MANILA - The Duterte administration should withdraw its bid to declare communist guerrillas as terrorists before fanning hopes of reviving stalled peace talks with the group, their exiled leader Jose Maria Sison said Thursday.
Duterte on Wednesday asked his Cabinet to work on resuming peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organization of the communist movement, 4 months after he called off talks.
The Department of Justice, however, has a pending petition before a Manila court to cite the NDFP's political wing, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and its armed wing, New People’s Army, as terrorist organizations.
The petition is "a problem" because it has banned NDFP communist consultants from the 2 organizations from participating in peace negotiations, said Sison, founder of the CPP.
"That kind of obstacle or hindrance must be dealt with properly in a timely manner," the Netherlands-based Sison said in an interview with ANC.
"If the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines) side is really serious in aiming for the big results, which is the attainment of peace and even truce or ceasefire in the meantime... the obstacles and hindrance should be done away with," he added.
TRUCE, REVOLUTIONARY TAXES
Duterte, who was Sison's student at a Manila university in the 1960s, earlier promised to end the decades-old communist rebellion. The President, however, abandoned peace efforts in November, complaining of repeated rebel attacks.
The President said he would resume the talks if the rebels stop collecting "revolutionary taxes" from businesses and torching equipment of construction firms.
Sison said the rebels will "gladly" enter a ceasefire agreement so peace talks could resume if "what was promised since a long time ago by President Duterte -- the amnesty and release of the political prisoners -- is fulfilled."
The NDFP and the government, he added, should discuss Duterte's offer of providing support to the rebels if they stop collecting revolutionary taxes.
The government and the communists have been in on-again, off-again negotiations since 1986. Norway has brokered some talks.
The communist insurgency has stunted economic development in several resource-rich provinces, just as Moro separatist rebellions have plagued large parts of the south of the Catholic-majority country.
With a report from Reuters