Duterte offer to Reds draws praise, concern


MANILA - Presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte's offer of government roles to the Communist Party of the Philippines is earning both praise and concern from various sectors.

In an interview, political analyst Julio Teehankee said Duterte's move to offer four Cabinet positions to the CPP is a "stroke of genius."

Teehankee, dean of De La Salle University's College of Liberal Arts, said putting the Left in charge of four social service-oriented Cabinet portfolios such as the departments of labor, social welfare, agrarian reform, environment and natural resources, will redound to a truly socially inclusive coalition.

"This is part of his campaign promise to form a unity government, also confidence building measure with the communist Left. This is really out of the box. There has never been a government in our history that has offered the communists to join a coalition," he said in an ANC interview.

"The question is will the appointments come before or after the negotiations resume."

Ramon Casiple, Institute for Political and Electoral Reform executive director, described the offer as a trust-building measure that could effectively jumpstart peace negotiations with the CPP-New People's Army, which has been waging a decades-long rebellion.

Casiple noted the programs covered by the four departments are "not crucial." He said the four departments do not concern national defense or foreign affairs, but are instead primarily concerned with basic services.

Casiple argued that the nature of these departments would test if the CPP is capable of working with the President and the rest of the public.

"Mass services ito e. Ngayon kung kaya nila ibigay iyan sa ating mga manggagawa, magsasaka, sa mga sinalanta ng baha eh ba't hindi? Usapin iyan na patunayan nila na kaya nga nila na magtrabaho kasama ang rest of the people, lalo na iyung ating Presidente," he said.

Meanwhile, a group of former senior government officials voiced concern over plans to bring the CPP into the political mainstream.

Former Education Secretary Edilberto de Jesus, a member of the Former Senior Government Officials, said that while Duterte's effort to forge a unity government is laudable, he should consult other sectors that will be affected by his plans.

De Jesus, a former member of the Peace Commission, took part in discussions with insurgency forces.

"Many of us are in favor of discussions with the [National Democratic Front]. (But to bring them into government?) I think the problem is that it will probably raise many issues with other sectors in the community that will not be immediately comfortable with the idea that they are given these appointments without apparent consultation with other sectors," he said.

"Even [the National Democratic Front] itself was quite cautious in responding to this invitation. They realize also that that process will be very contested. You still have to deal with the Commission on Appointments."

De Jesus said while Duterte won the support of close to 40 percent of the electorate, he cannot ignore the majority of Filipinos who did not back his candidacy.

"He needs the 60% in order to have a successful governance. The task now is to unify the country. The sooner he can do that, the sooner he will be able to make an impact on the problems that we are facing," he said.