Peace talks in PH? Not yet, says Joma Sison

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2019 10:34 AM | Updated as of Dec 09 2019 11:02 AM

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MANILA - Resuming peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels is a welcome surprise for Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison, but holding it in the Philippines may not just happen yet.

"I think there needs to be several steps before we could reach a point of having peace negotiations in the Philippines," Sison said in an interview on ANC's Early Edition via Skype Monday morning.

Sison said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines cannot agree to "[submit] itself to the control of the peace process by the regime and come under the control and surveillance of the military."

He said President Rodrigo Duterte could start the process by adopting goodwill measures to create a climate for peace negotiations like releasing political prisoners on humanitarian grounds in the spirit of Christmas and New Year.

"First of all, at this time, it would be good to adopt goodwill measures then the next step is to hold a formal meeting in a foreign neutral venue in order to resume the peace negotiations," he said.

"I think the president is intelligent enough to see there is also benefit for him and his administration that the peace negotiations be resolved," he added.

He said the next steps that could be taken include reaffirming agreements forged since 1992 and to do away with what he called as repressive measures and for the negotiating panel to return to the interim peace agreement.

"Fourth step is to complete the negotiations up to the point of mutual approval by the two parties of the comprehensive agreement on social economic reforms," he said.

On Thursday, December 5, Duterte hinted at a chance to resume peace talks with communist rebels during a situation briefing on typhoon Tisoy in Legazpi City. He said he was ordering Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk to Sison.

Bello was the government’s chief peace negotiator until last March when the President formally terminated peace talks with the Reds, saying he will no longer entertain any ‘persuasions’ from Sison’s group.

"It surprised us that he announced practically without any preconditions at first that the talks should be resumed and so there was some show of good faith and we welcome that show of good faith," Sison said.

He however said that Duterte has to overcome obstacles in order for peace negotiations to happen in the Philippines.

"It's impossible to negotiate in the Philippines with those obstacles existing...de facto martial law all over the nation in the form of Executive Order 70, militarization of government and they hope the entire country would become fascist in favor of the regime, and then the terrorist designation of important component of the NDF that prevents the peace negotiation being held in the Philippines; and of course Proclamation 360 terminating the peace negotiations has to be done away," he said.

Earlier on Nov 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that declared termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP and the CPP-NPA. On December 2018, he signed EO No. 70 that directed the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

Before calling off the negotiations, Sison said back channel talks made significant progress in 2018 including the forging of a draft interim peace agreement with general amnesty, ceasefire and comprehensive agreements on social economic reforms as components.

With just around 2 years left with his term, Sison said the President's move to resume peace talks could be Duterte's way of leaving a legacy.

"I think, if we think in a positive way about his action, then I think the clear goal is to leave a legacy," he said.

He said that peace negotiations in the Philippines will happen someday only after significant progress in the peace talks.

"So long as substantive issues are being answered then the conditions of peace through ceasefires can be developed," he added. With a report from Jofelle Tesorio, ABS-CBN News