MANILA - Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Joma Sison may return to the Philippines without being arrested if the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resume, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson said.
“The President is willing and able to grant Joma Sison an assurance that he can come without being arrested,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
Sison, Duterte’s former professor, has been living in exile in the Netherlands since 1987.
Duterte on Wednesday ordered his Cabinet secretaries to work on the resumption of peace talks with the communist movement “with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” according to his peace process adviser Jesus Dureza.
The President's directive followed his statement on Tuesday that he would resume the talks if the rebels stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes from businesses and torching equipment of construction firms.
Duterte also called for a ceasefire between government troops and communist rebels.
Roque said these demands from the President are “non-negotiable”. The resumption of the peace talks will depend on whether the communists will agree to these “pre-conditions,” he added.
The peace talks collapsed in November last year after Duterte cited the communist rebels’ continued attacks against state troops despite ongoing negotiations.
The President then moved to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.
The Department of Justice has moved to ask the court to formally declare CPP-NPA as terror organizations.
Sison, however, said the petition is "a problem" because it has banned NDFP communist consultants from participating in peace negotiations.
"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.
Roque said there is a possibility that the petition may be withdrawn if the peace talks resume.
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, Sison added, should discuss Duterte's offer of providing “support” to the rebels if they stop collecting revolutionary taxes, as earlier said by Dureza.
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 Reuters