Grab opportunity to talk with Duterte, Palace to Joma Sison

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

January 2, 2020, 12:31 pm

<p>President Rodrigo Duterte <em>(Presidential Photo)</em></p>

President Rodrigo Duterte (Presidential Photo)

MANILA -- Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison should grab the chance to hold a one-on-one meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Sison should be "elated" that the President is still acknowledging him as the leader of the communist movement, despite the fact that the CPP leader has been in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

"Joma Sison should be elated by that development because we've been saying na (that) he's no longer in control of the ground forces kasi (because) you talk about peace pagkatapos binabanatan niyo yung mga force ng gobyerno (and yet, you're attacking the government forces)," Panelo said in an interview with ANC.

"Yet the President wants him. Ibig sabihin (Meaning), the President recognizes him as the leader of the forces. Eh dati nga hindi siya kinikilala (before, he's not been recognized as the leader of the communist party). So he should take that opportunity. Take that opportunity," he added.

On Monday, Duterte reiterated his desire to talk with Sison sans the presence of peace panel from both the national government and the CPP's political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte's latest stance came even after the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), violated the holiday truce with the government following its series of attacks against the government troops.

The holiday ceasefire, which took effect on Dec. 23, 2019, will end at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020.

NPA rebels reportedly attacked soldiers and policemen in Labo, Camarines Norte; Tubungan, Iloilo; and Quezon province on the first day of the implementation of the temporary ceasefire.

The communist-initiated attacks also came despite the plan to revive the peace talks.

Before the proposed resumption of peace negotiations, Sison should heed the President's call for a one-on-one meeting, Panelo said.

Panelo reassured Sison, who is facing arrest in the Philippines for his supposed involvement in the so-called "Inopacan massacre" in 1980, would not be apprehended upon his return to the country.

"Well, the President, as we have said before, wants Joma Sison to come and to have a one-on-one talk with him. He should come here. If he's really sincere, he should not be afraid of any arrest or [subject] anyone from their panel to be arrested," he said.

"The President has precisely given his personal guarantee na hindi ka magagalaw dito hanggang makaalis ka kahit walang mangyari sa atin (he will not get arrested even if the meeting does not yield positive results). If we talk and then we fail to agree on anything, then you can go freely, walang mangyayari sa 'yo (nothing will happen to you)," Panelo added.

Sison earlier said he was amenable to the proposed meeting with Duterte, on condition that the dialogue will be held in a neutral country "near the Philippines".

Panelo, however, maintained that Sison cannot make any demands.

Duterte, who initially had warm relations with the communists, was forced to sign Proclamation 360 on Nov. 23, 2017, which formally shelved the talks between state peace negotiators and NDF consultants, following the NPA's continued attacks against the government forces and civilians.

The President also signed on Dec. 5, 2017 Proclamation 374, which brands the CPP-NPA as a terror organization.

Panelo could not say whether there is a possibility for Duterte to lift the two proclamations to pave the way for the possible resumption of talks, considering that the communist movement had shown insincerity.

"They want to sit on the table and talk peace and yet, they're assaulting our forces. From the very beginning, iyan ang ayaw ng Presidente (that's what the President doesn't like), they're showing insincerity," he said.

The CPP-NPA has also been listed as a terror group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (PNA)