Duterte to start preliminary talks with leftist rebels

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY -- (UPDATED) Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he would send an emissary to Europe to start preliminary peace talks with communist rebels aimed at ending a nearly five-decade-long insurgency.

Duterte said he tasked incoming peace adviser Jesus Dureza to fetch Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, who is on self-exile in the Utrecht.

Sison, who is facing several criminal charges in court, will be given a “safe conduct pass,” Duterte said.

“If we are able to hammer out a perfect agreement for everybody, then I would release all the political prisoners as long as we are satisfied with the agreement,” he said.

“If it’s convenient for him (Sison) to come tomorrow, then fine. Let me know because I have to prepare the authority for him to come, and then his billeting. Of course, we’re not going to arrest him. If nothing turns out to be productive, then he can go back."

Peace negotiations with the left have been stalled for over a decade as the government refused to release prisoners with links to the communist party.

The armed wing of the CPP, the New People’s Army, has been waging one of the world’s longest-running Maoist campaigns from the countryside.