MANILA - Communist leader Jose Ma. Sison on Sunday accused President Rodrigo Duterte of paving the way for a "bigger armed conflict" in Mindanao with his push for a law giving greater autonomy to the Muslim minority.
Duterte, the first President from Mindanao, has banked on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to correct "historical injustices" against the Moros. The measure was created as part of a 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest rebel group.
Sison, Duterte's former teacher, said several forces oppose the BOL, including the governor of Sulu and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by its founder, Nur Misuari.
"Duterte is quite heavy-handed and yet so sloppy in failing to offer satisfactory terms and secure the agreement of those strongly opposing the BOL," Sison said in a statement.
"He is setting the stage for a bigger armed conflict in the Bangsamoro and adjoining areas," added the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who is in self-exile in The Netherlands.
Misuari earlier said that instead of pushing for the Bangsamoro law, he wants the government to honor the 1996 final peace agreement with the MNLF, saying this has yet to be fully implemented.
Red-clad MNLF followers on Friday trooped to the Cotabato City Hall to oppose the Jan. 21 plebiscite on the Bangsamoro' law ratification, while Duterte was in the city to campaign for the measure.
The President said he hopes to talk to Misuari, whom he described as his "good friend," after the Bangsamoro plebiscite.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II filed a petition in October last year claiming that the BOL violated several provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Sison, who is a consultant of the communist National Democratic Front peace panel, has traded barbs with Duterte over the government's alleged human rights abuses.
Peace talks between the communists and the government have bogged down over mutual accusations that each side was not honoring ceasefires meant to facilitate peace negotiations.
In December 2018, Duterte ordered the military to "destroy" the CPP, which the justice department sought to tag as a terrorist organization.
Sison meanwhile said earlier this month that ousting Duterte will be the "principal work" of communist rebels in 2019.