WEEKS before the expected resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front, President Rodrigo Duterte said he is ready to “resume the violent war” if the talks in Oslo fail.
Duterte, who has invited his former professor and CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison to return to the Philippines, again ruled out a coalition government with the communist leaders as an option.
“I have invited Sison. I do not have the clear answer. But I said, ‘If you come home, I will guarantee your safety and your security. If the talks fail, I’d be glad to escort you here and see you leave the Philippine territory, but please do not return,” he said in a press conference late Saturday evening.
“It was not a joke. It’s my sentiment that we have suffered a lot—resources, lives and all. If the talks fail, let’s end this by just shaking our hands and we will resume the violent war. It leaves us no other alternative,” the President added.
Duterte said he is willing to accommodate requests from the CPP-NDF, provided that they do not demand a coalition government.
“That is not acceptable to me at all. I will not and I will never agree to any splintered armed group,” he said.
Five consultants of the NDF—Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, and Vicenten Ladlad—have already asked a Manila regional trial court to allow them to travel to The Netherlands.
The five rebel leaders, who were arrested for various crimes, including murder, said they would participate in backchannel talks ahead of the fifth round of the peace negotiations.
Earlier, Sison, who is also the chief political consultant of the NDF, proposed a meeting with Duterte in Hanoi, but the government has rejected the offer.
He said the original plan was for Duterte to attend the ceremonial signing of an interim peace agreement in Oslo once both sides have firmed it up.
“Hanoi as a venue near the Philippines was proposed by NDF in consideration of the heavy work schedule of Duterte,” he said.
The government, however, “did not give a positive answer,” Sison said, noting that Norway, as third party facilitator, could not make any arrangement with Vietnam until a consensus had been reached by both negotiating panels.
Sison has rejected Duterte’s offer to hold the peace talks in the Philippines, saying there are security issues that have to be considered in making such a move.
“I have consistently declared that I will return home when substantial progress is already achieved in the peace negotiations and my comrades and lawyers are satisfied with the legal and security guarantees. By substantial progress, I mean the entire Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms has been mutually approved by the government and NDF principals,” he said.
“There are certain important considerations against my prematurely returning to the Philippines… I would be placing myself and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of Duterte and at his mercy. Any peace spoiler or saboteur would be able to destroy the entire peace negotiations by simply abducting or harming any NDF panelist or consultant,” Sison added.