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‘Last chance’ peace bid hits snag—Roque

MALACAÑANG on Monday said the planned peace talks with communist leaders suffered a setback after Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison set a condition that the government peace panel will have to discuss.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that while Sison feels that President Rodrigo Duterte has made the peace offer in “good faith,” his condition for returning to the Philippines for talks will have to be discussed. 

“As far as I know, both have to agree to resume peace talks and the 60-day period should be reckoned from that date,” the Palace spokesman said.

The CPP founder said he will end his exile and directly talk to the President if he (Sison)  is assured that the peace negotiations will not be agitated by “peace spoilers” who will benefit if the war between the military and the rebel will continue.

In a press briefing, Roque said the possible resumption of the government’s peace talks with the communists could be the “last chance” to finally put an end to the decades-long rebellion.

“The problem is we’ve been talking peace with them for years and years and years. There is no end. So I think the President said that this is our last chance,” Roque said.

The Palace official said the 60-day timeframe set by President Duterte for the revived peace talks with the communists was just enough to achieve the parties’ shared agenda of addressing the root cause of the rebellion.

 “I don’t think there’s a divergence of views on the root causes of rebellion; it is poverty. So if the government and the CPP-NPA will agree to address the root causes, then it should not even take 60 days,” Roque said.

“We have a common platform. A better and comfortable life for all,” Roque said.

The presidential spokesperson also assured the safety of Sison should he come home to the Philippines to talk peace with the government.

“The President has given his word that he will not be apprehended while in the Philippines… His liberty will be guaranteed by the President,” Roque said.

On the other hand, he clarified that apart from guaranteeing the Communist leader’s protection while in the country, the President has not acceded to any other conditions set by the CPP.

“I don’t know if he’s in the position to provide for conditions,” he said, referring to Sison’s recent statement that significant advances in the peace talks should first be attained before he comes home.

“What the President said was if peace talks will resume, he’s welcome to come home, the President will assure his security and the fact that he will not be arrested. Beyond that, the President has not acceded to any further terms,” Roque added.

In an interview with the ANC news channel, a consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) said both sides are likely to meet President Duterte’s 60-day window to resume peace talks.

“The two sides have agreed on common grounds. Sec. [Jess] Dureza said that the two panels are likely to beat the deadline set by President Duterte to resume the peace talks in two months,” NDF consultant Rey Casambre told ANC.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the CPP-New People’s Army-NDF must convince its members to stop committing atrocities against civilians and prove its sincerity and commitment to forging a lasting peace with the government.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin made this statement over the weekend following the unprovoked attack that killed a pastor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and wounded two of his companions in Gigaquit, Surigao Del Norte last April 18. With PNA

In the incident, Jepti Acedo was killed while two of his companions were severely wounded. 

“The AFP reiterates its call to the CPP-NPA-NDF to stop all atrocities against the people and be sincere in the peace process,” he added.

Datuin said this latest NPA atrocity was an act of terrorism.

“This exemplifies the NPA’s contempt and total disrespect to human rights and International Humanitarian Law,” the AFP spokesperson said. 

Topics: Communist Party of the Philippines , Jose Ma. Sison , Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque , President Rodrigo Duterte
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