MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday again hinted that he is open to resuming his government’s peace talks with communist rebels, saying the two sides cannot fight forever.
Duterte said the government is not the enemy of the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and this is why he could not accept having government troops kill communist rebels who are their fellow Filipinos.
The President made the statement even as his administration has moved to declare the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations and launched a crackdown against communist leaders and their followers.
“I’d like to address myself first to the NPAs. Alam mo, hindi tayo magkalaban. Gusto ko mang lumaban, eh ang puso ko, sinasabi niya ‘ang kapwa mo Pilipino pinapatay mo,’” Duterte said in a speech during the inauguration of the Lisap bridge project in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro.
“But the problem is, kayo ganoon rin. Gusto kong magkaroon tayo ng usapan. But along the way, papunta doon maraming obstructions and everything, but you must understand, dapat intindihin ninyo hindi madali magpunta sa paratingan natin.”
Duterte said he would like to seek a “middle ground” with the communists since the two sides cannot fight forever.
“Ang problema, dalawa tayo, nagpapakamatay rin kami sa pinapaniwalaan namin na tama. And so if we can have a middle ground, hindi ko naman sinasarahan lahat because hindi totoo ‘yang forever. Maski sa magkakasintahan, ngayon lang ‘yan. Bukas, ‘pag hawakan na ang kamay wala na,” he said.
Duterte’s statement is the latest in his constantly changing position towards the peace talks and communist rebels. In many of his speeches, the President would slam the CPP-NPA for its acts and its supposed passé ideology. In some instances, however, he would change his rhetoric and offer peace to the rebels.
In his speech today, Duterte again appealed to the communist rebels to stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes and burning down equipment of construction firms. He also called on a ceasefire between government troops and rebels.
He said if these conditions are met, he might change his mind on cancelling the peace talks.
“In the meantime na kung gusto niyo talagang totohanan, you stop immediately, you and I ceasefire tayo. Ni walang isang putok, maski labintador and I would be happy,” Duterte said.
“If you want peace, you have to invest money in peace. Kaya puwede tayong mag-usap. Hintuan ninyo ang revolutionary government, huwag na kayong mag-sunog in the name of taxation kasi kaawa ‘yung mga negosyante.”
REDS OPEN TO RESUMPTION OF PEACE TALKS
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Monday said it is open to the possibility of resuming peace talks with the government "without preconditions."
NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they still have the draft of documents that would have been discussed had the government not cancelled the peace talks in November 2017.
"No preconditions. We sit down and talk on basis of the 3 agreements, drafts we have prepared in October, which should have been discussed in November," Agcaoilo told ABS-CBN News Channel.
"Had there been a formal meeting, all documents would have been signed. By this time, we would have what was offered or proposed by the government—a unilateral coordinated ceasefire," he said.
Agcaoili said these 3 agreements include a coordinated ceasefire, general amnesty for political prisoners, and the signing of what was agreed upon by the reciprocal working committees.
He said the government’s move to formally declare the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations was a hindrance and that has to be dealt with in backchannel discussions.