Philippine Daily Inquirer
SISON: ONLYAMIRACLE CAN SAVE PEACE TALKS
The CPP founder says President Duterte’s hardline stance makes the return of the rebels to the negotiating table unlikely, but Senator Lacson suggests the government deal with local NPA chapters instead.
LUCENA CITY— Only a miracle could save the peace negotiations between the government and communist insurgents from collapse, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison said on Sunday.
In an online interview, Sison said the insurgents would consider returning to the table only if President Duterte would revoke Proclamation No. 360, which terminated peace negotiations last Nov. 23; Proclamation No. 374, which declared the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), terrorist organizations last Dec. 5; and respect all peace accords that had been reached since 1992.
But that would be a miracle, Sison said, and because Mr. Duterte had taken a hardline stance, expecting a miracle is unlikely for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella organization of the local communist movement that represents the insurgents in the talks.
Sison is the chief political consultant to the NDFP.
Peace talks without Sison
Sison answered questions online as officials proposed taking him out of the picture to allow the talks with the NDFP to proceed.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Sunday that he suggested dropping Sison and concentrating on local negotiations in a talk with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
“I suggested to Secretary Dureza: Why don’t we make it localized, because the situation varies in each province,” Lacson, head of the Senate public order committee, said in a radio interview.
“[This is better than] if you were to course everything through [Sison], who has no more control and who has admitted it,” Lacson added.
He said it might be simpler and more convenient to talk with the local NPA chapters.
“The national government could aid the provinces where the NPA is strong. That will save time and we can isolate some places. This is a more practical approach where we can isolate the places with weak NPA forces,” he said.
According to Lacson, the peace negotiations would be better off without Sison, who is on self-exile in the Netherlands.
“[Sison’s group] is the traditional one that is fighting the government and whose sole agenda is to take over. Why should we talk peace with someone who is trying to overthrow the government?” he said.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the peace negotiations would make more progress without Sison.
Sison, rejecting President Duterte’s preference for peace talks being held in the Philippines, had said it would be easier and more productive for the insurgents to take part in a movement to overthrow Mr. Duterte than continue negotiating with his administration.
“I am sure that once you are out of the picture, true peace will have a chance to become a reality and you will be consigned to the dustbin of history,” Lorenzana said, addressing himself to Sison.
“Mr. Sison, you know that peace talks are the only thing that is keeping you in the limelight. Without it, you are irrelevant,” Lorenzana said.
No decision from NDFP yet
For Sison, however, there are no more peace talks.
“It takes only one side to terminate the peace negotiations. The [government] under Duterte has done it,” he said.
But on Friday, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP chief negotiator, said his group had yet to decide whether to terminate the negotiations.
Agcaoili said the NDFP would wait for the results of Mr. Duterte’s three-month review of the talks.
On June 14, Mr. Duterte ordered the cancellation of the resumption of formal peace negotiations, which would have started in Oslo, Norway, on June 28.
He ordered a review over three months of the agreements reached during back-channel talks between representatives of the government and the insurgents and all peace accords signed by his predecessors.
In a separate statement issued on Sunday, Sison said “there is no need for the NDFP National Council to make a decision to suspend, cancel or terminate the peace negotiations” because, based on records, Mr. Duterte terminated the talks last Nov. 23.
Sison predicted that Mr. Duterte’s three-month review would result in demands by the President that would make the resumption of peace negotiations impossible.
“Duterte himself is the biggest spoiler of the . . . peace negotiations. He continues to repeat ad nauseam his demand that the venue of negotiations should be in Manila under his control, surveillance, manipulation and duress,” Sison said.
He said he expected Mr. Duterte to fall before the end of his term in 2022 and that the NDFP was looking forward to resumption of peace talks and reaffirmation of previous peace agreements with the next administration.
As for Lorenzana’s statements on Friday, Sison said: “It is truly impossible to negotiate with a regime that is dominated by pathologically rabid anticommunists.”
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, defended Sison, saying Lorenzana was the “No. 1 peace spoiler.”
“He forgets that all signed agreements, including the most recent ones in June, had the participation of Professor Sison as chief political adviser to the NDFP,” Reyes said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said “peace saboteurs and war hawks” in the Duterte administration were working double time to torpedo the peace negotiations.
For Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, however, the collapse of the negotiations would be “good riddance.”
Duterte said the NPA could try to topple her father from power, but whether it could succeed was “another thing.”
“I’ve never been supportive of peace talks. Good riddance,” she told reporters on Saturday.