Duterte, leftists in Cabinet to meet on peace talks breakdown

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2017 09:06 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with (from left to right) National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial prior to the start of the 12th Cabinet Meeting at the State Dining Room of Malacañan Palace on Tuesday. Simeon Celi, Jr, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will meet with leftist members of the Cabinet next week to discuss the recently terminated peace talks, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza confirmed on Wednesday.

Maza said, Duterte asked to meet with her, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and government chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday night.

"Nasa-agenda sana sa report ni [Peace Process Adviser] Secretary [Jesus] Dureza, pero dahil gumagabi na, sinabi ni Presidente na pupulungin niya kami [next week]...para pag-usapan ang development sa peace process," Maza said.

Maza sees an opening for the peace talks in their upcoming meeting with Duterte.

"I think the fact may sinasabi siyang pag-uusap, there's always room for optimism. Sabi ko nga, never say die. Kami naman, tingin ko, ang isang role namin, alam naman ni Presidente ang posisyon namin sa peace process ay maging tinig ng mga mamamayan natin na naghahangad ng kapayapaan na nakabatay sa hustisya," Maza said.

Among the possible topics are ways to address the roots of poverty which hinder national development, as stated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

Maza would also like to believe their working relationship with the president remains positive.

"Of course, ang final analysis--it is the President's call, political decision niya kung kami ay mananatili o hindi. Ito ay concern kung bakit kami pinili si Presidente ay dahil dun sa integredad ng mga inappoint niya at pagtitiwala na gagawin ang katungkulan ay nandoon. At palagay ko, may ganoon pa ring tiwala si Presidente," Maza said.

"At this crucial moment, mas lalo na palakasin ang boses ng sibilyan sa gabinete para mapanatili ang kapayapaan."

Duterte earlier announced that the government was scrapping peace talks with the New People's Army saying the "terrorist group" was making unacceptable demands despite government concessions.

Duterte, who won an election last year on a vow to wipe out illegal drugs, had raised hopes of bringing an end to the communist insurgency that has stunted development for years, especially in central parts of the Philippines.

A ceasefire was declared in August and last month, the government asked the U.S. State Department to remove the rebel movement's Netherlands-based founder and leader, Jose Ma. Sison, from its terrorist blacklist to move negotiations forward.

But both sides later traded accusations of truce violations and negotiating in bad faith.

Duterte said he had "walked the extra mile" to bring peace by resuming talks and freeing rebel leaders but his efforts were never reciprocated by the communists who took advantage of the talks to recruit fighters and extort money. – with Reuters