Reds must drop arms before joining Duterte Cabinet: Yasay


MANILA - Communist rebels must drop their arms before joining the Cabinet of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte, incoming foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Friday.

Speaking to ANC, Yasay said he does not know if the entry of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines to the Cabinet will affect the Philippines' ties with the United States. The US earlier identified the CPP as a terrorist group.

He said Duterte made the offer to the CPP to join his government with the caveat that the group must stop the armed struggle.

"[Duterte] said it in the context of 'You must make sure that you should drop your arms.' This is the priority of our president-to-be. He wants to make sure that when he hits the ground running, he would have made initial approaches in addressing the peace and order situation, the rebellion," he told ANC's Market Edge.

"People should not take it to mean that the Communist Party Cabinet members will be there even if they will not drop claims to overthrow duly constituted government," he added.

Duterte offers Cabinet posts to Communist Party

Yasay noted this is different from the government's approach with the Bangsamoro Basic Law wherein the proposal was "for us to talk peace, for them to have their own government, for them to have a substate but then they will not drop their arms. They will drop their arms on the basis of certain programs."

"But if the program fails, they can go back," he said.

In a press conference on Monday, Duterte said he will concede four departments to the CPP--Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Yasay said the CPP is a legal organization since the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law allowed anyone to identify as communist or socialist without criminal liabilities.

But the CPP, he added, would have to drop its military arm, the New People's Army.

"I would imagine that because we look at the CPP-NPA as one organization, the CPP perhaps can continue as a legal organization, but they have to drop and abandon their military arm, which is the NPA, and surrender their arms to government," he said.

"It’s now up to Joma Sison, the Communist Party of the Philippines to do that (drop their arms)," he added.

According to Yasay, a general amnesty is on the table "when all of these things come to pass," and stressed that this was not the first time a Philippine president offered such to the left.

President Cory Aquino, he said, "appointed leftist elements in [her] Cabinet."

But the dealings fell through then, and might fall through again today, because people were not too keen on the idea of working with the left.

"I think the principal reason why it did not work is the general mindset of our people is also not receptive to the whole idea of working with these people who had the same sincere desire to look at the paramount national interest and to break away the inequalities—economic and political inequalities—that have engendered the sufferings and exploitations of our people," he explained.

National Democratic Front (NDF) peace negotiating panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni earlier described Duterte's offer of government positions to the CPP as "electrifying", saying the proposal will empower the masses, the peasants and farmers.

Jalandoni said he and exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison will come up with a shortlist of qualified and competent people to fill up the posts at the labor, environment, social welfare, and agrarian reform departments.

He said the move "will head towards equal distribution of wealth."

READ: Communists to submit shortlist to Duterte

The Duterte camp has also appealed to critics to give the CPP a chance to nominate people to government. Duterte's spokesperson Peter LaviƱa said the offer of Cabinet posts to the CPP is part of national healing and unity.

"We are calling on everyone, please stop all this jealousy, bickerings, and infightings. This country needs healing and unity. So it is within this context that the incoming president is extending the offer for the other side to join the government. Let us give everyone a chance. We know that there are many in the underground movement who are qualified, very competent and deserving with this positions," he said.

Duterte earlier promised to guarantee the safety of Sison, the CPP founder and former Catholic priest Luis Jalandoni if they return to the Philippines. The two senior rebel leaders live in exile in the Netherlands and have sought asylum there.

Sison, who was Duterte's political science professor when he was at university, was freed by late President Cory Aquino in 1986 and fled to Europe.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday, Sison said he was "very proud" of Duterte and welcomed his moves to seek rapprochement.

Experts say one bone of contention could be Duterte's support for releasing hundreds of political prisoners.

The military and police, which have long been opposed to the communists, declined to comment on any such amnesty. With Reuters