Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III met with Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison in The Netherlands from Dec. 7-8 in a bid to revive peace negotiations which was terminated by the President in November 2017.
Bello was joined by Hernani Braganza, who served as government negotiator for backchannel talks with the NDF while formal talks remained stalled, while Sison was accompanied by NDF chairman Luis Jalandoni and NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili.
As this developed, the Interior department said it is not inclined to recommend a ceasefire with the communist rebels this Christmas season.
“No. I will not recommend a ceasefire, but we can give lasting change by welcoming those who will return to the fold of the law and start a new life,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told reporters Tuesday.
Sison, in a statement released yesterday, said military and police advisers of President Rodrigo Duterte appeared bent on sabotaging efforts to revive the peace talks by pushing for the holding of the negotiations in the Philippines.
“In good faith, the NDF has proposed goodwill measures, such as the reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of sickly and elderly political prisoners in order to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations,” Sison said.
“By rebuffing the NDF proposal of goodwill measures, the military and police authorities generate doubts about Duterte’s offer of peace negotiations and indicate a malicious scheme to attack the people and the revolutionary forces without any pause. It is highly probable that Duterte’s offer of peace negotiations, preconditioned by resuming them in the Philippines, is a prelude to the escalation of attacks against the people and the revolutionary forces,” he added.
The Palace, however, insisted the venue should not matter to Sison if he was really sincere in wanting the peace talks to move forward.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo also assured Sison, who has been on self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands since 1987, that he and other communist leaders participating in the negotiations would not be arrested.
“They will not be arrested. The President is promising that. All the pending warrants of arrest against them will be suspended in case the peace talks resume,” Panelo said.
“If they are sincere, they will agree to talk in any venue,” he added.
President Duterte’s decision to dispatch Bello to meet with Sison came three months after the commander-in-chief declared an all-out-war against the communist rebels.
“The President wants to achieve peace and order in the entire country before his term ends in 2022. That is what he is always saying,” Panelo said.
In November 2017, Duterte terminated the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360 and told the CPP-NDF to just “talk to the next President.”
In September this year, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 ordered the arrest of Sison and 37 others who were accused in the “Inopacan massacre,” a supposed purge of CPP members tagged in various offenses that reportedly claimed the lives of about 300 residents in Leyte province.
Back then when the all-out-war policy was still in effect, Panelo challenged to return to the Philippines to face the charges against him.
“Mr. Sison should unchain himself from his exile and face the music. His illusive if not illusory dream of wresting political from the present dispensation should give way to a principled and courageous stand to face trial. He is welcome to come home to avail of his constitutional right to confront his accusers and prepare for his defense,” Panelo said.