President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he would allow Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison to come home if rebels would stop collecting revolutionary taxes and release all state officers in their custody.
Speaking at the 29th Annual National Convention of the Prosecutors League of the Philippines in Clark, Pampanga, Duterte said he had asked Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and chief government negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to inform Sison that he is free to go home, while laying down government's conditions.
"Dureza and Bello called me. Sabi ko (I said), you tell Sison because he's sick, very sick, you can come home, I'll give him freedom of movement. I will not arrest him. I'll even pay for the hospitalization kung gusto niya (if he wants)," Duterte said of his former college professor.
Duterte, however, laid down his conditions for allowing Sison to go back to the country.
He asked the CPP to stop asking for revolutionary taxes, as well as to release all prisoners.
"Una, stop the revolutionary tax. Napapahiya ako eh. If you continue, engkwentro talaga tayo diyan (First, stop the revolutionary tax. That embarrasses me. If you continue, we will just have conflict)," the President said.
"Second is release all prisoners. Sabi nila (they said) within the next two days," Duterte said.
In a joint press conference Wednesday, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines announced that it would release four police officers and soldiers in its custody.
The government panel meanwhile vowed to release 23 political prisoners in various jails.
Duterte also asked the communists to stop claiming territories.
"Third, do not claim any territory in this. As administrator of government, ako ang may-ari ng lahat ng lupa dito (I own all the land here). Do not claim any territories. Then guarantee of a ceasefire," he said.
For Duterte, Sison and the CPP should follow his conditions for the protracted conflict between the government and the communists to stop.
"Kung wala 'yan, sabi ko ayaw ko. Giyera na lang tayo (If they won't do that, I said I don't want (to continue negotiating. Let's just go to war). We have been at it for 50 years. Do you want to fight for another 50 years?" he said.
Sison, who has been in exile in The Netherlands since 1987, earlier said returning home was an option under the Duterte administration.
Peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels just resumed this week after a collapse in February. Brokering peace with the rebels is among Duterte's priorities.