Rody stokes peace talks revival hopes
Peace talks are set to be revived between the government and communist rebels after both President Rodrigo Duterte and the National Democratic Front expressed openness to resume formal peace negotiations.
After several attempts of dismissing peace negotiations, Duterte underscored the need to remain talking with the communists, amid the problems the country is facing such as terrorism, insurgency, and illegal drugs.
“Ang problema ko na lang is itong terrorism, which is really ISIS. Yung Maute was just the face, ‘yung Maute ano talaga, ideology ’to. So I’m facing that. I have to talk to the NPA still,” Duterte said in a speech during the launch of Cebu Pacific’s 7th domestic hub in Misamis Oriental.
“And there’s the droga, which remains to be a serious problem for our country,” he added.
Duterte made the pronouncements after he met with Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza and Labor Secretary and government peace panel chairperson Secretary Silvestre Bello III at the Malago Clubhouse in the Presidential Security Group Compound in Malacañang.
Reacting to Duterte’s pronouncements, NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said that the revolutionary movement is also open to reviving formal talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.
“The NDFP has always been open to continue with the fifth round of the formal talks, which he scuttled in May 2017,” Agcaoili told alternative media outfit Kodao Productions.
In a Palace news briefing, Bello earlier said that the peace negotiations with the communists remains “alive” despite the President’s own pronouncements abandoning a possible revival of talks within his term.
Saying that the government isn’t sending any formal notice to terminate the peace talks yet, Bello explained that Duterte will not “abandon” his pledge to the Filipino people to bring “lasting peace for our country” in coming up with a successful deal with the communists.
“When the President came in as our president, he made a very clear statement that his legacy to our country and our countrymen is a lasting peace for our country. So I don’t think that the President has abandoned that legacy,” the Labor chief added.
Government negotiators earlier canceled the fifth round of formal negotiations last May after failing to secure an open-ended bilateral ceasefire agreement with the NDF.
The slated resumption of the talks last August were likewise canceled, amid the lack of enabling environment to proceed with the talks.
In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte warned that the communists will soon be the government’s next target when the crisis in war-torn Marawi City ends.
In the same speech, Duterte said he has no plans of becoming a dictator as he chided his political opponents, particularly the “yellows” who have political ambitions and are power hungry.
“These are just people who cannot accept defeat. Iniintriga ako sa lahat,” Duterte said.
Duterte had warned that he would declare a revolutionary government if his critics’ attempt to destabilize the government escalates and causes trouble.
“I mean, I will serve during my time. Kung sabihin mo, mag-ambisyon ako ng…you must be crazy,” he said.
“Huwag kayo maniwala diyan na ambisyoso ako. On the dot ako. On the last day of my term, o earlier than that, I’ll step down. It is not because o—Lahat naman tao may ambisyon pero ‘yung mag-ambisyon ka… You’re being pictured to be one sa opposition. When you can invent that kind of scenario for your fellow men, this is—Ikaw ang may gusto. Kayo yung may mga ambisyon. Hindi ako,” he added.
Duterte maintained that he does not intend to stay in power beyond 2022, when his term as President expires, following his controversial declaration that he would set up a revolutionary government.