MANILA - Despite his earlier order to "destroy" the Communist Party of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday again said the government was still open to peace negotiations with communist rebels.
Duterte told Cabinet members and local officials in Bicol that the government "cannot afford to lose all channels of communication."
"Ngayon di na kami magkaintindihan ni (Jose Ma.) Sison. Pero I’d like you to know we are keeping the fire burning and hindi puwedeng sarahan. You cannot afford to lose all channels of communication. Mag-iwan ka talaga maski maliit," Duterte said in a situation briefing on the effects of Tropical Depression Usman in Pili, Camarines Sur.
(Now, Sison and I cannot understand each other anymore. But I’d like you to know we are keeping the fire burning and we cannot close [doors]. You cannot afford to lose all channels of communication. You have to leave even just a little [room].)
"So mayroon diyan. Sabi ko sige basta walang coalition and no malalaking ano. Undersecretary siguro, director tutal pwede mong i-ano yan but not money, mahirap."
(So there's one. I said yes as long as there's no coalition [government] and no big...undersecretary or director but no money, it's hard.)
Sison, in a Facebook post, said that while the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) remained open to peace negotiations with the government, the communist movement's efforts were now geared towards Duterte's ouster.
In response, Malacañang said Sison "has become illusory."
Ties between Sison and Duterte soured last year after the President accused communist rebels of continuing their attacks against government troops despite the ongoing peace talks.
Another resumption was scheduled in late June but it was cancelled as the government sought to review all agreements entered into by the communists with past administrations.
In November, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 formally ending the government’s peace talks with the communists. A month later, he signed Executive Order No. 70 ordering the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”