Joma Sison to Duterte: Let’s get peace talks going

Joma Sison to Duterte: Let’s get peace talks going
(The Philippine Star) – June 21, 2018 – 1:00am
https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/21/1826614/joma-sison-duterte-lets-get-peace-talks-going

MANILA, Philippines — Communist leader Jose Ma. Sison wants peace negotiations to resume and is prepared to return to the Philippines for formal talks if the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms are completed and mutually approved.

Sison said backchannel talks are ongoing with the government’s peace negotiators led by Hernani Braganza in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The government panel explained to the self-exiled rebel leaders why President Duterte scrapped the resumption of formal talks, scheduled on June 28.

“Let’s get on with the peace negotiations,” Sison said, addressing President Duterte.

“After we make substantial progress – even only with the completion of the negotiations on social and economic reforms, I think the opposite parties can talk in the Philippines.”

Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and National Democratic Front chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili talked to The Chiefs on Cignal TV’s One News channel yesterday from Sison’s home in Utrecht. Also at the show aired last night was NDF consultant Rey Casambre, director of the Philippine Peace Center.

Sison and Agcaoili, however, insisted that the next round of talks should be in a “foreign neutral venue,” with a third party facilitator.

“If the two panels finish fast enough I can go home, but if not then so let it be,” Sison told The Chiefs. “The NDF would like to make sure that there is no premature shifting of the venue of peace negotiations. We must comply first with the (joint agreement) provision for neutral venue. We’re glad that (the Philippine government) has clarified that the Royal Norwegian government remain as third party facilitator – meaning we will conduct rounds until the two parties decide.”

He said if the peace talks collapse, the communist movement would work for the ouster of Duterte.

In a statement earlier yesterday, the CPP said President Duterte’s demand to hold the peace talks between the government and communist rebels in the Philippines is “totally unacceptable.”

The CPP also accused Duterte of scheming to hold hostage the consultants of the NDF once they agree to the Philippines as venue for the talks.

Sison earlier said he is opposed to holding the talks in the Philippines and that Duterte is killing the peace negotiations by insisting to have the Philippines as venue.

The CPP also warned the Duterte administration that it will continue to wage an “extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare” to frustrate its aims.

“Duterte is putting forward a demand it knows is totally unacceptable to the revolutionary forces. It is like the NDF insisting that peace talks be held in the territories under the political authority of the revolutionary forces, something that Duterte will definitely not accept,” the CPP said.

Earlier reports said Sison has agreed to come home for the peace talks in August.

But Sison warned of the possibility that he and the NDF negotiators will be held hostage by the government if he comes home.

“By dictating the venue of the peace negotiations, in violation of the standing agreement on a neutral foreign venue, Duterte is killing the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

By demanding to hold the talks in the Philippines, Duterte is practically scrapping The Hague Declaration of 1992 and, by consequence, the entire peace negotiations itself.

The CPP said Duterte also wants to trash all the past efforts of the Norwegian government as third party facilitator.

“Duterte is showing complete antipathy towards holding serious peace negotiations with the NDF, and merely wants to hold hostage and completely paralyze the talks,” the CPP said.

The CPP said Duterte wants to use the cancellation of the agreements to resume talks with the NDF to justify his total war and advance his scheme to establish “a fascist dictatorship and impose nationwide martial law.”

On the other hand, Malacañang has not confirmed reports that Sison would return home in August.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the information about Sison’s alleged plan to come home remains unverified.

“We have not confirmed that. But President Duterte has repeatedly said the talks should be held here in the Philippines and he has invited Joma Sison to come here. He will provide Joma Sison security and he will shoulder the logistics and other needs of those who will join the talks,” Roque told dzMM.

“If nothing happens in the talks, he will bring Joma Sison to the airport so he can leave the country,” he added.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde added they are ready to provide security to Sison should he come home.

“If he needs protective security then we will give him,” Albayalde said.

While Sison is facing various charges, Albayalde assured him he will not be arrested because of the peace talks.

“He will be given a safe conduct pass to give way for the peace negotiations,” he said.

The reports that Sison is coming home were based on the interview with Casambre.

Along with NDF legal consultant Rachel Pastores, they said at a press briefing that until there is a final peace agreement, the armed conflict will continue.

Unless the matter is specifically agreed upon or stipulated in a bilateral ceasefire, recruitment of new NPA cadres will not stop, they said.

Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said their statements confirmed suspicions that the NPA is taking advantage of the peace process to recruit new members.

This only justified the government’s decision to temporarily withhold the resumption of peace negotiations with the rebels, Andolong said. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Jaime Laude

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