MANILA - Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison is “entitled to his own opinion,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s peace adviser said Friday after the exiled communist leader hit the chief executive for delaying the resumption of the peace talks.
Sison on Thursday said he was “exasperated” that the Philippine government “turned against written agreements” signed during backchannel talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the Netherlands from June 5 to 10.
The CPP founder had hoped that the peace talks would resume on June 28, with a stand-down deal to take effect a week prior.
“He is entitled to his own opinion and we respect it. Our purpose in seeking more time is precisely to strengthen and protect the gains achieved so far by both panels in the backchannel talks,” presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said.
Sison had accused Duterte and Dureza of wanting nothing but the “immediate capitulation of the revolutionary movement under the guise of an indefinite ceasefire and killing" of negotiations between the government and the NDFP.
“If that is what they like, the revolutionary forces and people have no choice but to single-mindedly wage a people’s war for national and social liberation, especially at this time that the broad united front of patriotic and progressive forces are already isolating and weakening the Duterte regime,” Sison said.
Dureza on Thursday said Duterte instructed the government peace panel to engage “the bigger peace table, the general public, as we work to negotiate peace with communist rebels.”
He said a more suitable environment for the resumption of peace talks remains absent, thus the need for public consultation.
“It can win public goodwill for the forthcoming resumption of talks. We even intend to invite them to join our resource persons in efforts to win further support,” Dureza said in a text message.
Asked how government would include communist leaders in the consultations, Dureza said: “We have no specifics yet except broad strokes in that direction… but ideally, if both panels or their [representatives] come together and engage the public, a lot of public goodwill can be earned.”
Prior to Dureza’s announcement of the postponement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the military and police, during their command conference with the President on Wednesday, aired concerns over the communist rebels’ tendency to “regroup” whenever there are ongoing talks.
The talks fell through in November last year following clashes between government troops and communist rebels.
Duterte then moved to have the CPP-New People’s Army declared a terrorist group.
The President, however, had a change of heart, saying he would like to give peace another chance.