PRESIDENT-IN-WAITING Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would be willing to give four key Cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines if it decides to join his government.
In a press briefing in Davao City, Duterte said if the communists joined his administration, they would be given control of the departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, Labor and Employment and Social Welfare and Development.
“Labor is the one they are saying [is] the most oppressed, and some of them [communists] are the most vigilant... about labor, so they will get it. And DWSD. But those are the only departments I can concede to them. That’s four—it’s good already,” Duterte said.
On Sunday night, Duterte said he expected his former university professor, Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the CPP, to return from his exile in The Netherlands, to help end the longest-running communist insurgency in the region.
“He is welcome. I am happy with the statement that he is coming home,” Duterte said of Sison. “I would very much want to talk to him about resolving the insurgency.”
Sison, now 77, fled to Europe soon after peace talks with the administration of then President Corazon Aquino failed in 1987.
The communists armed wing, the New People’s Army, is believed to have fewer than 4,000 soldiers, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military, but retains support among the deeply poor in rural areas.
Communists killed three soldiers in the central Philippines on Saturday, according to the military, in the first outbreak of deadly violence between the two sides since Duterte’s election win.
Duterte is due to be sworn into office on June 30.
President Benigno Aquino III revived peace talks soon after taking office in 2010 but shelved them in 2013, accusing the rebels of insincerity.
The talks bogged down after the communists demanded the release of scores of their jailed comrades whom they described as “political prisoners,” which the Aquino government rejected.
Duterte, who was Sison’s student at a Manila university in the 1960s, said Sunday he was open to releasing communist prisoners.
Duterte on Monday said government positions are open to communists as long as they are qualified for the job.
In the same press briefing, Duterte announced that lawyers Salvador Medialdea will be his executive secretary and Salvador Panelo as his press secretary.
Medialdea, a Davao-based lawyer who is part of Duterte’s five-man transition committee, filed Duterte’s last-minute Certificate of Candidacy last year.
Panelo, Duterte’s long-time confidante and known ally of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was the one who faced the media defending him over Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s accusation of Duterte’s alleged ill-gotten wealth while Davao Mayor.
Panelo, a criminal lawyer, was spotted partying in Arroyo’s birthday celebration in her La Vista home in Quezon City, where the former president was seen without a neck brace.
In the same press briefing, Duterte said that he wanted to give the Defense post to former Arroyo Defense chief Gilbert Teodoro, who is already in Davao City for talks.
Duterte also said he wanted former Agriculture secretary Carlos Dominguez to join his Cabinet as Finance secretary.
“Sonny Dominguez has many misgivings [about] my offer. I hope he would consider,” he said.
Duterte said he would also offer Foreign Affairs to his losing running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, if he chooses not to serve out his term as senator.
“If he doesn’t want it, Perfecto Yasay can take his place,” Duterte said, referring to the former chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Duterte also announced that his San Beda Law classmate Arthur Tugade would hold the Transportation and Communications portfolio while Lyceum of the Philippines University Batangas and Laguna Campuses president Peter P. Laurel will be the new Education secretary.
The Palace on Monday said they have yet to hear from Duterte’s transition team.
“We are prepared to meet and work with then. We are awaiting word on when they would like to meet,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Aquino’s transition committee met on Friday to ensure the smooth transition to the incoming administration.
In its first meeting, the Presidential Transition Committee focused on ensuring that the transition reports of all departments, agencies, bureaus, government-owned and -controlled corporations and other instrumentalities under the executive branch are submitted and consolidated by end-May, said Coloma.
This will give the incoming administration ample time to review these reports before assuming office, Coloma added. With Rio N. Araja, Sandy Araneta, AFP
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