Duterte win sparks hope for end to NPA rebellion
Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News
Joma Sison eyes ceasefire to revive peace talks
THE NETHERLANDS - Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison expressed optimism that peace can be attained within the six-year term of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte.
READ: Joma Sison eyes ceasefire, return to PH if Duterte wins
Sison is amenable to a mutual ceasefire with government as a gesture of goodwill to revive peace negotiations.
Sison's plans for his return to Manila look inevitable. He might be accompanied by his long-time revolutionary friend, Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace negotiating panel.
Sison admitted he has an advance team in Manila that will push for a mutual ceasefire. This can be done in two weeks to one month and can be outlined in a one-page document.
Clarifying it's not an imposition, Sison believes Duterte may release 560 political prisoners, many of whom are sick.
Sison claims his group is no longer holding police or military prisoners. If they still do, he shall order their release, he said.
Incumbent President Benigno Aquino III shelved peace talks in 2013, accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.
The talks bogged down after the communists demanded the release of all of their jailed comrades, which the Aquino administration rejected.
According to Sison, peace talks with previous governments failed because they insisted in making the surrender of firearms as a first step to any peace initiative and permanent ceasefire.
One serious concern of Sison should he decide to return home is his security.
"Sinasabing in general..habang hindi pa settled yung bagong regime, baka may mga unwieldy elements diyan,'' Sison said.
Asked if there were indeed offers for him and his comrades to occupy any Cabinet position, he said there are hints, but it's the least of his priorities.
Both Sison and Jalandoni strongly support Duterte's vision of federalism,which they prefer to call decentralization or regional autonomy.
Jalandoni hints it's a good start to the road for socialism, even as he tried to evade the term ''communism."
"Makikita ng taumbayan na lahat ito ay para sa kabutihan at makikita na maeempower..mga manggagawa, magsasaka, iyung mga urban poor, mga indigenous people, mga lumad. Makikita nila lahat sila mismo bahagi sa build-up ng kanilang future,'' Jalandoni said.
Sison has been in political exile in The Netherlands for nearly three decades since his release in 1987 under the administration of Cory Aquino.
For him, the biggest challenge to the Duterte administration is how far it will go to implement real economic, political and social reforms.
Sison, a political science professor, established the CPP in December 1968 and it launched a guerrilla campaign three months later.
The rebellion has left at least 30,000 people dead, by official account.
The New People's Army (NPA) is believed to have fewer than 4,000 soldiers, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military. However, it retains support among the deeply poor in the rural Philippines.
Duterte, who was Sison's student at Lyceum University in Manila in the 1960s, is the long-time mayor of the southern city of Davao.
Some of the communists strongholds today are near Davao, and Duterte has maintained relations with them.
Last week, ABS-CBN released footage of Duterte chatting with Sison via Skype on his laptop.
"I'm a socialist," said Duterte, who won Monday's election in a landslide.
The network said the chat took place shortly after communist rebels freed five police hostages last month in Davao. – with Agence France-Presse