MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday said communist party leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon will lead the rebels' delegation in backchannel talks with the government, as the two sides attempt to bring new life to their shelved peace negotiations.
Lorenzana said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza went to Europe with the Tiamzon couple and another communist leader, Vic Ladlad, for the backchannel talks.
“Because of the clamor of the Filipinos, including Congress, yesterday, Secretary Dureza left for Europe again and last night, we allowed the departure of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and Mr. Ladlad to do some backchanelling,” Lorenzana said in a forum.
“A lot of people are urging us that before we go to peace talks, mag-backchannel muna so that we will have a complete proposal.”
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier revealed that the government and the communist party were engaged in backchannel talks following the collapse of the formal negotiations last month.
Repeated clashes between communist rebels and government troops prompted Duterte to cancel the peace talks. Duterte's decision not to release over 400 political prisoners was also blamed for the collapse of the talks.
Duterte also ordered the arrest of the communist leaders who were given temporary freedom to participate in the talks.
The backchannel talks have given hope that the two sides will soon return to the negotiating table.
Duterte, however, said that before negotiations can resume, communist rebels must cease from attacking government troops and stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes.
Lorenzana, who declared an all-out war against the rebels following the collapse of the talks, said the military welcomes the recent development.
“We in the military welcome this development because we also want to stop the fighting in rural areas,” he said.
“We are keeping our hopes high that this will progress so we can attend to the more important things in our country.”