Gov’t, Reds trade accusations of insincerity

    91

    BY VICTOR REYES and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    COMMUNIST leader Jose Maria Sison yesterday said he doubts President Duterte’s sincerity in offering a resumption of formal peace negotiations between the government and the communist movement.

    Sison, who has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since the late 80s, said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) proposed “goodwill measures” after President Duterte’s pronouncement to send government peace negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to Netherlands to talk to him. But the measures were rejected by the government, he said.

    “In good faith, the NDFP has proposed goodwill measures, such as reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of sickly and elderly political prisoners, especially the NDFP political prisoners detained in violation of JASIG (Joint Agreement on Immunity and Security Guarantees), in order to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations,” said Sison.

    Duterte’s spokesman, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, cast doubt on the communist group’s sincerity about pursuing peace because of its refusal to hold the talks in the Philippines.

    “What the President wants is open the peace talks but Mr. (Jose Maria) Sison appears to be not open to it because according to him, if it is done in Manila, they are open to arrest and surveillance. And my take on that is that if you’re really sincere, it doesn’t matter where the venue is when you hold the talks,” he said.

    He reassured the communist leaders group led by Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and NDFP consultant, they would not be arrested if they return to the country for the talks.

    A staunch Duterte supporter, meanwhile, said the peace talks are a waste of time.

    Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs and Duterte’s first PNP chief, said the communists are not sincere.

    “Lokohan ang peace talks na yan. Are they sincere? No. Kung sincere sila eh di matagal nang natapos ito (We are just fooling each other. Are they (Reds) sincere? No. If they are really sincere, the conflict should have long ended),” he said.

    He said that each time peace negotiations resume, the rebels take it as an opportune time to regroup and strengthen their forces by taking advantage of a ceasefire.

    He said Sison enters into a peace negotiation every time government forces would nearly wipe out the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the CPP.

    Sison, on holding the talks in the Philippines, said, “It is highly probable that Duterte’s offer of peace negotiations, preconditioned by resuming them in the Philippines, is a prelude to the escalation of attacks against the people and the revolutionary forces.”

    He said the New People’s Army “can see through the ruse and will not lay itself open to attacks by declaring a ceasefire that is not reciprocated by the AFP and PNP.” – With Raymond Africa