said the demands of President Rodrigo Duterte should be brought to the negotiating panel in the peace talks.

“I think the proper place for discussing the most complicated and most sensitive questions would be the negotiating table. The negotiating panel should have all the leeway to express differing positions or even conflicting positions and make complaints, and it is up to the two sides to arrive at a solution to any kind of problem, and resolve it,” NDF Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison told CNN Philippines Thursday.

Duterte seeks to open peace negotiations with the communist rebels, provided they meet certain conditions from the President. Among these include a total ceasefire and a halt to revolutionary taxes.

Sison — founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — said the new round of talks will happen “sooner than later,” but he has kept silent on the ceasefire agreement.

“We are in a very happy situation where the two sides which have not met for about a year in formal negotiations, we are happy they are going to meet soon,” he said.

He also reminded that Duterte, whom he had a word war with in November after he tagged the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists, still enjoys his support.

“”As soon as he won the Presidency, I told him I wish him the best. We have a relationship — me on my side being the teacher, and him as a student — so I told him ‘I want you to succeed,” so long as he’s willing to cooperate for the benefit of the people,” he explained.

Sison, on exile in the Netherlands, previously called Duterte the country’s number one terrorist. He accused the President as culpable for the drug-related killings, as well as the attack in Marawi City on May 23.

“I suppose if the two of us can bring about just and lasting peace in the country, that would be something excellent for our people, and I suppose the Presidency of Duterte will become a success,” he said.

Meanwhile, government’s Chief Negotiator for the peace process Silvestre Bello III said he was pleasantly surprised at the speed the peace talks has resumed.

“Although I’ve been noting that he would, one day, do that, because from the very start it has been very clear to us na ‘yung pinaka-legacy niya sa ating bansa ay pang-habambuhay na kapayapaan [his legacy will be marked by long-lasting peace],” Bello told CNN Philippines in a phone interview Thursday.

The negotiations between the NDF and the Philippine government ended in November 2017, after 18 years of on-off peace talks. The Duterte government is the sixth administration attempting to put an end to the 48-year-long communist insurgency – the longest-running in Asia.

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